Uncovering the Mystery of Blockchain in 2 Minutes

By: Trevor Brown, Senior Project Manager

blockchain

So Blockchain…what is it? Let’s start with what it isn’t. The term is tossed around quite a bit, as it relates to Bitcoin, on sites such as The Silk Road. Blockchain, at least in some circles, seems to be synonymous with nefarious activities and shady online personas,  but that shouldn’t be the case. Blockchain technology, in all of its forms, has many reasonable and perfectly legitimate business, government, academic, and social applications. So while Bitcoin certainly uses Blockchain technology, that particular cryptocurrency is a very small example of the overall power of Blockchain.  

Now, what IS Blockchain? Most of the time, people are talking about distributed ledgers, i.e. a list of transactions that is shared among a number of computers, rather than being stored on a central server. A decent working definition is “a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of data records hardened against tampering and revision,” according to The Economist.     

Confused yet? Yeah, the concept, and the underlying technology, can each be a bit obtuse. Let’s use an example to illustrate:

I think one of the best commercial applications would be an aggregated rewards program, maintained in a closed Blockchain system by a series of horizontal industries that do not compete in a direct manner, but rather share many clients across a spectrum. The rewards, we’ll call them “MagaPoints” for simplicity, would be used to buy services at all participants. Picture a car rental company, a national coffee chain, an airline, and a hotel chain.  

One customer will likely use this collection of services during a single trip, whether for business or leisure. So within the confines of the closed network, a client could use their rewards points from a coffee purchase to upgrade a flight or use the rewards points from a car rental to acquire a hotel room.   

The client has ease of transaction, without having to juggle multiple rewards programs, while having peace of mind, knowing that at no time was their personal information utilized. Therefore, saving them from exposure to identify theft or fraud. The entire transaction, and all of its parts, are stored in an open public forum, allowing for a seamless transaction that was 100% transparent.

The storage functionality of Blockchain is literally without limit. It could store your car title, the information on postal packages, or your bank records – just to mention a few uses. Because the technology is stored on a decentralized ledger that is accessible to nearly everyone, each of those would be nearly tamper-proof. This is because changes to the ledger are added instantly and are accessible by any user. So where does it go now? The technology has endless possibilities across data storage, monetary transfer, government transparency, and more. I say embrace it and enjoy the ride…

Julie Anixter Selected As AIGA Executive Director

We’re thrilled to announce that Julie Anixter, a longtime friend and mentor to Maga and our Chief Innovation Officer, has been selected to serve as the next executive director of AIGA, the professional institute for design.

Julie Anixter
Source

Julie will help represent and lead AIGA’s 25,000 individual members and 70 volunteer chapters around the country when she takes over in January.

She’ll come to AIGA after years serving as a principal at Think Remarkable consultancy, and as a managing partner at Innovation Excellence, the largest crowd-sourced innovation learning community. She co-founded both endeavors.

AIGA has been promoting design as a professional craft and fundamental cultural touchpoint for more than a century.

They were looking for an individual with a proven ability to manage complex teams, project a strong image, and have a deep understanding of the professional design world. Julie certainly fit the bill.

“In Julie, we found a leader who can be a connective thread across our increasingly diverse community of designers, innovators, educators, and advocates,” said Su Mathews Hale, the president of AIGA’s national board of directors.

An 8-member search team had been looking for a national executive since the fall of 2014.

So what is Julie’s mission at AIGA?

“Continue to amplify our thought leadership and influence on the profession of design and society-at-large, so that design is recognized as the force for good that it is; ensuring that the craft of design is valued, the discipline is taught more broadly, and the expert use of design helps us all navigate our information-laden world with greater ease.”

Our simple reply: Amen.

Power of Collaboration: An Illustrated Guide

Working alone is cool—no one can tell you how dumb your ideas actually are unless you’ve got a massive internal conflict—but what’s cooler than working alone is collaborating with other people.

See also: Simple Trick Upgrades Any PowerPoint Presentation

I recently got elected onto the board of the Central PA chapter of AIGA (shouts out to the board members) and learned this very quickly. Everything we do in the organization is a constantly sharing and learning process.

This echoed the environment at Maga. Another thing I noticed is that most of the best ideas started with a simple joke. Here’s a few ways to be on the road to better collaboration.

Seriously Not Serious

Seriously Not Serious

In AIGA, we started an event called Pens & Pints last month and it was wildly successful. A dude from Neenah Paper showed up completely unprompted and watched me spill beer on my shirt.

This whole idea came from me and another board member joking about having our laptops in a bar in another meeting. I joked, “What if we just went to a bar and started drawing?”

And there it was.

Working Smarter, but Still Harder

Work Smarter But Still Harder

Collaboration promotes a knowledge-sharing environment—you aren’t so closed in a lonesome glass house. Ideas can easily bounced off of each other at a moments notice, making it more of an open patio.

This does require working with the right kind of people, but when it’s good, it sure is great.

Leave Your Ego at the Door

Leave Your Ego at the Door

Some people get offended when feedback is given to them, but most of the time it’s meant in good heart. Changes and fixes aren’t meant to be insulting—it’s like getting a tune up on your car.

Design in general is iterative—your work is only sort of done, until the next problem arises. It’s with this feedback that you can accurately iterate and create something that’s outside of your own thought.

Divide and Conquer

Divide and Conquer

With a team, you can also get so much more done quicker. No more paralyzing college flashbacks of staying up all night to finish a paper.

Upon dividing and conquering, it’s now a relationship—each partner giving and taking to reach a greater, quicker goal.

A Better Tomorrow

A Better Tomorrow

The best work I’ve done has often come out of collaboration. Whether in Maga, AIGA, or anything else, it’s always nice to have another set of eyes to help you out and provide feedback.

It’s not always good feedback, but nine out of ten times it’ll lead you to where you want to go. You might want to be a lone wolf, but most people forget that wolves come in packs.

Use This Simple Technique to Upgrade Any PowerPoint Presentation

PowerPoint is an unavoidable element of the working world. And for us young professionals, PowerPoint has been a part of our presentation-filled lives since elementary school!

As most of us have grown older, we’ve strayed away from the crazy animations and distracting WordArt that dominated the slideshows of our early years.

But it can probably be said that a lot of us have yet to kick an old and more subtle presentation habit: the traditional linear PowerPoint style.

See also: 7 Presentations That Will Renew Your Faith In PowerPoint

If that term sounds unfamiliar to you, it at least will look familiar. Almost every PowerPoint style you’ve seen has followed a linear style, where the slides progress in sequential order.

(If you cannot navigate through your presentation without pressing the back and forward arrow keys, the presentation almost certainly adheres to a linear style.)

Here’s how a linear presentation is set up:

Linear presentation

Although this format can be very useful and does indeed serve its purpose, it is actually hindering us from using PowerPoint to its full potential. The human mind does not work in a linear manner, so why should we present information to humans through PowerPoint that way?

The example below shows a non-linear style. By making the presentation non-linear, we are giving options to both the presenter and crowd.

Maybe your audience is most curious about predators or how dolphins give birth. Instead of dragging them through the other slides, give them what they want first by incorporating some type of menu with hotspots.

Non linear presentation

While non-linear presentations can be created in alternative tools like Prezi and Speakflow, you can also create them with trusty PowerPoint. In fact, PowerPoint has tons of native capabilities that can seamlessly incorporate navigation control—you just need to know where to find them!

Here are some tips that will help you break away from the constraints you thought PowerPoint had—and help you wow your audience along the way.

1. Treat Your Slide As a Blank Canvas

You open up a new document. What do you see first? A bunch of presets and bullets. Don’t feel the need to use them just because they’re there! It helps to look at a plain white slide and imagine the information organized on it.

If that’s hard, draw your layout using paper and pencil, then apply it in PowerPoint. **Helpful hint: The size for a PowerPoint slide is 1024×768 pixels.

2. Get to Know Your Tools

There’s an inner artist in everyone, and if you are familiar with the right tools, you just might be able to unleash it.

Action buttons (slide show options), quick styles (format options), and animations (slide show options) are a few tools we recommend to check out. They might help add the pizazz you need for your next presentation!

3. Organize Your Puzzle of Slides With Navigation Control

As crazy as this might sound, some PowerPoint presentations can go up to 80 slides. When this is the case, consider having a navigation menu present on all slides so that you and your users can move through the information, just like a website.

This will make it hassle-free if someone would like to go back to a slide when he or she is waist-deep into the presentation.

Pro Tip: Check out this tutorial on master slides to learn an easy way to show recurring elements across slides without having to copy and paste each time:

Seriously, master slides will change your life!

4. Bond Pieces of Information

Avoid presenting steps or branches of common information in sequential order if you don’t have to. Let’s say we want to share a brief report of sales for every month in the past year.

Going through each slide one by one with your audience can get tiresome. Creating one slide with links to all the different months can be one way to add structure and a level of engagement to your presentation. And, in turn, both you and your audience gain some control within the PowerPoint.

5. Use Buttons to Encourage Engagement and Play

Think of creative ways to display your information. Instead of listing bullets, maybe add hotspots to a graphic that will reveal information when clicked.

Adding buttons that link to other slides in the deck is a great way to make your PowerPoint non-linear. Establish a mindset that prevents you from using the back and forward keys as much as possible.

6. Get Cool With Animations Again

For some of us, animations bring to mind our silly PowerPoint presentations from when we were younger. But if you give careful attention to the intended experience, you can use them in a sophisticated yet seamless manner.

Start out by incorporating fades and floats. Test how purposeful animations can be in a few slides before you go crazy!

Try it Out

Well, there you have it! We hope we have persuaded you enough to fight your slideshow demons and create something new and amazing in PowerPoint.

Beyond Graphic Design: Maga Design on The Tech Life Podcast

It’s better to show than to tell. Most people have had the experience of trying to explain something in words, but couldn’t. “It’s just easier if I show you.”

And that’s true. But how do you show someone something they can’t see? An idea, a vision of where you want to go, something you want to accomplish that has never been done. You’d need some sort of magic.

Listen to the following podcast with CEO and Founder of Maga, Scott Williams and Rachel Link, Director of Client Services, as they chat with Rich Conte of the Tech Life podcast about:

  • The meaning of “Maga” means magician
  • How we support organizations that are facing communication challenges
  • Why businesses today, more than ever, need to clearly communicate with engaging content to an ever-growing variety of people.

This isn’t an easy task. And effective solutions aren’t by accident, they’re by design.

Maga’s in-house team of designers, UX/UI experts, and strategists are a creative powerhouse of innovative solutions, applying the power of visualization to communication methods across the board– maps, point-of-sale kits, interactive displays, apps, whatever the situation calls for.

And people are taking notice, from the U.S Navy and multi-national tech companies to local start-ups and the Lowcountry Food Bank. Check out the conversation right here!