PowerPoint People – Basic Figures

Sales and marketing gurus advise us to tell stories to engage our audiences. Adding illustrations to our stories will increase the impact but this isn’t easy. You can search the web to find appropriate clipart or photos but chances are that you will be disappointed. Of course, if you have the budget, you can stage a photo shoot to create scenes for your story.

You can of course, create your own scenes. Even if you are not an artist, you can create simplified characters and environments to add surprisingly effective impact to your stories. This series of posts will demonstrate the construction of figures, costumes and other details.

As usual, I’ll use mostly standard PowerPoint shapes to build these “PowerPoint People.” And, I’ll make them modular and reusable to some extent. That way, each new character or pose doesn’t require starting from scratch.

Here’s the construction of a male figure:


This figure has typical cartoon proportions; the overall height is a little more than five times the height of the head (more realistic or “fashion” figures are 7-8 times the head height). These proportions are common for comics and animations. The figure is also similar to the common “bubble head” people icons.

To make “posing” the character easier, I grouped a circle with each body part to establish a center of rotation around the appropriate joint. Here’s what I mean:


The upper arm is shown grouped with the circle showing the center of rotation (the shoulder). The entire body is shown with  the circles in gray. The circles are centered so that the rotation is useful in posing the figures; for example, the head rotates around the upper center of the chest and the chest and hips rotate around the “waist.”

I have used this added circle in other posts to establish a center for the Spin animation; in this case, it’s used to make it a little easier to rotate the parts to establish poses for the figures. There is some cost associated with this; you may find it easier to omit the circles. In any case, posing will require moving the parts as well as rotating them.

Here’s the male figure with some color fills added:


Here’s a livelier version created by simply rotating and positioning the arm parts:


Posing involves several steps; for example, to move the arm, rotate the upper arm first. Then move the lower arm to the elbow and rotate it (you may have to adjust the lower arm after rotation). Here’re the steps:


Next,  move and rotate the hand, followed by other parts as needed.

Here are a few more poses:


Note that the head, chest and hips parts are posed as well as the limbs. Considerable expression and liveliness can be created with these simple figures (without faces or costumes) just by “posing” them.

The profile version of the male figure uses some of the same parts:


The “hip” section is modified (converted to a Free Form and edited) to add some curvature.

Here are some poses of the profile version:


I’m going to limit the characters to only a front and a profile view (kind of a “South Park” approach). This will work for our stories and reduces the complexity considerably.

A female figure is similarly constructed but it is a little shorter and the waist is slimmer. Also, the profile chest and  hips are more rounded:


Here are some poses using the female figure:


Look at people, photos and cartoons to get posing ideas.  Fairly subtle impact can be obtained. For example, compare the male and female running figures. The body lean and higher legs of the female figure represents a more intense activity, compared to the male who just seems to be jogging. Also compare at the walking figures. The straighter legs and arms (and the wrist) of the female look more graceful.

In the next post, I will show you how to create characters for your stories using costumes and other details. But it is worth noting that you can create useful “bubblehead” icons representing activities, industries and occupations using these basic figures and a few embellishments. Here are some examples:


If you want a free copy of the PowerPoint file containing these figures, use this form:

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