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Tutorial for

Forces 009, 017

Gears and Cog Variations

Using Gears

These frameworks can be used to show the driving-force concept. Well-run businesses are often referred to as well-oiled machines. These gears can help you play on that phrase. Any time you have a mechanical-type analogy, this concept can be applied. Conversely, the cogs in series FR017 can be put together to show a configuration that does not work well. The different cog sizing and spacing on the gears in FR017 makes them perfect for showing a poorly developed system.

Many times a flow with sequential steps can be shown as a series of gears: the first drives the second, which drives the third, … These frameworks are a good departure from the often overly used horizontal flows.

The gears in FR009 are drawn without a center hole so that they can hold more unobscured content. If you want to add the hole, just draw a circle and center it on the gear and color the circle so that it appears open.

The three sections of the gears in the series example for FR009 were created by overlaying the 3-segment pie in Series SG007 in the Segments Category.

Customizing the Gears

Adjust size

If you want to change the size/shape of the gears, be sure to group them and resize the entire group at once. Hold the shift key down to scale the gears so they don't skew. Once resized, ungroup to proceed with other customizations.

Color variations

Select color from your template's color palette or a complimentary color for the fill so that the gears blend well with the other contents. Alternatively, you can select a metal texture for a realistic representation of metal gears. The gears are one of the frameworks that works best when an outline/border color is applied (except when using photographs, 3D, or bevels). For the outline color on a white/light background, select a darker hue of the fill color or dark gray/black. For a dark background, the outline color should be slightly lighter than the fill color. The line color helps distinguish one gear from the other since they are so close together where they mesh.

PowerPoint presentation template of movable gears

PowerPoint 2007 options

PowerPoint presentation template showing 3D and bevel formatting

The bevel works particularly well with the gears. Bevels give the gear substance, much like 3D; and they emphasize the separateness of each gear. If you use a bevel, you may want to adjust the bevel attributes in the "Format Shape…" menu to get the most realistic look. Shadows in PowerPoint 2007 look especially nice: notice the shadows in the example above that fall under the gears. This shadow effect creates the effect that the gears are independent from any other structure. If you want to convey that the gears are part of a larger whole, don't use under shadows. Attention to these types of subtleties is important.

3D variations

3D works well with these frameworks if the depth is very small: the gears have substance and volume. The depth on the example below is 12 points. Be sure to adjust the layering, if necessary, depending on the direction of the 3D perspective.

PowerPoint gears with 3D formatting

You should also check out the Power Chart for January 2011. It uses gears to illustrate a poorly assembled team in a very unique way. It also has some great information about 3D rotation and 3D formatting – a good tutorial.


Shadows don't work really well with this type of framework in pre-PowerPoint 2007 versions. Applying shadows to objects that are very close together is sometimes problematic: layering becomes an issue and the shadows can obscure parts of the other fields, which diminishes the overall appearance.

Gradients, patterns, and pictures

Gradients do not work unless they are from the center. Patterns might be okay if they are subtle. Pictures work really well, however. The example for this series (at top of tutorial) uses a picture of the center of a wheel. The three-way cut in the example is from sg007 (the outer halos and the center circle were deleted). Be courageous when combining frameworks. Explore a little.

PowerPoint presentation template showing photos imported into gears


Gears can be used to visually illustrate a process or mechanism that is well/poorly run, synchronicity, fit, complementary, well/poorly developed, objects meshing with each other, etc. The gears most vividly illustrate these concepts when animated.

Check out the downloadable animation scheme. If you purchase the bundle, the animation scheme is included in the download. The animation scheme shows the gears in motion and also brings each gear in as a reveal. But, you don't have to get that elaborate with the animation. You can simply put them in motion without reveals if you want. To do this, select the emphasis category in the animation menu and then select spin. The left-most gear should be clockwise, the next gear to the right is counterclockwise, the next to the right is clockwise, and so on. Alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise. Set the speed uniformly or the teeth of the gears will not match up. Have fun with this one.

FR017 contains variations of gears, with different cog (teeth on exterior of gear) sizes and distances between cogs. These variations can be used to create smoothly running gears as well as flawed gear configurations. Gear selection is particularly important when you plan to add animation.

  1. When creating an animation of a smoothly running gear configuration, select gears that have roughly the same cog distance and are roughly the same size. Their overall appearances can be different, but the cog sizes need to be roughly the same.
  2. When creating an animation scheme with a flawed gear configuration, look for gears that have very different cog sizes and distances between cogs.

You may need to rotate the gears to make the cogs fit properly in between the cogs of another gear. Make sure to remove the snap to grid and snap to other objects feature in the grid menu first so you can fine tune the positions of the gears.

As in the series example and in the animated example, it only takes one mismatch/misfit to stop the whole machine. When calling attention to a mismatch/misfit, choose the first occurrence as the problem area.

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