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Overlapping Circles

These simple but elegant frameworks are not usually seen in PowerPoint presentations. The design is very difficult to achieve due to layering constraints. Notice that there is a bit of an optical illusion associated with these frameworks: there is no beginning or end. PowerFrameworks has developed an easy way to work with the frameworks, and you'll be able to use them to visually support several concepts:

  • The slight overlap suggests order. Those on the bottom come before those on top, especially if animation is used for reveals.
  • The overlap also suggests connection between the circles.
  • The solid circle of circles suggests a hedge around a central object.
  • The layout can provide a very nice design element on a slide, especially when photographs are imported into the circles.
Two variations of the frameworks are provided: one set that builds clockwise from the 12 o'clock position and one set that builds counterclockwise from the 12 o'clock position. If you are going to be importing photos into these circles, make sure you decide on whether you want to use clockwise or counterclockwise builds and download the correct version. The reason for this is that photographs will import based on the original orientation. If the circle has been flipped horizontally, the photographs will also flip, making the right side of the photograph appear on the left side of the circle. This may not matter with some photographs, but it definitely matters with others (those with clocks, roads with cars, etc.). It's just best to decide whether you want to build clockwise or counterclockwise before you download so that you aren't confronted with "surprises." This is a PowerPoint issue, not a framework issue; so this is the workaround.

Customizing the Overlapping Circles

Adjust size

If you want to change the size/shape of the circles, be sure to group it and resize the entire group. Hold the shift key down as you resize to rescale. Once resized, ungroup to proceed with other customizations. If you are using more than one framework in this series, import them both and size them at the same time. Then place each on their respective pages and begin customizations. They will be uniformly sized.

Placing text into circles can be challenging. Refer to the Best Practice entitled, "Fitting Text in Circles" for some tips about how to do this effectively.

Color variations

Choose colors from your template's color palette. If you use a combination of framework variations (like the series example) you will need to choose several colors from the palette that work well together or create different hues from one of the colors. Many times the large section in these frameworks will contain pieces of photographs. If you wish to color the photographs (as in the series example), go to the Gradients, patterns, and pictures section below.

3D variations

Don't use 3D with these frameworks. The layering prohibits 3D effects from appearing correctly. Also, because of how one of the circles is made, bevels don't look good; they show that the one circle has been altered. The graphic below shows why these circles seem to layer correctly. The version on the right shows which circle has been altered. Note: they are the 5-circle counterclockwise frameworks.


Don't use shadows unless the framework has been grouped and the shadows in PowerPoint 2007 is used. The layering issue also affects shadows.

Gradients, patterns, and pictures

The orientation variations in this series are important if you're going to import photographs (PowerPoint 2007 users): be sure to start out with a variation in the orientation you desire before you import a photograph (don't select just any variation and rotate it), otherwise the photograph will import incorrectly.

If you are going to be importing photographs and are using PowerPoint 2007, you can tint the photographs to give them the same "value." Many times the perfect photograph cannot be used because the colors don't sync with the rest of the collage or the template colors. The ability to tint photographs in PowerPoint 2007 eliminates this problem. The photographs can be tinted by clicking on the imported photograph – the picture format menu will pop up – and selecting a color from the "Recolor" menu. If you want to change the colors in the Recolor menu, select a different color scheme in the Design menu.

You can still "tint" in pre-PowerPoint 2007 versions, but it takes a couple of steps (these steps are for importing different photos into each segment):

  1. First you need to duplicate the layout you want to use and set one layout aside. You'll need the extra set to apply the "tint"
  2. Then format the photograph(s) you want to use as grayscale. You can do this in the "Format picture" menu – just change color to grayscale
  3. Import the photographs into the shapes (use the link below to go to the FAQ about working with photographs)
  4. The last step is to overlay the duplicate layout perfectly over the layout that contains the pictures. Apply a color to the layout and make them semitransparent (maybe between 50-75% transparency). The layout is tinted.

The next step is to import the photographs into the circles. Refer to the FAQ entitled, How do I create photographs in different shapes from rectangular photographs?


Simple reveals work best with these design elements. Download the animation example to see a possible scheme. Selecting the correct version (clockwise vs. counterclockwise) is also important if applying animation. Decide whether you will be revealing the circles in a clockwise or counterclockwise pattern and then download the correct framework.

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