Illustrations Help Speakers at Business Events Land a Visual Punch

Author: Barbara Palmer       

Instedt's The Leader As an Eagle

Artist Patrik Instedt worked with economist Kjell Nordstrom, creating images like “The Leader As an Eagle” (above) to illustrate Nordstrom’s presentation at PCMA Influencers Summit in Seville, Spain.

Author and business guru Kjell Nordström created a profound impression when he spoke earlier this year at the PCMA Influencers Summit in Seville, Spain. His message  — that technology will create a radical shift of power and influence from nation states to cities — is one that audiences tend to find both inspirational and a little bit frightening, the Swedish economist told Convene.

It’s not business as usual — and neither were the slides that illustrated Nordström’s talk. Nordström works with Swedish artist Patrik Instedt, who visually interprets the economist’s points in such memorable and original ways that summit attendees were buzzing about Nordström’s slides as well as his talk, reported one participant.

Nordström and Instedt have worked together for more than a decade, the artist said. “Kjell is a fun guy to work with. He comes up with the ideas, but I am basically free to follow my own instinct. He trusts me.” Instedt talked by email with Convene about his creative process as well as how illustrations create an experiential edge for speakers at business events.

What is the process for deciding which points in Nordström’s talk to illustrate?

We get together every second year, to adjust or maybe do a complete makeover of his pictures. We meet up at Kjell’s place for lunch, workshop-style, and he tells me about new topics and ideas that he will address in his talk. Kjell goes through the new material and then it´s up to me to transform his ideas to pictures. We usually reconnect at mid-point, to make sure that Kjell feels that the work I’ve done corresponds with his ideas.

Most presentations are illustrated with photography — why did you and Kjell choose artwork?

The images that I do now for Kjell are all made in a collage-style. Collage is a perfect way to illustrate the topics Kjell talks about — the present and the future. These days everything is fragmentary, everything is connected, everything is influenced by something. In a way, it has always been like that, but due to social media, the development is fast as hell. Art, music, the design of cars — it´s all in the blender, a jumble. That makes collage the perfect way to express this. You sample, steal, add, and subtract, and when it’s all coming together in a perfect fit, it can be something completely new and fresh, hopefully.

Do you see a trend toward using illustrations in business presentations? Or is Kjell’s use of them an expression of his ability to imagine things differently?

I see a trend in using Shutterstock and company, which give you perfect pictures but with zero originality. There is also a DIY trend going on, people doing their own keynotes, where the transitions are more important than the content.

Instedt's Rich Poor

Kjell Nordstrom also used “Rich-Poor,” by Patrik Instedt, to illustrate his presentation.

Do you have a favorite illustration that you’ve created for Kjell? 

Sometimes in the process you make pictures that the customer never asked for, but you got a feeling, and you’re really pleased with it. I’m thinking about “The Leader As an Eagle” — it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s lonely on the top. I like it — it’s an image that works well within the topic of leadership and management.

Another image that is smart, sharp, and funny is ”Rich, Poor” — the American Dream visualized by a 1959 Cadillac driven by a decadent, Roccoco crew, in contrast to the begging lady by the road. That shows the giant gap between the rich and the poor.

What would you say to someone who was skeptical about investing in illustrations?

You’ve got everything to win in investing in illustrations instead of conventional presentation material. As a public speaker, you are your brand. See yourself as an entertainer, with good light and sound, images and films, and the experience will take a leap.

To see more of Patrik Instedt’s work, visit

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