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Duarte's convenient truth

Local firm helped design a certain former vice president's award-winning slide show

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When Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month, he didn't forget to thank a Mountain View design firm for its help in developing the famous slide show that carries his message.

Duarte Design, headquartered on E. Evelyn Avenue, played an instrumental role in creating the former vice president's slide show, popularized in the Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

According to Jill Martin, Duarte's account manager, Gore came to the company four years ago with a stack of slides and a pile of scientific research papers. He had been asking around for help with his presentation when a client of the firm referred Gore to the Mountain View company.

Since then, Gore's show has gone from a 150-slide presentation on an antiquated projector to a fully digitized and animated 400-slide presentation. Using a variation of Keynote, Adobe After Effects and Photoshop Illustrator, a team of five Duarte designers helped modernize Gore's message. Now he jets around the world with the presentation on his laptop, Martin said.

Although Duarte did not design the graphics in the documentary film, according to Nancy Duarte, who co-founded the company with her husband Mark, Gore still calls to ask the firm to do more work for him -- for example, updating slides as he adds new information based on current events, new scientific evidence or reaction from his audiences.

Just a few days ago, senior designer Ryan Orcutt pulled dozens of pictures from the Southern California wildfires in anticipation of Gore using them in future talks. The company is also in the process of translating the slide show into Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Telegu and Gujarati for Gore's upcoming visit to India, Orcutt said.

Orcutt had the opportunity to work one-on-one with Gore and traveled with him to Chicago for a presentation on the Oprah Winfrey show.

"You come in as someone who doesn't have a lot of knowledge about climate change and you've got probably the best presentation in the world in front of you about climate change," Orcutt said. "So you're learning about things that you never thought were related."

Besides educational, working with Gore was enjoyable, Orcutt said. "He's a great guy, funny in person. He's got a very commanding presence."

While Gore is one of the firm's more famous clients, Duarte Design does work for a number of high-profile clients such as Hewlett Packard and Cisco, as well as various cause-related groups. In total, the company has about 60 clients.

They've come a long way since 1988, when the company was founded by Mark Duarte in a one-room apartment in Mountain View. Although skeptical at first, his wife Nancy soon came to see the wisdom in Mark's idea, and joined the company two years later. Today, besides its many clients, the firm employs dozens of people and keeps a satellite office in Chico.

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