PowerPoint tips for non-designers

PowerPoint Design Tips for Non-Designers

If there was a class in art school on how to design a PowerPoint presentation (beautifully), I did not take it. Art school or not, you probably didn’t either. But the fact is, PowerPoint is a communication tool used every day in business. Most PowerPoint presentations are created by those whose jobs have nothing to do with visual design. And many times, these presentations lack the visual punch they need to command the attention the message deserves.

I’ve sat through many presentations. Somewhere along the line, after enough neon colors, out-of-control animations, and text-packed screens, I decided to embark on a mission: I would design every PowerPoint presentation I did with LOVE. And, I think you should join me.  

No designer credentials are necessary. Just write and design your presentation with a few key things in mind

1. Content

If you’re the one writing or compiling content for the presentation, think about how words on the screen can be arranged and displayed as you write, and how they can assist in presenting the whole story. Fewer words mean more room for design, which can assist in keeping audience attention.

PowerPoint design tips 1 - The blank template

2. The blank template

If you feel confident enough, start with a blank template rather than one of the options offered by the software. This allows you to create a visual system and use your company’s brand colors and guidelines accurately. If you must use a brand-approved template, that’s ok! You can still use some of the other recommendations below.

PowerPoint design tips 2 - Color

3. Color

Often, I see color only on the opening slide. But, color is essential to maintaining interest throughout.

  • Try using color in headlines.
  • When you can, use background colors to break up repetitive white slides and to introduce new sections.
  • Use blocks of color at different transparencies to depict concepts like partnership or the merging of ideas.
  • And, remember that color can communicate emotions and ideas, as you see here.

PowerPoint design tips 3 - Typeface and type size

4. Typeface and type size

When possible, choose beautiful typefaces that are appropriate to what you are presenting. Comic Sans is not the right font for corporate America, but it can be a great font for school-age children as it was created for use in educational materials.

  • It can be tricky if you are required to work with a brand-standard template and typeface, but try larger and smaller type sizes. Relative type size conveys relative importance and large type captures attention. Example: When arraying a data set, try making the percentages large and the content smaller. Experiment with size variation to add character to content.

PowerPoint design tips 4 - Shapes, charts, and graphs

5. Shapes, charts, and graphs

Use squares, circles, arrows, and charts to present information. Look at the body content for elements you can pull out and highlight graphically. This is especially useful when you want to emphasize a particular point.

PowerPoint design tips 5 - Photography and icons

6. Photography and icons

Both photography and icons can help bring a presentation to life. Both can help you tell a story and project an image. But, it’s also possible to create a royal mess.

  • When choosing images, look for those that support the message rather than just fill a space.
  • Choose images from within a common color family, and one that relates to the colors in your presentation.
  • Avoid clichéd and outdated images (think ‘harried guy juggling donuts’).
  • Avoid clip art, as it will only make your presentation appear dated and unprofessional.

There are good options out there for affordable and royalty-free imagery, like iStock and Getty.

PowerPoint design tips 6 - Minimal animation

7. Minimal animation

When used tastefully – say, fading a headline in and out or revealing one bullet point at a time – animation can be elegant. Outline a system for your animation use so you stay consistent and avoid going overboard.

PowerPoint design tips 7 - Consistency

8. Consistency

Pay close attention to headline, subhead and text styles, and treat them consistently from screen to screen. Consistency keeps a presentation sharp and polished. 

There’s an opportunity for good design in everything, including your next presentation. Change the world with me, will you? One PowerPoint at a time.

CRC Marketing Solutions is a Minneapolis, Minnesota, digital agency that creates and executes ideas for building business.