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10 Tips for Designing Effective PowerPoint Presentations

by Adam Noar

Presentation projects can feel daunting.

However, when you break down PowerPoint project down into bite-sized, smaller goals, you can tackle them with greater ease and organization.

To make sure your next PowerPoint is designed effectively, follow these 10 simple tips.

1. Get feedback on your slides early and often

Once you’ve got some slides created get some feedback. The earlier the better.

Get feedback from your teammates. Get feedback from your boss. Get feedback from your dog. Ok … maybe not your dog.

When collecting feedback be confident and open, but remain in control of the presentation and the project. You might get feedback from people who immediately start asking questions or questioning your decisions. Politely acknowledge them by pointing out you are getting to whatever they are talking about. It might take a couple nerve-racking sessions like this, but you’ll get it down.

2. Get inspired. Seriously

Effective presentation design does not get created in a vacuum.

You need to gather ideas to build off.

Seek out established and well-curated design websites to see how others found solutions to similar projects. You can adhere to the methods or styles that you find, or figure out ways to break the mold. Regardless, your solutions should be different but relevant.

Here are just a few inspirational design resources to get started with:

Behance — a stream of contemporary, polished, professional work. This is a good site to scroll through to get inspiration for style and direction.

Designspiration — akin to Pinterest, but specifically for design. Build an inspiration board here, and save it to use later.

AIGA Design Archives — it’s good business to stay current, but it’s good art practice to know the history of our trade. AIGA’s archives are expansive, making them almost equivalent to a library of design books.

Use a grid for a simple and easy mood boards to contain a collection of images, color swatches, and other visual pieces. This practice will help you to find a common color palette or theme that can then be applied to a project

3. Have a design plan

If you don’t plan out the look of your deck you’re likely going to fail.

Have all the details needed before you begin to write or create.

Study, read, research, and resource.

Whether it’s materials and objects or information and facts, the research process will guarantee a more thought-out result.

Start sketching out your ideas and blocking out the shapes and general flow of information. Remember, design is communication, so message hierarchy is of utmost importance.

If you’re designing a slide, you should hand-draw it until it’s near-perfect and then build your slide in PowerPoint.

In some cases going straight to the computer is fine. But for most projects, you’ll want to connect directly to your creativity, and the best way to do that is by drawing and writing with your hands.

4. Insert awesome images. You have not excuse not to

With all the awesome free stock images available on the web these days you have no excuse for using sucky images in your deck.

Visit these sites to grab some awesome photos for slides:

Picography – You can use any of the images on Picography however you like with the very low cost of absolutely nothing.

Unsplash – offers high-resolution photos, pushing out 10 new photos every 10 days. Unsplash has been our go-to favorite for a few years now.

Gratistography – unique and quirky photos that you can use for your personal and commercial projects. New pics added weekly.

5. Show PowerPoint who’s boss

PowerPoint isn’t great at showing you the way to clean and beautiful slides. They’re trying to get better by incorporating new tools like “Design Ideas” but they still have work to do.

It’s also easy to get sucked into PowerPoint’s “default trap”. PowerPoint’s default blue is a perfect example.

Take active measures to make sure you are controlling the look of your slides. Remeber you’re the boss of your slides. Not PowerPoint.

 6. Use overlays (i.e., filters) to help create contrast

Contrast separates elements so that there’s a clear focal point on each slide in the presentation design. Create contrast with elements that have different sizes or colors. Every slide should include a spot that the audience should look at first, then a secondary place before they take in the entire visual.

This happens in mere seconds, which is why contrast (which makes readability easier) is super important.

Use a semi-transparent overlay (i.e., filters) if you need to (think Instagram style) to create a layer that separates images and text. You need a combination of light background with dark text or a darker background with light text so that everything is easy to read and understand at a glance.

7. Avoid overstyling and keep it simple

Three of the easiest and most effective ways to draw attention to text are: bold, italics, or a change in color. Our eyes are naturally drawn to things that stand out but use it sparingly.

It may be tempting to fiddle with your slides but overstyling can make the slide look busy and distracting.

Also, create a fluid design by surrounding words with white space to let elements breathe. The application of space around text boxes, images, and other graphic elements makes a design easier to read. It’s also more likely to attract attention than a cluttered composition.

8. Create order with alignment

Adding alignment to your slides will make it look much cleaner.

We’re not talking image content here, we’re talking layout.

Here’s a few tips when it comes to alignment:

Align images with grids or frames makes a design look more professional.

Apply a line or an embellishment to for design balance and composition. Here, a line to the left of the text mimics and margin line and anchors the block of text.

9. Match colors with your designs

Creating color harmony is one of the most effective ways to make your PowerPoint slides stand out.

One way to create harmony is to match the colors you use for your graphic elements — such as fonts or text holders — with a background image.

With PowerPoint, you can copy the exact color from an image using the eyedropper tool. It’s automagical!

10. Accentuate numbers with charts

Charts are bound to make it into your presentation.

When it comes to charts, always consider that your audience is time-poor.

They don’t have the hours in the day to wade through paragraphs and pages in search of the most relevant and pivotal information; rather it’s your job to make it easy for them. In other words it’s up to you to make sure your PowerPoint chart doesn’t suck.

Using a chart or graph is a visual way to highlight and emphasize key figures, in contrast to writing it in a paragraph, which doesn’t have the same effect.


We hope you have found these presentation design tips helpful.

Remember: be creative, break the rules and push your design skills by coming up with new and innovative ideas. At the end of the day, graphic design is about exploration and experimentation.

Here is my question for you …

What’s preventing you from achieving success in your presentations?

Sound off in your comments below… And please remember to be specific as possible.

Also, do you have a friend that is currently creating a new presentation and could benefit from learning about these secrets to successful presentations? If so, send them a link to this blog post right now. I’m sure, they will return the favor to you one day!

Finally, if you enjoyed reading this post, please remember to like and share using the sharing icons to the left.

Hungry for information on how to create successful presentations? Here are a few suggested posts:

10 Professional Presentation Templates That Don’t Suck

8 Awesome Places to Find Inspiration for Your PowerPoint Presentations

How to Make a Boring PowerPoint Presentation Interesting

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