by Adam Noar
Greetings, fellow slide presentation designers! Are you hitting the wall, trying to find the perfect design to match your no doubt epic presentation? Need a little inspiration when it comes to the finer points of PowerPoint aesthetics? Then fear not, gentle souls! With these ten inspiring design quotes from some of the great masters of design you will re-emerge rejuvenated and ready to tackle your next presentation slide with verve, gusto, and a whole bunch of other fancy superlative words meaning “enthusiasm.” So without further ado, here they are.
Design Quote #1. Make it Short and Sweet
Why say something in twenty words when you can say it in ten? As it is, you do not want to get too crazy with adding lots of superfluous text to your presentation slide, because the only thing worse than having a slide that looks like an essay is . . . hmm, actually there really is not anything worse than that. A really good copywriting rule of thumb to keep if you are having trouble consolidating the words on your slide is that you should look to cut 20% of your words after the first draft, and then cut them again a second time.
Keeping it short isn’t just about having a short word count. You also want to rely on smaller words whenever possible, for maximum effect. Aim to do as Mr. Draper from Mad Men fame did: go for punchy, eye-catching messages that use a few words to create a big splash, without the dragging tedium of elements such as complete sentences or more than a few syllables per word. Also, no matter how good your enunciation might be, it would be pretty embarrassing if you stumbled over some fancy SAT word you unwisely inserted into your slide just to wow your audience. Save the ritzy words for another time and keep ‘em short!
Design Quote #2. Keep it Simple
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. It sounds like the sort of refrain a deranged Feng Shui supervillain might cackle when describing his plans to annihilate James Bond. Simplicity should also be your buzzword when you are busy creating slides. Simplicity means creating slides that do not have overly elaborate color schemes or clashing fonts. Simplicity means creating slides that have beautifully thought out, preferably minimalist-leaning compositions or templates. Simplicity means avoiding pitfalls such as lengthy line spillover or painfully awkward looking stock images. Be bold when you design your slide, but not so bold that you forget to keep things simple.
Design Quote #3. Aim for Wow
Did I just contradict myself after everything I just told you about keeping things simple? At first glance it might seem that way. But actually, you can and should find a balance between elegance and eye-popping in-your-face design. There are several ways to accomplish that. One way to add just enough wow factor to your design is to highlight one or two words in your text and blow them up to twice the size of the rest of the font. You might try experimenting with image filtering to create a mostly black-and-white image, yet leave just a tiny yet loud flash of color where it will draw your audience’s eyes the most. Another great way to achieve the “not yes, not no, but WOW” look with your design is to use a predominantly quiet, clean-cut font throughout the entirety of your presentation but sprinkle in the occasional super bold fonts like this one here and there like a dash of chili flakes into a dish for just a hint of spice.
Design Quote #4. Show Don’t Tell
As Mr. Bass, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker and designer says, “design is thinking made visual.” What does that mean? It means you don’t have the luxury of talking out an idea to your audience—most of what they will perceive from your work will instead come from the image you create. It is really useful to focus on your audience as you are designing a slide, and trying to imagine how they will receive it. This means using vocabulary and jargon in your slide that they understand, showing them what you mean with images that are relevant to the presentation, and providing a clear call to action at the end of your presentation just to make sure that your message hasn’t been lost between the slides.
Design Quote #5. Don’t Design to be Noticed
What separates good design from great design? As the French are fond of saying, je ne sais quoi. What great design has in common, from book covers to movie posters to presentation slides, is that it doesn’t really call attention to itself. It just is. When you see a great design you are focusing more on the ideas themselves than any details. This goes back to what I mentioned previously: you want to find the right balance between simplicity and wow, in order that you express crucial information without going over the top and calling way more attention than necessary to shallow, irrelevant features such as extra icons, multiple colors or fonts, and overly elaborate compositions that force your audience’s eyes to wander back and forth across the face of your slide like they’re watching a tennis match.
Design Quote #6. Design is a Language
Let’s face it: sometimes words by themselves fall short of what we want them to say. That is one reason why it is so great that presentation slides exist. You have the power of complimenting your material with beautiful images, colors, and shapes that have the potential to say things that words simply cannot. Just like communication is 10% verbal and 90% body language, design helps your presentation work much the same way. If you want your audience to get excited about your ideas, use one or two secondary bright colors to emphasize how epic it is. If your goal is to make people contemplative about whatever subject you are discussing, then your slide design should probably skew towards a more minimalist or flat-design theme, with fewer visual distractions to allow your audience to really think through what you are telling them.
Another way that you can uniquely convey an idea using design is by augmenting the words you use with nifty little icons that serve to highlight and underscore certain ideas. Use arrows or thought bubbles or underlining to point out extra important concepts in the text. Check out these really cool text placement ideas to incorporate the forms of your words into the design itself, such as changing the orientation of the words to match a background image or stacking your text into an invisible shape in order to emphasize your ideas.
Design Quote #7. Good Design is More Than Meets the Eye
There are so many features of good design that go unnoticed. A lot of times the most important aspect of a good presentation slide is not what is in it, but what isn’t. Utilizing negative space is a very significant quality that a good designer is highly aware of. If you have too many words or images clustered in one section it makes the slide appear claustrophobic and full. Too few of them and the whole thing feels empty, as if there was a minimum quota for the number of slides you needed for your presentation. It’s critical to achieve a positive balance between having too much extra space around your slide text or images and too little of it. And like with so much that is design-related, sometimes there’s really no other way to tell if you have a good presentation slide other than what your gut says. Trust your design instincts and see how far they take you.
Design Quote #8. Grow Through Mistakes
Part of the reality of designing great Powerpoint slides—or anything else for that matter—is knowing that you will mess up, and refusing to let that stop you from trying. It might be that the last time you made a slide you got a little bit word crazy, or maybe committed the rookie mistake of using a loopy header font in the body of your display text. Sh*t happens, mistakes are made. Whatever!
The most important thing is that you learn from your mistakes. This also goes for when others screw up. If you got to a presentation where it looks like half of the room is struggling to focus on the presenter’s content, make an extra effort to observe their presentation and see if you can figure out what they are doing wrong. It might not just be that the content of their presentation is boring. Maybe they are using a confusing slide template that disrupts the visual flow of the presentation, or maybe they have gone way too minimal and have created a barebones Powerpoint slide with a black and white color scheme and Calibri font. Make a note of what sorts of errors are made and be sure not to make them yourself!
Design Quote #9. Explore Lots of Ideas
As Picasso is alleged to have said, the greatest artists are the ones who steal the most. If you see someone else using a beautiful background texture, make it your own on your next presentation. If you like the presentation slides that I put up on Slideshare, by all means use them as inspiration for your next presentation project! Don’t just stick to the same stagnant ideas every time you make a new presentation slide—try out totally different themes, mix up your font choices, and play around. You will surprise yourself with your creativity and ultimately impress a lot of people!
Design Quote #10. Details Matter
The devil is in fact in the details, which is why when you create your next PowerPoint presentation you need to make sure that you do not just cover your bases, such as writing clear, concise display text or using simple, elegant hi-res images to serve as the background for your slides. Even though it seems crazy you could make a spelling mistake, double check your text to ensure there are no they’re-their mixups. Check your fonts to make sure they are the right size and are oriented correctly. If you have time, put your presentation up on a projector and see what it looks like in real time, so you can spot any mistakes that might be visible up on a screen but not on your laptop.
Hopefully you’ve picked up some inspiring ideas to take into your next presentation. Your audience deserves the very best and you should strive to have presentation slides which are effective in conveying your ideas in the best, simplest way possible.
Now that you’ve had your fill of great design concepts such as simplicity and “wowing” your audience, try thinking about how you can incorporate them altogether. What was your favorite design quote out of the ones shown above? Do you have a favorite inspirational design quote when it comes to presentations? Let me know what you think below and please try to be as specific as possible. Sound off in the comments below!
Lastly, do you have a friend that could benefit from learning about these presentation design tips? If so, email them the link to this post.
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