It’s not unusual to encounter a mindset that thinks design is frivolous. That a serious corporate presentation achieves its goals by being deadly-boring to look at.
We beg to disagree.
Which doesn’t mean that frills and fuss are any good either.
When we say design, we mean design.
I.e. a visual look that is as thought-through, balanced, and appropriate as the content you have.
In other words, a visual look that is achieved by design, rather than by a random application of crazy gifs and standard images.
And you don’t have to be a designer to achieve at least a modicum of this. Of course, a professional power-point designer can achieve wonders that elude the lay person. But that’s another story!
For now, let’s look at a few easy ways in which you can bring out your inner-designer, with a little help from your friends.
Friend 1: Attitude
You might wonder what “attitude” has to do with visual design. We would say “everything”. The nuts and bolts are accessible to all, equally. What makes a presentation stand out is what makes you stand out. I.e. your personality. Identify and define the attitude behind your presentation – Sassy? Wise? Mature? Far-sighted? Experimental? – and from that core spool out into the visual associations that go with it. Everything else will follow.
Friend 2: Pen-n-Paper
However old-fashioned this may sound, it’s a tried and tested way of jumpstarting your innate (and unexplored) design sense. Remember all the times you unconsciously doodle as you listen to someone speak (on the phone, at a lecture, in a meeting). It’s just the brain’s way of processing information. So, put pen (or pencil) to paper and sketch your slides out before you transform them into PowerPoint. It’s fun and it really helps concretize and visualize what you’ve been staring at on-screen for hours on end. (Good news for tech-fiends: if paper seems too retro, you can use sketch tools and do this on your preferred device!)
Friend 3: White space, blue sky
White space is to good visual design what the blue sky is to our planet. A source of oxygen. The more cramped and cluttered each slide is the less information actually travels from the slide into the client’s brain. So clear the decks, and let the light in.
Friend 4: Color Coordination
Certain colors just don’t go together, it’s that simple. Only the genuinely color-blind can be forgiven for a wild mishmash of color schemes in a slide presentation. You don’t want to make the client feel dizzy, you want him/her to be dazzled (by your sense and sensibility). If this feels overwhelmingly beyond your skill sets, simply ask yourself: Which colors go together? Which contrast well? Which are unreadable on screen? And remember, you’re not alone! Ask your team-mates, ask your soul-mates, and refer to online color guides to begin thinking in color.
Friend 5: Word-Image Balance
You’ve heard of work-life balance. Apply this principle to your presentation. How can you make room for both words and images to breathe? Are you saying exactly the same thing in words AND in images, thereby wasting precious space? Neither words nor images should be over-worked. Nor should they both be so playful as to be utterly careless!
Friend 6: Open eyes, absorbent mind
Everything that’s around you – natural or man-made – has some design principle to offer. All you need to know is how to look, and better still, how to apply what you learn from life and art. For example, a simple staircase offers a beautiful example of proportion, geometry, symmetry and interplay (of diagonal and horizontal). A tree with its firm central trunk, proportionate branches and perfectly-placed leaves, offers suggestions on placement and assembling of parts to create a whole.
And this is just the beginning…
Once you start accepting design as an integral part of your presentation rather than an annoying add-on, you will begin enjoying new approaches and learning new skills. With your “design-hat” on you will be able to fine-tune your search for images and gifs when you’re browsing – because you will know not just what you’re looking for, but why, and how you plan to use it!
So go ahead, enjoy! And when things seem tricky, just remember: what’s done by design, can’t be undone by doubt!