Better PowerPoint Presentation Design: Insider Secrets

by Donna de Leo – ETMG Designer and Art Director

One of the things that makes Microsoft PowerPoint such a brilliant software program is that anyone can use it to create a professional presentation. Unfortunately that same ease-of-use is also its biggest drawback. As a visual designer, I’ve worked on some beautiful—but more often dreadful— presentations over the years.

Take heed: even if you didn’t attend art school, you can still create appealing—and therefore more compelling—presentations by employing a few insider secrets included here.

Less really is more.

Trying to cram too much information onto a slide is the most common error I see. Focus on having one key point per slide even if this means your presentation will be longer. Why is this important? If you have more than one message per slide, you can bet that while you’re explaining point one, the audience is already reading ahead to point number three. As a result, your audience is not listening or connecting to you.

Apply the principle of contrast to your slides to control your audience’s focus.

Creative professionals use contrast as a tool, to direct the viewer’s attention to a particular point of interest within a piece. To employ this same technique in your presentation, emphasize with dark and light, big and small for greater impact. Here’s an example of this in action:

Example of using text in PPT for emphasis

Dark backgrounds are better than white.

People tend to shy away from using colored backgrounds in PowerPoint, but in fact your slides will be more legible using a dark color for the background and white or another light color for your text. Why, you ask? A white screen has more glare than a dark screen causing the viewer’s eye to fatigue more quickly.  The brightness of a white background will draw the attention of your audience towards it, and away from you, the speaker.

Repeat after me: consistency, consistency, and consistency.

When I’m tasked with “cleaning up” a corporate presentation that adheres to a branded template, the main thing I focus on is applying consistency.  This means consistency in type size, placement, and alignment. Quite often objects inadvertently get moved around when authoring a slide deck. Go back and check to ensure your headline and content boxes start in the same position — this will eliminate any distracting jumpiness from slide to slide. Headlines and body copy should be the same size throughout. When you do need to reduce font size to fit content, downsize it evenly and consistently throughout.

Also take care to align and evenly distribute any slide with multiples text boxes or objects such as a diagram or charts. The “align or distribute” tool— located in the “Arrange” drop down menu—will evenly space and/or align a group of objects. It will make a big difference in the balance and cohesiveness of a slide. When objects are unbalanced a slide appears disorganized and even worse, amateurish.

Objects are unevenly spaced and not aligned:

Unevenly spaced and misaligned PPT objects

Objects are evenly spaced and aligned:

Evenly spaced and aligned PPT objects

So there you have it, just a few insider secrets to get you started on creating better presentations in PowerPoint. Psst… for a few more PowerPoint tips check out the resources below.


Killer Slide Decks a gallery of creative presentation designs from Note & Point,

Eight Tips for an Awesome PowerPoint Presentation by Doman Nofar

How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint Ted Talk by David JP Phillips

Further Reading:

Book Review – Making Rain with Events

Improving Those Wayward Webinars

The Future of Multimedia and Visual Storytelling [INFOGRAPHIC]

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