There are few things worse then suffering through a cluttered, poorly designed PowerPoint presentation. This becomes even more frustrating when the content of the presentation something you find interesting and relevant. Don’t let your design get in the way of your message! Well designed Power Point slides should enhance your presentation by providing your audience with additional visual information. Science majors, for example often do not receive any design education in their college career. So a basic overview of the elements of good design can be very helpful for students pursuing that and many other academic disciplines.
First off, having a consistent design scheme is what will make your presentation look like a cohesive work. By keeping the text in the same alignment, color, font, and sizes throughout your slides you avoid distracting your audience. Now, it is important to note that these rules are not set in stone. There are specific cases where you need to alter the parameters for emphasis, in a title for example. Just always keep in mind whether or not your design choices are necessary for the audience to better absorb your information.
When choosing options such as text color and size, readability is key. Remember that most often a PowerPoint presentation is going to be viewed on a projector screen. These often display at a much lower resolution then a computer monitor. Keeping the text reasonably large and well-spaced is the correct approach. Black, green or blue; basically any dark color is always an appropriate text color on a white or light background.
High contrast designs with dark backgrounds and light text look good on computer monitors, but often do not translate well to projector screens. If you decide to go that route with your design consider getting to the presentation room early to see how it displays on the big screen. This is never a bad idea in general, sometimes transferring files from one software version to another can cause errors. Also, avoid any backgrounds with too many colors or that are too busy such as a picture.
PowerPoint has many extra features, most of them you should never use: sound effects, animations, fancy transitions, and so forth. All of these are distracting to an audience and should never be included in a professional presentation. Animated GIFs are very occasionally appropriate, but only when a still image is not sufficient. Pictures can greatly enhance a presentation, but always try to make them as relevant as possible to your content.
In general try not to put too much information on each slide. The slides should supplement what you are saying by providing additional information or highlighting important points. One final note, a little good design goes a long way. Without any design elements a presentation can be too plain and boring, so a pleasant simple motif can make a PowerPoint presentation more effective. But, as stated in the title a “less is more,” approach is best when choosing design elements for a presentation. When in doubt, don’t include it.
Chelsea Babcock is currently majoring in biochemistry at the University of South Florida. In addition to her schoolwork she tutors biology, chemistry, and mathematics through USF. Before starting her science career she graduated from the honors art and design program at Booker High School, Visual and Performing Arts Academy.