Sticky Presentations bite size article: 5 visual design adjustments that make better slides

5 visual design adjustments that make better slides

Jul 26, 2017

Visual clarity (sometimes referred to as aesthetics) in presentation slide content is key to making better slides. Two slides having similar content. One is easy on the eyes. The other makes looking at it uncomfortable. Why? Sometimes it's just how we have positioned the slide content. Sometimes it's the spacing between this and the next block of content. Sometimes it's just the size of the content element.

Let's examine each of the five adjustments.

Size is an important element of design for visibility as applied to presentation slides. An element (text, image, or graphic object) in the presentation slide that is too small will be difficult to see. If too big, it might look ugly or out of place. So the correct size adjustment and balance are required to make the overall slide visually clear.

Tip: Bigger is usually better.

BEFORE: Size too small. Difficult to see. Example slide showing text and image that are too small
AFTER: Everything is bigger. Easier to see. Example size should large text and image

Spacing helps direct the eye to objects on the slide. It is hard to distinguish objects on a crowded page. The more space around an object, the easier it is to notice an object. This is especially true for text objects.

Also, do not place texts too close to the edge of your slide. Leave at least a 10mm gap between text and the edge of the slide. Same goes for texts in a rectangle or shapes. Leave enough space (or gap) along the edges of the shape.

Tip: More space is better than less.

BEFORE: Too little space. Slide looks cluttered. Example slide showing objects without spacing
AFTER: Good spacing. Easier on the eyes. Example slide showing objects with proper spacing

Colour & Contrast provide the mood for your overall slide design. Always use high contrast colours between text and background. Select colours that are soothing to the eyes. Use neutral colours like white, black, blue. Try not to use luminous colours like those really bright yellow or extremely bright green that might hurt the eyes. A bright yellow text placed on a white background or object is bad contrast.

Tip: White and black are safe colours to use.

BEFORE: Bad colour contrast. Text is difficult to see. Example slide showing bad colour contrast
AFTER: Good colour contrast. Easy on the eyes. Example slide showing good colour contrast

Focus is the area on the slide where the eyes are pulled towards to. Usually a prominent single key information or an object on the slide. Without focus, the audience will not know where to start looking when the slide is presented. It is a good design practice to have ‘focus’ on every slide.

Tip: An easy way to have focus is to make the focused object bigger than the rest.

BEFORE: No focus. Don't know where to look. Example slide showing a slide without focused content
AFTER: Good focus. Key information is clear. Example slide showing clear focused information

Alignment is responsible for the neatness and a more professional look of your slides. When objects on your slides are not aligned properly, your slide looks sloppy, messy, unprofessional. Sometimes in design, we place objects or text randomly on purpose. Even randomness has certain hidden alignment order.

Tip: Depending on the object placements, align objects by its sides, tops, bottoms, or center using the align function of your presentation software.

BEFORE: Objects not aligned. Looks messy. Example slide showing messy content not aligned
AFTER: Objects are aligned. Neat and tidy. Example slide showing objects aligned properly

A typical well-designed slide uses almost all of the above 5 visual design adjustments. Missing any one of the above will likely make the slide fall off the edge of a good professional design. Compare the BEFORE and AFTER examples above. You will notice that the AFTER examples conformed to almost all of the 5 visual adjustments, plus a few others that were not mentioned in this story.

Give your existing presentation slides a final check. See if they need these visual design adjustments to make them neater, clearer, easier to see, more focused, or better colour contrast. Sometimes just a minor tweak to any one of the adjustments can make tons of a difference.

The author, ANG Tian Teck is a coach, trainer, and speaker, specialising in inspiring organisations and business leaders to deliver high impact presentations. He has coached, trained, and infected over 10,000 individuals across the region with his Amazing Sticky Presentations approach. Tian Teck is also the author of two books, Sticky Presentations, and Spinning I.D.E.A.S.

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