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Principles of good presentation design [free e book]


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4 simple principles to help you design better PowerPoint Slides for your presentations.

Published in: Design, Technology, Business

Principles of good presentation design [free e book]

  1. 1. Principles of GoodPresentation Design Free E-Book By Vivek
  2. 2. What is this e-book about? In this e-book you will learn about basics of good design. These simple principles will help you make better looking PowerPoint slides. These principles are simple to understand and easy to apply. Who is this e-book for? Most of us think that good slides are only made by professional designers and creative people. Most of us consider ourselves; ‘not creative’. This book is for non- designers, for novices like us who have no formal education in design. We can become better designers with the use of these simple techniques. Credit for this e-bookThis e-book is based on Robin Williams’ book; The Non-Designer’s Design Book. I have tried to present a crux of her excellent book and illustrated it withexamples (many of which are paper ads taken from 2
  3. 3. Rights of Usage & Distribution I hereby give you complete right to distribute this e-book to anyone. You can use this e-book in any which way you want to. Just mention the blog’s name and provide a link where ever possible. Blog’s name: All About Presentations Blog’s URL: Read this e-book online This e-book was originally written as a six part series on my blog All About Presentations. Given the popularity and importance Iam releasing it in this e-book form. Go ahead, read it and share it with your friends and colleagues. Links to read it online: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 Chapter 4, Chapter 5 & Chapter 6 3
  4. 4. ContentsIntroduction: What makes a design look good? 5Design Principle #1: Proximity Principle 9Design Principle #2: Alignment Principle 15Design Principle #3: Repetition Principle 20Design Principle #4: Contrast Principle 26Conclusion 31 4
  5. 5. 1What makes a design look good?A good presentation is a result of threethings; meaningful content, good looking slidesand powerful & engaging delivery. These threeelements are equally important and we cannot get awayby mastering only one or two out of the three. Most of ushave no formal training in design and many of us do notconsider ourselves creative.In this e-book, you will learn; what makes a designappealing? Why do we like some slides and dont likeothers? What are the basic principles we can use tomake our slides awesome?Principles which are easy to understand and easy toapply. Our guide here is Robin Williams and her book TheNon-Designers Design Book.The term design applies to every type of design; slidedesign (a PPT slide), newspaper advertisement,newsletter, websites, etc. etc. The approach of her book isvery simple and anyone can understand and apply thesame. 5
  6. 6. The Four Basic Principles1. Contrast2. Repetition3. Alignment4. ProximityFirst, we need to understand each principle (this will becovered in next few chapters). Second, we have torecognise when we are violating them. Third, we have touse the principles to make our design awesome.What are these principles?I will offer a small description here. We shall understandeach one in a separate chapter. But before we canunderstand these principles we need to understand themeaning of the term element. We will be using this wordoften. 6
  7. 7. Elements are the various objects on a page (or aslide). A line of text or image placed physically together isone element. Robin says, "To know the number ofelements on a page, squint your eyes and count thenumber of times your eye stops, seeing each separateitem."Example: In the image below, the visiting card on the tophas 3 elements whereas the one below has only 2. Noticehow your eyes moves to three places in the first card. Inthe bottom card, because the logo and company nameare so close, they become one element. 7
  8. 8. Let us now understand about the four principles in brief.Contrast - Contrast makes the design attractive. This iswhat gets readers attention. It also helps organise thedesign so readers know what is going on.Repetition - Repetition is consistency. All the slides of apresentation should have a consistent design for audienceto know it is from the same presentation. Even within aslide consistency matters. It brings unity to design.Alignment - Every element in the design has to have avisual connection with the other elements. It gives thedesign a balanced unified look.Proximity (Closeness) - Elements which are not relatedshould be placed far away. Elements which are relatedshould be placed physically together.We will understand each principle with practical examplesin the following chapters. 8
  9. 9. 2Design Principle #1: ProximityWhat does it mean?This is the first principle of good design. Proximity meanscloseness. Physical closeness of elements on the slide.What is the Proximity Principle?On a slide there are many elements (images, text). Theelements which are related should be placed together(physically closer) on the slide. The elements which arenot related should never be placed together. Physicalcloseness (proximity) implies a relationship.Example #1Look at the example on the next page. This is somethingvery similar to what Robin shares in her book. Whichvisiting card looks better? 9
  10. 10. The one at the bottom looks better. There were 4elements on the top visiting card. The proximity principlewants us to group the similar elements together. So weput investment banker with the name. We put the logowith the company name and address. Thus we make thecard more organised, easy to understand and moreappealing. 10
  11. 11. What are the benefits of following this principle?1. The slides become more organised. Grouping similarthings makes logical sense. It also reduces the number ofelements on the page, thus the total space is managedbetter, visually.2. This organisation tells readers where to start reading,how to navigate through the page and where to end.3. All of this enhances the communication. The slidebecomes easy to understand.4. White space is needed to rest the eye. By groupingsimilar elements, we are freeing more white space. Wewill understand more about white space on page 31. 11
  12. 12. Example #2Let us take a look at this slide from Maricos presentationtaken from their website. Marico is a leading FMCG playerin India with market leadership position in hair oils. Thisslides relates to that. 12
  13. 13. This particular slide does not look very good. The spaceon the slide is ill managed. The elements are allhaphazard. Let us try to apply what we learnt in thisprinciple. Place similar things together. Do not placedissimilar things together.The slide talks about two things: Volume market share &Market size. The images in this case are only illustrative ofthe brands they are talking about. PCNO is the blue bottle,Nihar is the green bottle. I have marked 1 for elementswhich relate to market share, 2 for market size and 3 forimages. 13
  14. 14. By grouping these together, we arrive at this:This slide looks much better. The white space has beenbetter managed. It can be improved further by applyingthe other three principles of design, but we shall not dothat now.Through this example we have learned how we can applythe Proximity Principle to a slide and improve it.Tomorrow if we are touching up our slides we knowhow we will use this principle and make a small butimportant impact on the look and feel of the slide. 14
  15. 15. 3Design Principle #2: AlignmentWhat does it mean?Alignment is the adjustment of an object in relation withother objects (Wikipedia). You are aware of left alignment(often called left justify) and right alignment. By alignmenthere, we mean the way every element is positioned incomparison to the other element.What is the Alignment Principle?Every element on the slide should have a visualconnection with other elements on the slide. A slide whichhas all the elements aligned gives a more cohesive look. Itappeals more to the eye.Robin suggests that every element should be alignedin the same manner. If the slide header text is alignedleft, the body text should also be aligned left. Have a lookat the image below. The slide on the left is the mostcommon thing to do. Robin urges us not to. The slide onthe right gives a more balanced look. 15
  16. 16. Robin also urges us to avoid center alignment at all times.Choose right or left but not center because it is too oldstyle and dull. Right or left alignment gives a moresophisticated look. I am not sure why she is so againstcenter alignment. Personally I am not totally convinced.But then she is the expert not me.In the example below, center alignment is the worst choicebut that does not mean it is worse everywhere. Ipersonally need to study more examples before I can buyher point fully. 16
  17. 17. When there is text and a (related) image on a slide, alignthe text to unite it strongly with the image. Take a look atthis example:It is very clear which slide looks better. The text which hasbeen right aligned creates a unity. It strengthens the linesof the book and creates a strong alignment. 17
  18. 18. Alignment in real life?After browsing scores of paper ads on the I figured out that most ads have thebasic alignment in place but they have not followed therule to the last word. Which I guess is fine. There is onead which kind of follows the principle to the last word.Here it is. 18
  19. 19. The header, the body text and the bottom text are all rightaligned. There is a strong structure which is visiblebecause of this alignment throughout.What are the benefits of alignment?Overall, aligning all the elements to each other makes thevarious elements part of the same design. All theelements appear united thus making the slide look betterand appeal more. 19
  20. 20. Design Principle #3: Repetition 4What does it mean?Repetition is a simple word which means to repeat. Torepeat an element across the design. In our context, itstands for consistency as well. Consistent use of elements(colour, fonts, etc.) on a slide and throughout all slides.What is the Repetition Principle?This principle of good design states that we repeat someaspects of the design throughout the presentation. It helpsorganise information and guides your reader through thepresentation.How to apply this principle?Here are the a few tips to remain consistent throughoutthe slides1. Use a template (can be created by you as well) so thatthe looks across all slides remain the same.2. Use the same font size across all slides (one size ofheader and one for body text).3. Use the same font type across all slides.4. Use the same font colour across all slides.5. Use the same colour scheme for all tables & charts(graphs) across all slides.Repetition of elements can also be on one slide. To know 20more see examples below.
  21. 21. Example #1Look at these three print ads which belong to the samecompany. Even without reading a word you will know whythey belong to the same company.There is a strong visual connect between all the variousads (which are like slides only). The element of repetitionis at work here. This is an extremely helpful tip if you aredesigning a newspaper ad, a website (inside pages), abrochure or a newsletter. 21
  22. 22. Example #2There can be a repetition within the slide as well. Look atthis newspaper ad and find out what is being repeatedhere and how is it affecting the audience? 22
  23. 23. The element that is being repeated is the colour green.This adds to our definition of element in the first post. Anelement on a slide is a text, an image, a combinationof text and image or colour of image or text. The greencolour which comes at the top and bottom is making sureyour eye stays on the slide for more time and it alternatesbetween the top and bottom. This way we spend moretime reading the ad.By now you have understood that these design principlesapply as much to slide design as to a newspaperadvertisement. We are using newspaper ads as examplesonly to illustrate the principle. It does not mean our slidesshould be as full of text as the paper ad above. An ad anda slide are two different forms of communication and havedifferent purpose.Example #3Another example of repetition can be seen in the followingnewspaper ad. 23
  24. 24. The first three images are similar and the font style is alsosimilar. This is a repetition. This repetition ties these threeelements together and brings about unity in design. Hadthese three images been totally different the unity wouldhave been lost.I dont find this paper ad very nice but have still used it justto give examples of repetition. In the end, a design willonly look good when all the four principles of design cometogether; contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity. 24
  25. 25. What more?Break the rule in the interest of design. You need notfollow this principle to such an extent that it gets boring.Break it when you feel so. Take the risk. Breaking thisrepetition (if done once or twice) will get a lot of attentionwhich can be used to ones advantage. 25
  26. 26. 5Design Principle #4: ContrastWhat does it mean?Contrast means difference. The difference between twoelements on the slide. The difference can be of colour,size, font type, bold and not bold, vertical and horizontaltext, etc. A simple example of contrast is the headline. Seethe image below.The two headline texts are in bold and they are bigger infont. This is the contrast here. It makes it easy for us toread the text. 26
  27. 27. What is the Contrast Principle?Contrast adds visual interest in the design and makes itinteresting. In order to be effective, the contrast HAS TOBE strong. Example, font 18 and 20 is not a strongcontrast. A strong contrast would be 18 and 30. Contrastalso helps organise a document, so readers can skimthrough the material.In the image above which slide looks better? Which ismore catchy? The one on the right, and the reason iscontrast. A strong contrast gets attention. If the highlightcolour is made light grey the contrast will become poorand lose it power.The contrast principle states that we should find oneimportant thing on the slide and highlight it. If there aretwo important things, bring them together physically andhighlight them as one element (unit). 27
  28. 28. Our eyes always get drawn to contrast. This is a naturaltendency. Hence, we should decide the most importantpoint on a slide and use contrast to draw attention.How to apply this principle?Look at the ads below. Where does your eye fall first? Is itthe most important message? 28
  29. 29. The contrast is poor. Whenever there is so much text in adesign, you need a strong contrast to focus the eyes onthe main point. There are many elements which get ourattention and nothing stands out well. The eye movementis haphazard here.Contrast this to another text heavy ad which we sawearlier as well. 29
  30. 30. The eye movements are well planned here. After we havelooked at the product, our eyes move to the brand name(because of its larger bolder font), then to the header text(larger font size and blue colour) and then to the bunch oftext above Neutrogena. This contrast helps readersnavigate better. It also focuses the readers on the brandname.Remember to have strong contrast on your slide. This willenhance the visual appeal of the slide and make eyenavigation easier. 30
  31. 31. 6ConclusionIn the last four chapters we have covered the fourprinciples of good design; Contrast, Repetition, Alignmentand Proximity.. In this post, we will learn a few simpletricks.1. Have a lot of white space on the slide2. Avoid all capital letters in the text. It make the designvery busy and uncomfortable to read. The same ruleapplies to emails as well.3. Break all the rules.White SpaceThe invisible element of any design is the amount of blankspace that is there in it. It is our tendency to fill the slidecompletely with either text or image. Example, open anewspaper and look for an advertisement by a smallcompany. You will see no blank space at all. After all, theowner has paid for it and hence has to write as much ashe can.The problem is, the less the white space (blank space) themore the clutter. The more the white space the morecatchy the design becomes. Dont think so? Have a lookat these examples. 31
  32. 32. This ad is by Apollo Munich Insurance and it is extremelycatchy. The moment there is so much white space, theeyes gets draw, like a magnet, into the image in themiddle. Now look at the next ad. 32
  33. 33. This ad is so full of text and hence so poor in catching ourattention. The only good part is the box above which iscatchy because of its contrast. 33
  34. 34. This ad, in trying to be creative, commits the mistake ofbeing too busy. We should avoid having slides like that aswell. 34
  35. 35. To conclude, remember that a good design happensbecause of six things:1. Contrast2. Repetition3. Alignment4. Proximity5. White Space, and6. The guts to break all the rules (if need be)Do not get bogged down by the rules and kill yourcreativity. Know which rule you are breaking and for thebetterment of the design, break it! 35
  36. 36. Image Credits 1. Cover Page: Rawich 2. All newspaper ads from: Buy the Book (Highly Recommended)The Non-Designers Design Book by Robin Williams ishighly recommended. It is available on flipkart for Rs. 315 & also on Amazon. You can also buy the e-book from the publishers website. Read more about Robin Williams here. 36
  37. 37. By Vivek February 2011 37