The 4 Basic Principles of Presentation Design

Good design is thorough down to the last detail.” – Dieter Rams

Creating a beautiful presentation requires a symphony of visual elements to work together for a “big picture.” Designers seek to make the entire vision work together in terms of how each part interacts. This includes layout, typography, and imagery, which all add up to a cohesive set of design elements. So, how can you orchestrate the chaos of design in your next presentation? Use the principles below to guide your way.

1. Balance

There are two types of balance: symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Symmetrical Balance: With this type of balance the elements on both sides of the design are in similar location and size. If you were to draw a line down the middle of a symmetrical design, it would be a mirrored image on both sides. An example of this would be the human face.

Tip: You can use this technique by making sure lettering, images, and other elements are aligned and equally weighted on both sides of a slide.

Asymmetrical Balance: Each side of the design is different, yet still balanced. For example: You could have one large box on the left side and several smaller boxes on the right. This kind of balance creates a more visually intriguing dynamic on a slide.

Tip: Incorporate asymmetrical design by using larger visual elements in one area of the space, until the place you want the viewer to focus on is featured.

2. Emphasis

It is important to have some element of your design that stands out and grabs the attention of your audience. You can do this by using the size, color or placement of the object to increase the focus on a certain part. To select the element of design to emphasize, ask yourself: What is the most important feature of this slide?

Tip: In order to add emphasis, make your text bolder, an image larger or use a color brighter than your base.

3. Unity

Your design should always feel unified so that all of your slides are connected together visually, and your deck has a consistent look and feel. The elements on your page must relate to one another through design elements such as color, shape, texture and so on. For example, if the elements on the page feel like they were placed without purpose, then your design will feel scattered, and your audience will likely be confused about the tone of your message.

Tip: Study color theory, typography and the balance principles detailed above to ensure that all of the elements flow together to create a cohesive design.

4. Movement

Designers often use curved lines to instill a sense of motion, and to encourage the eye to move sequentially from one point to the next. This can be an important tool when you are trying to move an audience through a story, or present a series of information on a slide.

Tip: Try using a curved line that moves through your text, from image to image or even slide to slide. Curved lines are also great for creative chart layouts. Ditch the standard chart designs for a layout that utilizes curved lines to draw eyes to your various points.

Putting It All Together

Developing an eye for these different design elements can be learned, and there are plenty of resources online that can help guide you along. Think of the overall elements of design as a way to edit down the visual pieces of your existing presentation in order to organize and make them more cohesive. Next time you work on a presentation, go through this list and check off the elements it has. Then, try to incorporate any missing pieces in your next draft. You’ll be thinking like a designer in no time.

READ MORE: Design Philosophies From the Masters

Author Bio

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University. Find Scott on Google+.

Photo: zooropa/Shutterstock

  • Prime Outsourcing

    Creating a great presentation design is not that easy, especially when it’s time to combine the elements. Found a lot of good points here that will somehow minimize the challenge of making a presentation.

  • http://lilly.io LillyDevShop

    Great article! Putting these elements together will help produce an attractive presentation that limits any unwanted distraction or jarring experiences during the showing.

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  • http://twitter.com/ChristopherIsak Christopher Isak

    Great article. You did a good job on visualising the cases.
    Good work!

  • Guerric

    Emphasis and balance are important! I also use these principles on blogging: http://boostcompanies.com/start-a-blog/

    It also remembers me principles that Oren Klaff gives in Pitch Anything.

  • P. Royster

    Hyphenating Di-eter and ty-pography is certainly a good example of attention to detail.

  • Nagaraja

    It is a feast to eyes, satisfies the cognition.

  • http://wwwccp.guru anthony etherton

    I absolutely agree that any suggestion which makes the supporting slides more engaging is a bonus to both presenter and audience, but I would offer it’s always the human being that’s the ‘presentation’ not the powerpoint.

    Ants

  • http://www.facebook.com/pogomcl Mary C Legg

    absolutely beautiful-thank-you

  • http://www.kevinmamaqi.com/ Kevin Mamaqi

    Good article and great images, make it really easy to understand.

  • http://www.digitallyour.com Santanu Das

    Nice tips. I also think typography is another important element in designing presentations.

  • Ali RahPou

    The Curve idea was great …

  • http://writer-for-hire.us Julie Anne, Writer for Hire

    Yes, I enjoy Slideshare every time I participate, and this helps me, too. It helps me make sure I’m doing it right, too. I also hope simple is okay, because I’m not an advanced designer. I have to work with the skills I have as a writer first designer second.

  • http://www.nickezzo.com Nick Ezzo

    Couldn’t agree more. Somewhere in the last two decades, the definition of “presentation” changed — now it means the PowerPoint deck. When people ask me if I can email them my presentation, I sometimes say “No, I’m delivering the presentation. I can send you my visual aids.” Blank stare in return.

  • http://wwwccp.guru anthony etherton

    Hi Nick

    I’ve been helping C Suite leaders since 2008 to consciously create the impact they choose.

    The biggest hurdle is changing the mindset that the slides are the presentation.

    We’re slowly getting there, working our way around the world.

    Cheers

    Ants
    Director
    CCP

  • Helena Argonath Bochiski

    This is a really great article ! Thanks for sharing this important tips for people who made presentations !

  • Anil Edwards

    Size of Presentation is as important as any other element