Design Philosophies From the Masters

June 23, 2014

When creating a presentation, it's easy to get caught up focusing on the content -- after all, it is the meat of any deck. But we can't forget that if this information is not presented in an engaging way, its impact will not be as great. In other words: Design matters.

Below are 13 powerful design quotes from Leonardo Da Vinci, Bruno Munari and more, along with lessons you can implement for your own presentations.

Lesson: Follow the rule "less is more" with your slide design. You must avoid every temptation to use too much text or over-complicated charts and graphs. A storyboard can make simplicity easier to attain. Storyboards give you the opportunity to remove unnecessary elements. Your presentations will be more sophisticated, and your design process will be more efficient.

Lesson: Outsource design if you need. Design is a skill that develops over time, and there should be no shame in admitting design as a weakness. Interested in taking a first crack at it? Start with these tips for choosing the right photos for your decks.

Lesson: Quality design is critically important. Take for instance the world of industrial design -- an Apple product looks vastly different than another competitor’s product. They care passionately not only about how the product works, but also how it feels in your hands. This intense focus on design obviously makes Apple the culture-shaping company it is today.

Lesson: Seek originality and avoid creating “me too” decks. My suggestion is to go analog and enjoy the ideas that will develop.

Lesson: If you design your own presentations, take the time to elevate your design skills. Don't rely on software or apps to guide your design decisions. There are many blogs, videos, courses and workshops to help you develop refined design techniques.

Lesson: Presentation design can help an idea take off, or crash and burn. Design touches something in the human soul. Don’t forget about that intense power. If presentations are not your passion, collaborate with truly talented writers and designers.

Lesson: If you have ever created a presentation, you are a presentation designer. Even text-only decks featuring small, black font on a white background are designed; they are just poorly designed. By acknowledging that every presentation is designed, you might be inspired to take your designs up a notch.

Lesson: You have a major responsibility as a presenter -- to empower others. Utilizing great design will help you get there, but it isn’t the entire equation. You also need to deliver thoughtful and meaningful ideas. To accomplish that goal, edit and refine your message repeatedly to ensure that your ideas are clearly expressed. Then design slides that visualize your core ideas.

Lesson: Great design isn’t just breathed to life. It takes inspiration and perspiration. It takes hard work. Moodboard your ideas. Get your thoughts on paper. Do what it takes to thoroughly think about your design plan.

Lesson: Anything you do visually needs to start with a blueprint or a plan. Great design never just comes together. It takes conceptualization, visualization and a persistence to achieve your vision.

Lesson: Always remember that design is just one third of the presentation equation. It is a tool for uniting beauty and substance.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to try new things when designing your presentation. Take a risk. Make a change. Aim to be courageous. For example, the guy who spoke before Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address took two hours to give his speech. How long did it take Lincoln? Less than three minutes, and his speech changed the world.

Lesson: In the words of John Maeda, “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious from the meaningful.” Keep slicing and dicing until you can’t do it anymore. Review everything and examine closely. And, when you are done. Do it again. And again until you are empty.

READ MORE: 4 Tips for Choosing the Right Stock Photography

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+.