Slide Design: Try this ‘Simple’ Game…

By Laura Bergells on

I love working with talented professional designers. They can help you create slides that not only look beautiful, but really help enhance your presentation.

However, most of the time, I don’t have the luxury or budget to hire a design team to produce my slides. For many business presentations, slide design becomes a do-it-yourself effort.

When designing slides, I need to remember my limitations! I’m not a professional designer, so I need to keep my slides simple. And as luck would have it,  simplicity makes for great slide design.

Stingy Design Restrictions

Ironically, simplicity isn’t as simple as it sounds. It often means using restraint. Holding back can be really difficult when you’re using slideware that offers you zillions of design options. Like a kid in a toy store, you can be tempted to play with all these distracting features — and forget to connect to your audience with solid content and excellent presentation skills!

And that’s a key concept when designing with simplicity — avoiding distractions. When you approach your slideware, try playing this eye-opening little game. Start by giving yourself some very restrictive rules.

To begin, let me give you a set of design rules that may seem really harsh. Remember, think of this as a game. Your goal is to design your presentation using 5 very spartan rules:

  • Use 1 font types and 2 font sizes, max.
  • Use black, white, and grey: no color on your slides.
  • No bullet points or 3D.
  • No more than 10 words on any slide.
  • No pre-packaged design templates, clipart, animation, & transitions.

That’s pretty harsh, right? Go ahead and give it a try. You’ll find that giving yourself some very restrictive rules can really open up your creativity. You may or may not like the way this presentation looks in the end, but this is only round one of the game. Save your presentation, and let’s try round two.

Open up your B&W presentation, and save it as another name — maybe something with Part 2 in it. Now, let’s loosen up the rules a bit. This time, you can follow these 5 rules, instead.

Loosen Up Design Rules

  • Use 2 font types and 3 font sizes, max.
  • Only one color other than black, white, and grey.
  • Use up to 3 bullet points — but on one slide only.
  • No more than 14 words on any slide.
  • No pre-packaged design templates, clipart, animation, & transitions.

That’s only a little less harsh, right? But notice what happens when you start from a place of restriction and gradually open yourself up to a few new features. You’ll start to see what’s really essential — and what might be distracting.

This approach is almost in direct opposition to what we see with most slideware. Instead of giving yourself access to every tool in your design toolbox, start by limiting yourself. Gradually, add a few techniques in each iteration.

For your third and final iteration, go a little crazy. Open up your design restrictions to these rules:

  • Use up to 2 font types and 3 font sizes.
  • Use unlimited amounts of color on your slides.
  • Limit yourself to seven bullet points on three slides.
  • You can put up to 20 words on any slide.
  • Still no pre-packaged design templates, clipart, animation, or transitions.
Go nuts with design

photo by Euromagic

Try this exercise. You’ll discover some surprising insights when you do. You may even find that you like your black and white presentation so much, you’ll be inclined to keep it!

Remember, simplicity is often best in slide design. You may feel that it’s impossible to keep to the stringent rules I’ve outlined. But, your mind will love a creative challenge. And remember that giving yourself design limitations may help you design a more polished presentation.

4 comments

  1. Great post I am defintely going to share this amongst our sales team, whilst I constantly tell them to keep it simple, they always use all the bells and whistles available to man – probably because they lack good content…. thanks.

  2. Brings back a fond memory of an old colleague who repeatedly recommended the “KISS” rule (keep it simple, stupid). Can clearly tell you used this technique in last night’s class presentation. VERY effective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>