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How to Powerpoint Like a Pro: Tips from a Graphic Designer

How to Powerpoint Like a Pro: Tips from a Graphic Designer

by Madeline Wukusick

I work with a range of clients from biotech companies to research labs to conservation nonprofits, whose design needs and—let’s be real —budgets vary greatly. One thing, however, is a constant.

Whenever a client sends me a presentation deck to clean up or redesign, there are literally 10 design tweaks I apply right away. Every. Single. Time. These are my quick tricks, my drop-10-pounds-in-two-weeks secrets to the ultimate Powerpoint facelift. Follow these and you’ll be in good shape (pun not intended, but very much appreciated).


1. 2010 called, it wants its Drop Shadows/Outer Glow/Bevel Effects back.

Keep your text and shapes crisp, modern looking and projecting well by removing these built-in Powerpoint effects. Instead, use contrasting size or boldness to emphasize important text.

Using size and text weight to make a point...also, get the full presentation    here

Using size and text weight to make a point...also, get the full presentation here


2. Keep it all in the (font) family

Unify your presentation by making sure all of your fonts are consistent. Powerpoint has a sneaky habit of defaulting to Calibri or Arial in random spots even if you’re working off a theme with custom fonts. Keep your presentation to one main font (or one body and one headline font, if you’re fancy) to keep things neat and orderly.


3. Get your headlines in a row

To avoid the disorienting headline shuffle as you navigate from one slide to the next, make sure your headlines are positioned in exactly the same spot on your master slides. In a perfect world, the top line of your content also wouldn’t jump from slide to slide. The reality is, however, sometimes you’ve just gotta squeeze it all in there.


4. Shed your strokes!

Remember how the goal is to keep your deck looking clean and modern? Exactly. You gotta drop the clunky strokes. Unless it’s a stroke with no fill, then it can be rad.


5. Create order with grouped items

Group related content in nice little packages for easy digestion. The easiest way to do this is to create a little block: banner headline with white text and light grey background. 

Like goes with like - an example of grouping |

Like goes with like - an example of grouping |


6. Reevaluate header and footer real estate

Too much of either is wasted space. You want to optimize the space you have for content, because, you know, science and stuff.


7. Use color with control

Pick a few key colors to use as accents in header boxes, bullets points or shapes. You’d be set with using 1-2 main colors (plus black, white and grey) and sprinkling in a few additional colors as needed here and there.

Excellent use of limited color|

Excellent use of limited color|


8. Lighten up

Your backgrounds, that is. Keep it white or very light and resist the urge to add any snazzy Powerpoint backgrounds. Like with Drop Shadows, they obstruct legibility and don’t typically project well. Also, if you need to print handouts, goodbye ink cartridge.


9. Tighten the bullet points

Otherwise your text is a mile away from the actual bullet mark. For some reason, this is the Powerpoint default and it actually wastes quite a bit of space. You can format this under “Define new bullet fonts” » “Paragraph.” Google it.


10. Photo refresh

Refresh any pre-existing stock photos with new, crispy high-resolution stock images. It requires a little bit of $$$, but you can also buy per download from places like Shutterstock or iStock.


There you have it! Ten simple ways you can whip your slides into shape today. Right now. Do it.

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