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We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the truth is that good looks inspire not only more attention, but more trust. This is not only true of people we meet, but the visual content we perceive around us.
A study conducted by the University of Melbourne found that visitors engage with websites much in the same way they interact with people. Just like the way we judge strangers when we first meet them, users judge sites by the quality of their design, such as the colors and fonts used, as well as the layout of elements.
Even non-designers can differentiate between good and bad visual content, concludes this second study. So, after all we’ve heard about not discriminating against books with ugly covers, we still judge based on appearances, and in the end, looking good means not only being good but being competent.
The same goes for presentation slides. That slide deck full of outdated animation effects, huge chunks of text and overused stock photos simply isn’t going to impress–let alone convince–anyone of the truth behind your words, no matter how insightful your message.
To give you an idea of how much design matters when it comes to that important pitch, we selected some less-than-attractive slides from real presentations and redesigned them as examples of what you should and shouldn’t do.
First, let’s go over what’s wrong with the following title slide. Here, a complex background with textual content distracts from, instead of reinforces, the main message. Since the title is the most important part of this slide, a color overlay at reduced transparency can help bring out the content in the foreground.
All you have to do is place a rectangle behind the text but in front of the image and decrease the transparency. The box can occupy the entire background or just the text box area.
You then have something like this, which is much easier to read. There is a notable increase in the contrast between the font color and the background and less visual noise.
Here is another slide in need of a serious makeover. First of all, the text over the images is very hard to read. Also, the viewer’s attention is split between two badly distorted images.
The goal, then, is to make your main message as clear and impactful as possible. We did away with one of the two images and chose a more appropriate background picture and scaled it properly.
Since it’s a dark image, we also changed the font color to white and used the color overlay technique explained above to ensure text readability. To make the text even more readable, we also added a drop shadow.
A good rule to follow when creating presentations is to stick to one main concept per slide. For example, if you have a quote, then place it by itself on a single slide.
In this case, the original slide simply has too much text, which makes it difficult to send a clear and impactful message to the audience.
So, we deleted text, retained the most relevant information, inserted an extra space between lines to let the text breathe and framed the quote to make it stand out.
Choosing the right color palette can also make or break a presentation. Try using Adobe’s Color CC tool to find harmonious color palettes for your presentations.
Just like in case number 2, here we have a problem with the focal point. Besides being visually jarring, this slide confuses viewers by failing to lead their eyes to a specific point.
Instead of dividing the slide in half, we used the rule of thirds, which is a 3×3 grid you can use to locate the focal points on your image, as seen below. This allows the eyes to move freely around the canvas instead of resting in the middle.
When designing anything, contrast is key. For example, if you use a serif font (has a little extra stroke found at the end of the main strokes) for the body text, then use a sans serif font (no extra strokes) for the main title text. Avoid pairing fonts that are too similar.
In this case, we combined a thick and heavy serif font, Oswald, with a lighter san serif font, Old Standard TT.
Also, we moved up the image at the bottom of the slide to avoid the sense that it’s falling off the page, and placed a border around it so it doesn’t seem like it’s floating on the canvas.
In this slide, tacky stock photos were superimposed to make a new image. Since your photos don’t need to explicitly state everything you want to communicate, you can instead subtly suggest an idea and let the image speak for itself.
For example, we redesigned this slide by using an abstract illustration to supplement the text.
This slide is a reminder of everything that can go wrong with PowerPoint. First of all, the tacky Word Art and saturated red make this a very unattractive design, to say the least.
To show you how far good design can influence your perception of a presentation, we changed the color of the background to a dark blue-gray with low saturation. Next, we did away with the Word Art and replaced it with a cleaner sans serif font.
But we didn’t want to leave it at that. To add a hint of color and a bit more energy to the slide, we used slight accents of the complementary colors green and red. And this was our end product.
What about your presentation slides? What message do they send to your audience? We would love to hear your thoughts and reactions. Just drop us a line in the comments section below.