3 ways to make your next PowerPoint pop

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While PowerPoint design may not offer the same possibilities as Illustrator or Photoshop, it is still a big part of the professional world for it’s slide presentation functionality. With that said, the cold hard fact is that slide shows need to be designed too and that is often what graphic designers are asked for by clients.

The easy route would be to start in more comfortable design programs (such as Illustrator or Photoshop) and then import the images – such as JPGs, PNGs or BMPs – into each slide. Yet this can cause problems, especially if clients need to change information later down the road.

For this reason, designers are typically better off knowing their way around PowerPoint. In this tutorial, we’ll help you utilize the program’s functionality to create more professional PowerPoint designs.

Let’s begin.

Example 1: Using shapes

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One important, basic tool to get a good feel for is the rectangle. In this first example I start with a rectangle that we be used as the background of this slide (later on, I’ll demonstrate how rectangles can be used more creatively).

Choose your colors

Notice in the Color Fill drop down there is a “More Colors” option. Click on it to open up PowerPoint’s color selector.

Here, you can use the “Hex Color #” or “RGB sliders” to keep colors consistent with other company collateral and branding. If you’re looking for a specific color, but don’t have its color code yet, paste a screenshot of the color onto the PowerPoint slide and use the eye dropper to select the color. Or let your creative juices run wild by switching over to the spectrum view and sliding through colors until you find one that satisfies your taste.

For this slide, we’ll use a yellow-orange background.

Remove drop shadows

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Next, we’ll add some graphic lines to make the slide look more dynamic.

By default, PowerPoint puts a drop shadow on rectangles. This can often look cheesy, or too close to a PowerPoint default theme. Right click on your shape and select “Format Shape”. From there, you can uncheck “shadow ” and disable it.

Typography & tracking

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Next, it’s time to manipulate your typography. Click on the “Character Spacing” button and select “Character Spacing Options”. Here, you’ll be able to better control tracking and kerning.

For this tutorial, we’ve set the tracking of the title to be “Very Loose” under the character spacing icon.

Finishing up

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Finally the slide is complete. Note that how rectangles were used to create a negative space, which the typography plays with. This is one way to create professional looking visual intrigue with very basic tools.

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Using those same basic tools I was able to create a completely different look that maintains a professional feel. The horizontal rules are actually rectangles, just like in the previous example.

The text has also been aligned to the left which creates asymmetry; another simple but effective tool for creating visual intrigue.

Example 2: Playing with typography

Choose your fonts & set your line spacing

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In this next example I create another design with multiple fonts. Sometimes in font stacks, the leading needs to be fine tuned.

Click on the “Line Spacing” button and select “Line Spacing Options”. You’ll see the same “Format Text” pop-out, where you’ll be able to better format your paragraphs. Or, keep it easy by choosing one of the default spacing options from the drop-down.

Finishing up

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Here in the finished example, the fonts have been leaded appropriately, the colors have been changed, and the rectangles have been adjusted. This example, as well as the last one, should help break the ice for more design-forward thinking in PowerPoint.

Example 3: Mastering text blocks

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Handling bodies of text and images can be another challenge. One technique that often works in PowerPoint is to use the simple crop function to “bleed” an image to three sides of the frame.

In the above example, the tree image has been “bled” to the left, top, and right sides. Furthermore, it is good to keep in mind that most all typographic techniques still apply. Here I create two columns which the text runs across. This better improves legibility and flow.

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In this final example, all of the simple but effective PowerPoint tools outlined in this tutorial are utilized. The image is cropped and bled to the bottom, left, and top sides. A colored rectangular runs across the frame on top of the image and holds the kerned out frame title in negative space. Lastly the list has been leaded using the line spacing tool.

Conclusion

Despite being more limited than Illustrator or Photoshop, it can be seen that PowerPoint design can still the job done. Using the tips in this article, designers should be able to open their eyes to many other creative uses of those PowerPoint basics.

How do you create better-looking PowerPoint designs? Share your insights below!

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