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Presentation Design: The Definitive Guide (2019)

Welcome to a huge resource on Presentation design.

And let me be clear about something:

This is NOT another article loaded with advice like “be consistent” or “use high-quality visuals” (LOL). Instead, this guide is jam-packed with practical tips, techniques and ideas (all illustrated with real examples) to help you design irresistible PowerPoint presentations from start to finish.

Let’s jump right in…

presentation design

The Definitive Guide to Killer Presentation Design

This guide is divided into three parts:

⭐ Part. 1: Presentation Design Principles. From choosing the perfect colors and fonts to leveraging simple design best practices (like “Grid systems”), you’ll learn exactly how to start your presentations off the right foot.

⭐ Part. 2: Presentation Design Tips. In this section, you’ll learn how to improve the structure and clarity of any presentations (and I’ll also share powerful data visualization tips so you can present numbers in a non boring way…).

⭐ Part. 3: Advanced Presentation Ideas & Techniques. From creating gorgeous text effects and colorful shapes to using emojis, you’ll learn creative design ideas and techniques that’ll make you (and your slides) look amazing.

Let’s do it!

Presentation Design Best Practices and Principles

Here are some of the things you will learn in this section:

👉 The 3 questions you MUST answer before starting to design your presentation

👉 How to create effective, audience-tailored color themes (including free tools and resources)
👉 The proven, most readable fonts for your presentations
👉 Simple principles of what makes something beautiful or functional (learn how to use “grid systems” or the CRAP principle to your advantage)


Get this 100% editable PPT illustration (along with many more) here

Use This 3-Item Checklist First

Let’s be honest:

Great design won’t cut it if your presentation hasn’t be prepared effectively first. So to ensure you’re starting off on the right foot, make sure you have identified:

  • A specific goal for your presentation (Example: “I’m doing this presentation to convince my boss to double our advertising budget next quarter”)
  • Who your audience is (Example: “B2B company C-level execs”)
  • In which category your presentation falls into (Inform/Persuade/Educate). Example: “Q4 Sales Results” -> Inform; “Webinar: How to Get More Organic Traffic” -> Educate; “XYZ Company: Investor Pitch Deck” -> Educate/Persuade)

Pro Tips 💪 

If you’re looking for tips to help you prepare your presentations (before designing them), head over to this guide where I’m listing dozen of practical tips you can implement in minutes.

Use This Color Meaning Table to Create a Consistent Presentation Theme

Your presentation colors should be:

  • Associated with your organization (color increases brand recognition by up to 80%. Source)
  • Aligned with your audience’s characteristics (76% of women prefer cool colors compared to 56% of men).
  • Limited to two or three colors (because “the colors should be used to accentuate the information, not be the center of attention”). I recommend to use dark grey for your text, and then up to two additional, contrasting colors, either for headlines of specific info you want to highlight (e.g. figures or findings).

Below, you’ll find a research-backed table that details all color meanings and associations.

Use it to find the colors that work for your presentation:

Color Meaning Table

Color Inspiration Tools ✨

Here are my two favorite resources when it comes to building color themes:

StylifyMe. A site website analyzer that allows you to check the style guide of any website, including colors, fonts and sizing. Great to give you a solid boost of design inspiration!

Kuler. A free color palette generator that’ll help you either build your own color palettes, or chose from thousands of pre-built schemes.


So you’ve chosen your color theme, that’s awesome.

But that’s not enough:

How can you actually guarantee you’ve made a good job at integrating your colors in your slide deck?

There are two ways to make sure you’ve done a good job at “sprinkling” your chosen colors in your presentation…

Embed a Friendly Color “Reminder” in Each Slide

Embed a shape that includes the colors you’ve chosen for your presentation at the bottom corner of each slide.

Create rectangle shapes, color each of them with the colors you chose for your slide deck, group all your shapes, and copy paste it on each of your slides.

Here’s an example:

Pitch Deck Color Reminder

Use the Slide Sorter Tool to Ensure Your Color Theme Is Rock-Solid

View your deck in a “slide sorter” (PowerPoint) or “light table” (Keynote) mode and double check if you – or even better, if a colleague – can clearly identify the most used colors.

It should be a no-brainer.

Here’s an example for the this pitch deck template:

Pitch Deck Template Slide Sorter

In this slide deck, it’s super clear that the theme is made out of three primary colors:

Colors on Slide

Use One of These Most Legible Fonts

What font should you actually use?

Well, let’s take a look at what the data says:

The Software Usability Research Laboratory has demonstrated that the most legible fonts are Arial, Courier, and Verdana.

Research also shows that the following fonts are good for people with dyslexia: Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana.

Most Redable Fonts

Pro Tips 💪

People are more likely to engage in a given behavior the less effort it requires (Source). That means your text size should be big enough to be legible to the person seating the farthest from your location.

To validate your font size: put your presentation file into the “slide sorter” (on PowerPoint) or “Light table” (Keynote) view. Then, look at the slides at approx. 66% (PowerPoint) and 160% (Keynote) size. If you can still read them, so can your audience.

Now, here’s a great font resource:

Font Squirrel ♥

Use Grid Systems

Grids are the invisible glue that holds a design together. Using them will help you design professional looking, well-structured slides for your presentations.

Here are proven grid models you can use to organize your slides:

Grid System Principle

Grids help you position both text and visuals more precisely because they’re providing an invisible spine to which they can align.

Here’s an example:

Grid System Example
Here’s the grid model I used to design this business slide:

Grid System Principle Example

Apply the CRAP Principle

There are not a hundred but one principle of design that I want you to get under your belt.

The CRAP principle: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity.

Contrast is all about making things stand out. It can be achieved using three major tactics: manipulation of space (near / far, empty / filled), color choices (dark vs. light / cool vs. warm) and text (typography style / bold vs. narrow).

The AI Rush by Jean-Baptiste Dumont.

Repetition, for instance making a headline and a sub-message the same color, makes scanning your deck much easier. Repetition helps you create a cohesive look to your presentation.

crap principle - repetition

Alignment. Newspapers use this to great effect. Aligning a whole bunch of elements with one another makes them scan faster. Alignment makes things easier to read.

Plug and Play Cover Slide


Proximity means that things are associated with one another. Let me explain that for you: the closer things are, the more they are associated The farther they are away from one another, the less they are associated.

crap principle - proximity

Customize the Size of Your Slides

Standard presentation slides are usually sized 10 inches (width) * 7.5 inches (height). Re-size yours 12*7.5 (for PowerPoint) or Widescreen 16.9 (for Keynote).

The idea here is to have more horizontal space, meaning more freedom to design your slides:

Custom Slide Design Tip
Here’s how to do it:

  • For PowerPoint, open a PPT document, go to Design > Page Setup
  • For Keynote, go to Document (top right corner) > Slide Size > Custom Slide Size

Presentation Design Tips

Here’s what you will learn in this section:

👉 The 4 “types” of slides you need in most business presentations and how to design each of them
👉 Principles and strategies (like the “HSB” formula) to craft slides people can easily understand
👉 Simple shape and color effects you can leverage to make stunning slides
👉 Data visualization techniques to present figures the right way (these all are tips you can implement right way)

And much more!

presentation design tips

Use These 3 Steps to Design Your Presentation Title Slide

Short on time?

Use the technique below to design beautiful cover slides fast:

👉 Use a plain color for your slide background
👉 Add your text on top of it. Use the Contrast principle to pick the color for your text (e.g. black background =white text).
👉 Use different font sizes to create contrast and hierarchy between the elements. For instance, the title of your presentation should be bigger than the name of your company department (because it’s logically more important).

Here’s an example:

Cover Slide Design Process

On the left slide, there’s a great contrast between the background and text. However, the different elements of text are of the same size, making it difficult to scan it.

On the right slide, we’re using different font sizes to create a clear contrast between important and secondary information.

The color of the text is based on the color we chose for the slide background:

Text Color Hack

Use the HSB Formula to Make Crystal Clear Body Slides

For corporate decks and most business-world presentations, the content slides (a.k.a. body slides) will very likely be broken down in 3 core parts: Headlines, sub-headline, body text.

(Hence the HSB Formula)

Now, let’s see what each part actually include (and take a look at a specific example after that)…


Headlines are concise sentences used to summarize the content of a slide. Good headlines have three attributes:

  • Short. A headline must be short to be easily remembered (it should fit into the 140 characters of a Tweet).
  • To the point. A headline has to be specific (e.g. use numbers)
  • Benefit the audience. Grab people’s attention and help them understand what’s the #1 message of the side.


They are secondary headlines that basically elaborate on the main headline above it. They ‘re optional (don’t include if you don’t need them) and should be used to reel the reader in.

Body text

Body text provides the meaty details. It is usually coupled with visuals and graphs to provide supporting materials and help you get your point across.

As you can see, the HSB formula is quite simple to remember.

Now, let’s take a look at an example:

Headline: Sales Breakdown by Region (Q4)
Subheadline: China accounts for 52% of total sales over the period, representing an increase of 35% YoY
Content: Sales chart details and explanationUse the HSB Formula

Embed Transition Slides

This works especially well for long-form presentations:

Investor decks, business plans, webinars, annual reports, and so on…

Adding transition slides allow you to clearly separate the different sections of your slide deck, while helping your audience identify where they are in your presentation. You can add crystal-clear transition slides by simply highlighting the text of the section you are about to cover next.

For example:

China Internet Report 2018 by Edith Yeung

This transition slide allows the audience to instantly get two things:

  • They’re just about to start the first section (“China at Glance”)
  • The presentation has 3 sections.

Another way to design break slides for your presentations is to use plain background colors. And just insert headlines that refer to the topic you’re about to cover next.

For instance:

Working with Big Data by Seth Familian

Pro Tips 💪

Apply the Contrast principle to design effective transition slides. For instance, if your body slides all have a light color background, then make transition slides that use a dark color background. You can also use a bigger font size and change the color of your text.

Bottom line: You can never be surprised by the next slide, it needs to follow naturally.

Add a Closing “CTA” Slide

Close your presentation with a clear call-to-action (which is what you want your audience to do when the presentation is over).

Here are three examples of CTAs:

  • Q&A (if you’re doing a webinar or teaching a class to students for instance)
  • Contact Us Today at 000-000-0000 (if you’re sending a sales deck to prospects by email)
  • Click Here to Learn More About [Topic/Product] (if you’re driving traffic to your website to capture leads)

Here’s an example of a call-to-action by Growth Tribe, a training company that offers marketing and artificial intelligence courses:

Now, if you don’t want your audience to do anything specific, just drop a “Thank You!” along with your name and contact info (email, website, Twitter ID, etc).

Use Simple Words Everyone Can Understand

Unless you’re making a technical presentation geared toward a technical audience, use simple words people can understand.

See it this way:

People shouldn’t scratch their heads to try to figure out what you were trying to say. They shouldn’t have to think about it. It should be crystal clear.

Now, take a look at the different between a text that’s hard to understand, and one that’s fairly easy:

Use Simple Language

Stick to One Message Per Slide

Use this exercise to ensure each single slide is focused on delivering ONE core message, idea or concept to your audience:

The purpose of this slide is to [ ____ ]

Here are two examples:

The purpose of this slide is to [ show that our sales increased by 25% this quarter ]
The purpose of this slide is to [ explain to the prospect how our product solves his top 3 problems ]

Use the Grandma Test

Anyone, including your grandma, should be able to understand what your PowerPoint slide is going to be about.

Let’s take a look at an example:


Here, we quickly understand the slide deck will be covering details (very likely tips) on how to build a successful team for your startup.

Apply the F-Shaped Pattern

Research shows that users usually scan, and read, the content areas of web pages in a F-Pattern layout:

F-Pattern Lay Out

Basically, our eyes are starting at the top-left corner, scan horizontally, then drop down to the next line and do the same until we reach the bottom.

This F-shaped reading pattern is usually in web design best practices, but since presentations are also digital assets that are often viewed on screens, you can also apply it to your slide designs.

Here’s an example:

F-Pattern Example

Optimize Your Slide’s Layout With Alignment

First, make sure you’re using enough space between the different elements in your presentation slides.

Next, fix your slides to make sure the alignment isn’t off. For example, take a look at the difference between the left and the right slide below.Use AlignmentWhile there’s no alignment on the left side slide, the right slide is clearly structured with different levels of alignment: between the headline and the body text, between the top of the body text and the top of the visual, and between the bottom of the body text and the bottom of the visual.

To align elements on your slide, just select the ones you want to align, and then do this with Keynote:

And this with PowerPoint:

Use Color & Weight to Create Hierarchy

You probably already know that modifying the font size is a great way to control the hierarchy within your slides.

But what you may not know is that changing color or font weight is another smart way to separate the important text from secondary one. Here, take a look at the example below:

Use Colors & WeightNow, here is a simple rule you can use:

First, chose a dark color for the primary content (such as the headline and body text of a slide).
Then, pick a contrasting color or/and bold font for important keywords you want to bring to your audience attention.

Get to the Point and Use Space

Existing research proves that white space (basically, the open space between elements or objects within the borders of a slide), has an effect on legibility, aesthetics, and people’s emotional response.

First of all, you’re going to delete the content that’s not critical to helping your audience understand your message. To do that, you are going to make sure each piece of content on your slide gets a YES to the two following questions:

“Is adding this [Text/Illustration/Piece of Data] critical to helping me reach my presentation goal?
“Is adding this [Text/Illustration/Piece of Data] critical to helping my audience understand my message (or, how does it benefit to them?)”

Then, after having filtered out what you don’t need, add space between the different groups of elements to make your slides breathe.

Having slides that are clean and pleasant to look at will help your audience scan them easier. And if they can scan your content easier, they’ll understand it faster.

Here’s an example:Add Spaces Between Slide Elements

Embed Your Slide’s Headline Into a Colored Shape

This simple technique will help you highlight the core message of every single body slide. To apply it, make sure to follow these two design principles:

  • Contrast: the color of the rectangle shape clearly

This post first appeared on - Clemence Lepers Teaches You How To Effectively B, please read the originial post: here

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Presentation Design: The Definitive Guide (2019)


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