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Tips for Designing Presentation Slides


  1. Present one idea per slide. Communicating many ideas in a single visual aid can muddy the main point and make the important ideas less salient and memorable. You can create slides that communicate a single idea by:
    • Replacing rows of bullet points with individual slides.
    • Presenting a single idea with an image and a short phrase or keyword. Create a handout or elaborate verbally, rather than showing multiple lines of text on a single slide.
  2. Use images to illustrate your point. Images help students understand and remember concepts that are difficult to explain verbally and are helpful for learners whose primary language is not English.
    • Replace rows of bullet points with a series of relevant images and keywords.
    • To convey a more professional feel, use photographs instead of clip art.
    • Use images that elicit an emotional response such as compassion, surprise or laughter.
  3. Design slides that are easy to read and have a strong focal point.
    • Avoid busy backgrounds, sounds that do not contribute to the meaning of the slide, and continuous animations.
    • Use no more than two fonts and choose fonts which are significantly different from one  another.
    • When designing slides that will be projected, use white letters on a dark background. For example, use white or bright yellow letters on dark blue or black backgrounds. This combination is better suited for projection systems in darkened rooms, which generally do not deliver the crisp display that computer monitors do.
    • Avoid distracting transitions; instead use transitions such as "dissolve" or "fade."
  4. Apply four basic principles of design to the layout of your slides: contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. These  ideas from the book The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams help lay people create effective visual aids. These ideas include:
    • Adding strong contrast (in sizes, colors, font types) to add visual interest.
    • Incorporating repetitive elements (fonts, shapes, lines, colors) to give a coherent feel.
    • Aligning elements horizontally or vertically for a clean and organized look.
    • Using the principle of proximity by grouping similar elements to convey the relationships among them.