One of the differences between a typical do-it-yourself presentation and a “designed” one is the use of images, textures and gradients rather than flat, solid color fills. This technique can add interest, reinforce your branding and improve the impact of your presentation.
Of course, graphic designers have special skills and tools but there’s a lot you can do with PowerPoint and a little imagination. Keeping an eye out for inspiring designs will help, too. Here are my guidelines for using these “creative” design elements:
- The elements should reinforce the presentation content; that is, the designs should be relevant to your products, market, brand, etc. Random butterflies probably won’t contribute to your message.
- Like everything in your presentation, the design elements should be consistent with your color scheme and overall design.
- The design elements should not distract the audience; subtle, low contrast colors and more abstract images are useful.
For the first examples, I’m creating wide rectangles with space for text; you might use this as the title block or banner for a slide layout. A simple idea is to crop an interesting photo; here is a stock image of a lightning bolt: By purposefully cropping (Picture Tools/Crop) and resizing this image, you can create a “title” block: This image might support an “energy” message or even refer to danger/security. This construction is pretty simple because (presumably) the image and color are consistent with my presentation and the photo had space that can be used for text.
Let’s consider a more challenging example: I want to include a cityscape image in the shape (for a real estate or construction company, for example). I picked this image: Here I need to recolor the image to be consistent with the presentation color scheme and create space for the text. First, I cropped the image and changed it to grayscale (Picture Tools/Recolor): Next, I made a rectangle with a gradient fill using my brand color and grading to semi-transparency on the right: Overlaying the image (placed at the right) with the gradient results in this title block: This requires a little fiddling with the gradient transition points to blend the image nicely. I could have recolored the cropped photo to the theme color and made the overlay fully transparent on the right; you might like that look better. Here’s a similar example using stock art, cropped and overlayed as before (this motif might be useful for a consulting or outsourcing pitch); You aren’t restricted to photos or stock images; you can use PowerPoint objects in your design. This works well for more abstract or geometric motifs and you can easily reinforce your brand. Here’s the client’s/company’s logo for the next example: To reflect the colors and curvilinear aspect of the logo, I drew a couple of shapes and a curved line over a rectangle: I converted (Copy/Paste Special) this to a png, cropped it and used it as the title block: I converted this element to png (a “raster” image) to make it easy to clip the design to a rectangle. Using pngs or jpgs can also make the elements easy to use, especially if you create presentations for others. Of course, you should preserve the original PowerPoint object.
Next, another example inspired by this logo:
I used the elements and colors of the logo, with some transparency, for this design:
Converting and cropping as before results in this title block:
Don’t forget PowerPoint “3D” effects; here are some semitransparent circles with a top circle bevel (Format Shape/3-D Format) over a rectangle:
After cropping and adding text:
Of course, you aren’t limited to rectangle shapes. Here’s an example illustrating the relative sizes of the US and Canadian markets for my client:
Is this better than the usual pie chart? See my earlier post on Jigsaw Puzzle construction for more detail on this technique.