PowerPoint Slide Design: How Simple is Too Simple?

Presenters often find themselves in a fix when choosing a design for their next presentation.

“Should we keep it simple and clean with a soothing background color and company logo in the footer or should we make it colorful and dynamic like an infographic?”

“When does simple become too simple?”

Do you face this dilemma too?

Perhaps this wonderful discussion initiated by Sukhpreet Kaur, SEO Specialist at BirdBrain Logic, in our LinkedIn group authorSTREAM Present Better would help you dissipate the mental fog. Presenters and experts from different fields participated in this discussion and gave their valuable insights. 

Here are some:

Eugene Cheng (Presentation Maverick): Don’t Over-Simplify!

Ever heard this one? : “Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler” – Albert Einstein.

As much as I try to encourage simplicity to designers/presenters in general. I think we can’t put a concrete description on how simple is ‘ too simple ‘. I assume simple in this case would mean subtracting unnecessary content if any, but there is a danger of Over-Simplifying.

I think we have to decide between what’s nice to have and what’s effective. If the presentation is effective & ‘simple’ enough to reinforce the speaker’s spoken words and message, then any additional aesthetic treatments won’t exactly bolster the presentations value, rather, it only spurs interest.

To me a ‘simple’ design is (tasteful) selection of two contrasting colors for text/elements/backgrounds that span the whole deck. Solid colors & shapes (Google-Like) look.

Robert Kaplan (Graphics Guy): See how and where you are presenting!

It depends on how you are presenting. If you are in front of an audience with good projectors, you need a rich background. Light backgrounds in this case cause hotspots and make your eyes tired.

If you are presenting in a conference room on a weak projector, light backgrounds might be better.

Eamonn Wilcox (Presentation Coordinator): Design should complement the key message!

I think the key issue is does the design support the key message?On the whole, if a real live person is actually delivering a presentation you want the focus to be on them rather than what’s on screen.

Especially in sales, the message is usually “we know what you need and we have it”.

So you need to align story, content, and design with the audiences’ expectations and your own identity/branding.

Akash Bathla (from our team): Put forth message as simply as possible!

Reminds me of a quote by Steve Jobs –
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

It’s difficult to define ‘Simple’, and that’s why it’s tough to measure a design on the scale of simplicity too. In my opinion, a simple design would be something –

1. That looks good (to begin with).
2. Complements the presentation message
3. Doesn’t overshadows the main purpose of the communication (It would be weird having audience just glaring at the design and remembering nothing from the presentation 🙂 )
4. Gets your message across in an effective yet memorable way.

Simple design doesn’t confines to any particular theme or design or a particular set of visuals. It’s how simply the message is put forth. What say? 🙂

Hope these inputs help you choose the next design for your presentation. Do you have any input to share on this subject? Feel free to participate in our discussion on LinkedIn or in the comments below.

About Author
Anuj Malhotra

A potter maniac, I live in a world inhabited by wizards and Marvel's superheroes. Writing is my defence mechanism (Mr. Freud, analyze this). Presentations are my new found love.

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