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Why So Ugly, PowerPoint?

by Daniel V. Licht (@thedvl) PowerPoint is an evil, evil tool. Not because of it’s manufacturer (though some would definitely argue that one), but rather the lack of training in those who use it most … Account Managers.

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by Daniel V. Licht (@thedvl)

PowerPoint is an evil, evil tool. Not because of it’s manufacturer (though some would definitely argue that one), but rather the lack of training in those who use it most … Account Managers.

I’ve got nothing against AMs, some of my closest colleagues are AMs. Their jobs are highly important and they take lots of flak and manage our most precious of life lines, the client. But lets face it, whens the last time you met an AM who went to art school? I’ve only met a few in my 15 years or so. So it’s not their fault, they aren’t trained like I am, they don’t have the same savvy for visual goodness, but that’s OK, thats my job!

Since I work on our creative strategy for pitches and for many of our clients, I have touch many of our PPTs. I recently tweeted “There’s nothing like creating a really good looking PPT. It’s not easy, but when u do u have to sit back and say “HELL YEAH!” after putting together a nice simple yet highly visual PPT for a concepts pitch to a client. I got some responses asking how I was able to accomplish such a feat. Well, 15 years of design knowledge has helped but there are some rules you can follow.

1. Choose a font, any font and use it. Choose a second one if you need but no more. Use one font for titles and headlines, the other for body copy. And for heaven’s sake, DO NOT CHOOSE COMIC SANS!

2. No effects – Effects are like crack to many people, the more the better! Well this is a surefire way to go from simple design goodness to utter PowerPoint disaster. If you must, use a drop shadow, but make it subtle, with no offset, Trust me, it will look good.

3. Large images are your friend. Keep your images as “full screen” as possible. This leads us to …

4. Large type overlaid on images. Why do movie posters and full-spread ads work? Cause they speak to you with visuals and text but they support each other. Place some knockout type over a photo and there’s a certain kind of magic, like the magic of an internet cat.

5. Limit your colors. Choose 2-4 colors. That’s all.

6. Choose your content wisely. Curate your content for each presentation. There are some default things you can have but think of your audience. Think about how boring it would be if every show had the same actors in it (save for Charlie Sheen, cause you know … he’s #winning and all), same idea. If you need to show people make sure they represent the demo of your client, or their customers.

7. Develop a visual language. Icons speak, sometimes more than words do. They can also drive attention to the words, and give a text heavy page some life.

8. 10/20/30. Many may know this rule laid down by THE Guy Kawasaki. It makes sense. Whenever you can try to abide by it. Or at least get close. The reason it works is its forces you to speak and sell your idea while letting your audience focus on YOU, and your story. If you have 10pt type that fills the screen your audience is reading it (or struggling to) and not listening to you as much.

9. When in doubt use Prezi. It’s online. It’s pretty. It makes great presentations.  It will free you from ppt (if you’re into that sorta thing).

10. Acknowledge you have an addiction. I should have put this first, but I wanted to go out with a bang. Ask for help. Find that underutilized designer/marketing exec. and put him/her to work. You’ll be happy you did.

So, 10 simple steps to get you to PowerPoint nirvana.

Oh, you need more reading on the subject? Well here are some great links to peruse:

Prezi: ://prezi.com/

10/20/30 rule: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2005/12/the_102030_rule.html

Presentation Zen: http://www.presentationzen.com/

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