Have you upgraded your slide decks recently? Though that question might earn a few eye rolls from Google Slides and Powerpoint veterans, in today’s high-def, high-res world of slick, minimalist designs and supersaturated color blocking, it’s important to take a step back and truly ask: What decade are your slide decks living in?
If the answer is anything other than right now, it might be time to step away from the clipart and rethink your approach. To help, we’ve put together this quick and simple guide using stock vectors to avoid the three biggest mistakes in slide design.
And if you like the graphics and motifs in these slide designs, don’t forget to explore more graphical elements from our royalty-free library.
Tip #1 – Stay Fresh and Cohesive—But Avoid Canned Themes!
If there’s one cardinal rule in slide design, it’s that you must have a unifying theme. Without visual cohesion in a deck, ideas and thoughts appear disconnected and give audiences the impression that the presenter doesn’t care whether the slides are professional and polished—definitely not something anyone wants! So it’s understandable that the vast majority of the working world relies on preset themes for their decks: it’s just easier.
Unfortunately, this is also a huge mistake. Most of the themes included in slide design programs feature fonts, styles, and motifs that are years—if not decades—out of style. And even if a theme is au courant, it’s not unique—thousands of other companies and presenters could be using the exact same theme, making it far from the best way to distinguish a business or brand.
Instead, forge your own path and create your own template that’s both unique and contemporary! (Which leads us to our second tip.)
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Tip #2 – Keep It Simple and Be Yourself
Whether you’re a veteran slide designer or this is your first time putting together a deck, remember that simplicity is your best friend. The purpose of a slide theme is to create cohesion as well as build or evoke brand identity—not overwhelm the viewer or upstage the information being presented.
So don’t overcomplicate it and keep to this simple rule of three: palette, font, motif.
Palette – Start with the dominant colors or palette you want for your slides, and decide if you want those colors to pop as part of the background or through the motifs. These colors might be determined by your own brand guidelines, or you can pick them for yourself. If doing the latter, make sure they resonate with what you’re representing, whether that’s your own personal brand or your company’s new product.
(And if you’re not certain which colors to pick—there are almost 10 million in the visible spectrum, after all—you can learn more about color palettes in our Guide to Color Theory.)
For our example, we’ve picked a muted palette of neutrals (white and slate gray) with a single pop of Millennial Pink for highlights and motifs.
Font – Next up, pick your font(s)—as with palette choices, these should reflect both your brand and your personal style. For cohesive purposes, limit yourself to just one or two fonts. Any more than two fonts is too many cooks in the kitchen.
The advantage of picking two fonts is that they will allow you to introduce additional visual hierarchy on your slides, with one font working as the headliner (or H1) while the other font does the heavy lifting in the body copy or supporting descriptions. This can be helpful for slides with a lot of information, making it easier for viewers to read. On the other hand, if you choose a single font, you further cement the visual cohesion of the deck.
For our slide example, we choose two commonly used fonts available through Google or Adobe Typekit: Great Vibes and Proxima Nova.
Motif – This is the final yet perhaps most important element when creating your own slide deck theme. A motif is a visual image or style that you pick to repeat on each slide to create further cohesion. For some decks, this means using the same color blocks or highlights on each slide, while for others it means reusing the same design element through.
For our example, we chose close-cropped color blocking for our color highlight, which we can pull through from the title slide to all supporting detail slides.
A word to the wise: If you’re working on a branded deck, avoid putting your logo on every slide—it’s so 2000s. While it’s important to stamp your brand identity on each slide, this can often be done more subtly than simply copying and pasting your logo. Instead, consider pulling the palette, fonts, or design elements of your brand into your deck’s theme for a softer, more subtle approach.
#3 – Don’t Say It, Show It
Now that you’ve got the foundations of your deck established, make sure your content shines! Nothing gets an audience to tune out faster than a slide that looks like word soup.
Overwhelming viewers with too much information too quickly—usually by using too many words or data points and not enough visualizations—is a common but completely avoidable mistake. Think about the most effective presentations you’ve seen, whether on Shark Tank or in your favorite TED talks. What’s the one thing they all have in common? Less is more.
Slide decks should anchor an audience’s attention, punctuating key takeaways or questions—and what better way to do that than with visuals? We recommend using vector infographics and flat icons to help you visualize your points while engaging your audience.
So how about it? Are you ready to design your own slide deck? With these tips—plus a well-stocked arsenal of royalty-free design elements and graphics—it’s time to bid a fond farewell to clipart that’s straight out of the 90s!