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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

PowerPoint: Design Best Practices

A guide to design choices for PowerPoint presentations.

Font Size

Choosing the size of your font will depend on the size of your projector or screen and the size of the room. If you are unsure, aim for the person in the back and make formatting choices that will enable that person to see your slides clearly.

Image showing different font sizes

Templates

PowerPoint has a number of premade templates that can be applied to presentations, each with four variants that change pieces of the design.

An image of the Design tab from PowerPoint 2016

Experts disagree on the use of premade templates for PowerPoint Presentations. All agree, however, on consistency.

Slide design should be consistent throughout your presentation.

Check to see if your organization has a pre-made template they use in all presentations before crafting your own.

Take into account the visualization tips in this guide, and your own personal preferences, when designing your own PowerPoint presentations.

If you plan on using a premade template for your PowerPoint, be sure to choose one before crafting the informational portion of your presentation, as text and images will be moved/warped as the program reorganizes your work to fit with the design.

Animations

The Animations tab selects how selected text behaves on the slide: Select the text > choose the animation you want to apply

Animations can be used to:

  • Show one point at a time
  • To reveal an answer
  • For emphasis

Animations are also distracting, and can get old quickly. 

Animations may also appear slower on older computers, making the presentation look unprofessional.

Content

Garr Reynolds argues that the best PowerPoint slide actually contains no words, This means that the best PowerPoint presentation should require the presence of its presenter.

See and compare these two options:

Slide Options 1:

Example of slide with sentence

Slide Option 2:

Example of slide with just image and number

Garr argues the second slide is more engaging, and less distracting for your audience, keeping the focus on you.

 

Content should be aligned with these lines to make it more visually appealing. If that still doesn't quite make sense, check out this video on the rule of thirds

Transitions

Transitions are animations that take presenters from one slide to another. 

Image of the Transitions bar from PowerPoint 2016

Transitions can grab attention, but are also distracting and yield diminishing returns. 

Use no more than two types of transitions per PowerPoint presentation.

Do not place transitions between every slide.

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