Making great presentations for non-designers

«Design should not dominate things, should not dominate people. It should help people. That's its role.»

Dieter Rams, industrial designer, Braun consumer products lead designer 1962-1995

The first book I read about design was Design for Non-Designers. Its author, Robin Williams, clearly demonstrated how the main principles of design work and how they affect our perception of information. As examples, he used things familiar to everyone: business cards, booklets, webpages, invitations, etc.

But nothing was said about the presentations, although these principles also apply to slides. In this article I will show how this works for presentations.

The four principles that Robin Williams points out are C.R.A.P.:


If you place elements close to each other, people will think that they are related.


Randomly located objects create chaos and confusion.


Elements that are significantly different from the others always attract attention.


Repetitive design elements create a consistency of style.

Now let's proceed to our presentation. With its help, we\ll show how three of these principles work: proximity, alignment and contrast. I'll bring up repetition several times, and then will tell you about it at the end of the article.

Let's go!

Slide №1

This slide has a pal in design. Here you can identify two elements, one them is a text, and the other - an illustration. First of all, I want to apply the proximity principle to create an correlation between the objects.

Now there are more elements on the slide, but the way they are divided now tells us that "The Mystery of One Crime" and "The Last Case of Sherlock Holmes" are complementary pieces of one text, and the phrase below is a separate element that only adds intrigue to the story.

The alignment principle is already in use here - the text is aligned to the left, along one vertical. This brings order to the slide.

But sometimes it is worth exploring different options, for example, aligning the text to the right.

In my opinion, so the text is more in harmony with the image:

Moving on to the contrast. The elements that stand out among others always catch the eye Let's try to select the objects that should attract our attention.

In this case, they are text and illustration:

Note thatyou can add contrast not only by upscaling the object itself, but also bydownscaling the adjacent ones. We got a noticeable difference between the twoupper text blocks, and at the same time increased the visual weight of theheader, and reducied the weight of the signature. The enlarged picture becamemore emotional and attracts more attention.

Slide №2

Everything is fine with the proximity principle here - the title and text are separated and do not merge together. The text is centered. It is a simple and very popular solution, but experimenting with other options is not wrong - they can be more interesting.

I have aligned the text to the left. Now it is easier to read, because every new line moves along a straight line, and the eyes do not need to look for the beginning of a new line.

This slide does not have enough contrast. The image strongly catches the eye, and a gray spot forms on the side. We can apply contrast to the header to fix this:

Also, I have slightly enlarged the image, but the title still stands out noticeably, which makes it more attractive than in the previous slide.

Slide №3

The original slide looks sloppy: the subheadings merge with the text, aligning to the center makes the text less readable.

Let's start with the proximity. In this case, you should separate the text blocks:

Now the distance between them allows you to determine where the first block ends and the second one begins. There are more elements now, but the connection between them is more obvious.

The next step is alignment.

It is always more customary for the reader when the text lines move along a straight line, and the eye does not have to "look for" the beginning of the next line. If there are several short lines in the text, then the alignment to the right side will be more convenient. But when there are many lines, the readability decreases. So I have aligned the text on the slide to the left.

Now, adding some contrast to the headings and subheadings:

The principle of repetition is also used here. A consistent style of subheadings allows us to understand that these are two equal text blocks and they relate tot he same case.

Slide №4

Proximity and alignment have already been applied. The text is pleasant to read, and its division prompts us the end of one semantic block and the beginning of the next.

The slide looks nicely. However, it would make sense to upscale the image, because there is enough space on the slide:

The image has become more striking. This strengthens its relationship with the text.

Adding a repetition:

The same font in the title and bottom of the text box helps to link the slide into one: the glance goes back to the title, and does not leave the slide. You can call this a psychological trick, but the principle of repetition effectively copes with its task.

Note that we did not change the style of the main text, it stays the same from the first to the last slide. Repetition of text styles - font and its outline, color, size - helps to make the presentation complete, and not just a mash-up of slides.

Slide №5

First, let's bring the text on this slide to order.

The principle of proximity helps to relate clues and their explanations.

On the original slide, you might think that it is not a glass, but a "Golf Ball" that is "without prints". This also applies to other elements.

Adding some contrast to subheadings:

Now it is easier for us to identify subheadings and secondary text.

You can align the text to the left to make it more readable:

Alignment makes it easier to read the list, because now each of its elements is located along a conditional line.

Obviously, the image is too small. and by upscaling it, we apply two principles at once - proximity and contrast:

As a result, we get a neat slide with a clear structure.

Slide №6

This slide is different. It was pretty simple and straight forward, but did not have enough emotion.

Adding an image can save the situation.

I have found pictures of hats in a style similar to the story, and drew a hanger myself. I did this without leaving PowerPoint, just by using figures. You can use this method when you need to represent something simple, and searching in the Internet does not give you anything.

As a result, the slide looks like this:

The changes did not affect the text, but this slide is much more likely to attract attention than the original.

Slide №7

In my opinion, an inappropriate contour has formed between the text and the image.

I saved the alignment of the text, but moved the picture to the left.

In this version, the text looks more related to the image than in the previous. Now the outline of the image and the invisible line to which the text is aligned are parallel and there is a conceptual connection between them.

Slide №8

The original slide has a clear drawback - the illustration "does not work".

It is too small, so it does not convey any emotions, but only occupies the place. I decided to experiment with its location:

I have made the lines shorter for readability purposes and stopped on this option.

The image immediately began to do its job - to evoke emotions and trigger the memory. The text is read much easier, because I have adjusted the length of the line and the line spacing.

Slide №9

We have already seen similar design on the second slide. This makes the task easier, because here we will repeat the same principles:

Align the text to the left.

Enlarged images.

Always try to allocate a lot of space for images. Small images do not bring out any emotions, but only take up space on the slide.

Repetition principle (bonus)

I have saved this principle for dessert. Its action is difficult to evaluate on a separate slide, because it is observed throughout the presentation in such details as the font, image style or some repeating detail.

Stylistics of illustrations - pencil-drawn pictures. You will not find here images of a different style, it would violate the harmony. You should always set a rule to follow in your presentations. And, of course, do not be afraid of violating this very rule????

To show the effect of the repetition principle, my first idea was to place an illustration of a smoking pipe on the slides. But when I once again put it next to the last letter of one of the headings, I thought that it was interesting to turn this letter to an advantage on each slide, not necessarily with a pipe:

Here, this idea was easy to implement. I have found the image in the right style and scaled up the letter "s". I liked the result and I decided on the rule to follow: on each slide I stylized the last letter of the title. At the same time, stylization should be based on the information on the slide.

Not all slides follow the rule as easily as with a magnifying glass. On some letters, I spent more than an hour, without taking into account time spent looking for the image. For example, here is what happened to this slide:

"Circling the letter with chalk." wasn't my initial idea. First I have found the image of a gun and planned that it would simply "shoot out" the letter, then I have decided to lie the letter down. And only later it came, the association with a "corpse" outlined with chalk. The letter "y" was this corpse that came out, but I spent about an hour to make it like this.

Almost the same amount of time I spent on this slide:

Multiple interactions, have helped me find the most interesting association with the crime scene, which can be easily pulled off by a "non-designer". At least, I liked this option more than others.

The result is worth the time, I think:


In the article we examined 4 basic design principles:

1. Proximity - if you want the elements to be perceived as a whole, arrange them side by side.

2. Alignment - to create and maintain order in presentations, place the elements according to your own specific rules.

3. Contrast - if you want to draw attention to an element, make it visibly different from the others.

4. Repetition - do not forget that the style of presentation involves the repetition of some elements of style throughout the presentation.

These guidelines will help you make your slides more professional. You may be going back to this article or Robin Williams's book at first, but very soon you will stop thinking about the principles that were used or missed. This will happen automatically.

In conclusion

Let's see how the basic principles of design changed the original presentation.

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