Presentation Design and Layout Principles | Buffalo 7

Presentation design and layout best practices

The principles of good presentation design are the same as those applied in other areas of visual communication. After all, PowerPoint is simply the delivery method for your imagery and messaging. Read on for our presentation design and layout best practices.


Presentation design and layout

It’s important to keep user-friendliness, compatibility and clear communication at front of mind when designing your PowerPoint presentation. The 4 core principles of design are useful to consider in this respect:


  1. Contrast

As long as elements on your slides are different, they should be made distinct from one another – graphic elements and text should contrast with your backgrounds.

Contrast in your presentation’s design can be achieved through effective use of colour, but also by differentiating the size and shape of different design elements.


  1. Repetition

Repetition of visual elements helps create a uniformity that ties your design together.

Consistency makes designs visually appealing, and proper use of PowerPoint templates and slide masters can help you achieve this.


  1. Proximity

Items that are related to each other should naturally be placed close to one another.

This allows the viewer to easily follow and correlate pieces of information to construct meaning – it also works to eliminate ambiguity.


  1. Alignment

Alignment is all about joining elements up to bring balance to your design – the position of each element should correspond with another.

When things are properly aligned, everything feels like it’s in the right place. Use just one type of text alignment per slide to stop things looking strange and disjointed.


PowerPoint Lorem Ipsum

A great, little-known tip to help you visualise how your content will look when putting your key PowerPoint layouts together is that you can type =lorem(#) into a text box to generate Lorem Ipsum placeholder text – where # is the number of paragraphs you wish to insert.

This is especially useful when putting together templates as it makes it clear where text should go and communicates overall look and feel. It also allows you a clear visual preview of how your presentation fonts will sit beside other graphic elements once the template has been populated with content.


Widescreen PowerPoint?

Make sure you know which PowerPoint aspect ratio you are designing for before you start – there’s no easy fix for switching during a project and it generally means trashing your design and starting over.

An aspect ratio is two numbers that describe the width and height proportions of a display. 4:3 is commonly referred to as ‘standard’ and has been around since the invention of motion movie cameras, but most modern computer screens and televisions take advantage of 16:9 ‘widescreen’ displays. Despite these naming conventions, the latter is now so ubiquitous that PowerPoint opens in 16:9 by default.

The only times you really want to be designing at 4:3 are if you’re distributing your presentation on SlideShare or delivering it using a tablet (SlideShare displays 4:3 uploads best and most tablets – including the iPad – share this aspect ratio). If you do need to change PowerPoint aspect ratio, this can be done from the Slide Size drop-down under the main ribbon’s Design tab.

Essentially, it’s important to make an effort to find out what kind of screen you’ll be presenting from before you start putting together your PowerPoint design.


Follow these principles and tips when creating the layout for your presentation and you won’t go far wrong. For more PowerPoint tips check out this collection of blog posts or download our Ultimate guide to PowerPoint.

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Buffalo 7 is a presentation design agency that creates premium communications content for brands around the world.