5 steps to avoid design malpractice

by @jessmsamuels

PowerPoint presentations can be extremely boring.We have all sat through incredibly dry, mind-numbing, and visually unappealing presentations.
Common mistakes include:
  • Presenters jam pack slides with text and then read from the slides.
  • If there are images at all, they are usually pixelated.
  • The font size and colors make it hard to read.
A graphic designer friend of mine, Robbii Wessen, would call these types of presentations “design malpractice.”
Presentations are suppose to convey ideas, and what many people fail to realize is that design is incredibly important to making sure your audience absorbs your message.  With the right design you can direct them where to look and you can help them remember the most important facts.
Recently I had the privilege of listening to and viewing a class presentation about the CEO of Amazon that took all the right steps.  As a graphic design buff, I can honestly say it was one of the best PowerPoints I have ever seen.  I want to share with you the top 5 reasons it won my heart.


1. Theme
The designer of this PowerPoint, Lydia Hardy, clearly took her design inspiration from the Amazon logo.  Using black, white, and yellow exclusively throughout the entire presentation created a visually appealing theme.  The text, images and blocks of color repeated over and over in each slide, and made it easy to know what to read and what to focus on.
Presentation 1


2. Design consistency
This happened to be a group presentation. Every other group in class did what you would expect –  created a PowerPoint that was inconsistent in style and the amount of content per slide.  Having been in one of these groups myself, what I don’t know yet is how Lydia’s group created a process that resulted in such a consistent design. From my experience group members often differ in how much content they think should be on each page, so this result required great leadership skills.
Presentation 2


3. Simplicity
Selecting simple black silhouettes for the images on each slide gave the audience a specific image to focus on while the group was speaking.  Similarly, she made a few words on each slide pop in a bold yellow font.   This made their group presentation much more memorable.
Presentation 3


4. Focus
Lydia worked with her group to select 3 bullet points or a single quote for each slide.  Each group member had more to say than what was illustrated on the slide, but the images and words focused on the major themes. This worked really well. When there is too much text the audience wonders whether they should read or listen. When it’s too little text they wonder if the presenter has forgotten to forward to the next slide.
Presentation 4
Presentation 5


5. Integration of Infographics
In addition to bold images, Lydia used infographics to relate information that the group was presenting.  This is a visually interesting way to illustrate numbers and percentages.
Presentation 6


Immediately after the class ended I went directly up to Lydia to ask her for a copy of the presentation in order to share it with this blog.  I hope you were as inspired as I was by seeing her presentation – if so, there will be a lot less design malpractice in the world.
5 steps to avoid design malpractice

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s