5 Essential Principles of Presentation Design

Creating a powerful, results-driven presentation involves the perfect combination of fantastic content and brilliant design and functionality.


Often, these crucial elements work hand in hand. That’s because what we see (and how we see it), has a huge impact on how we interpret new information, and how well we can remember it.  


The very best presenters embrace 5 core principles of good presentation design to ensure that the compelling story they want to tell is presented with clarity, impact and professionalism. They utilise their slides to deliver information in a way that is easy for their audience to understand, remember and act on. And that is the key to success.  


Take a look at our Ultimate Guide To Creating a Winning Sales Presentation Deck here


Essential Principles of Presentation Design


The extent to which you embrace these principles of good presentation design can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful pitch, or engaging or disengaging your team. So, it’s well worth taking the time to get your head around them and establishing exactly how you can incorporate each concept into your own upcoming presentation.


Here are the 5 essential principles of good presentation design.  


1) Embrace a visual hierarchy 


One of the crucial principles of good presentation design that many eager presenters overlook involves establishing a visual hierarchy. That is, taking time to consider how you arrange the different elements on your slide to demonstrate their importance.  


It’s far too easy to fall into PowerPoint’s trap of making the slide title the biggest, most in-your-face element on your slide, rather than the content it introduces. Surely, that title is not the most important part of the slide.  


When you think about it, writing the title “My game-changing idea” in large bold text above the much smaller and less obvious said “game-changing idea” is counterintuitive. Your game-changing idea should be the part of the slide your audience’s eyes are immediately drawn to. That’s the key part of the slide.  


Better organising your slide elements, including carefully considering which parts are the most important, allows you as a presenter to influence how your audience perceive what you’re presenting.  


Ask yourself, what really needs to stand out? What do you want people to remember? Then, make it stand out. 


2) Audience understanding is key 


It goes without saying that ensuring your audience is able to clearly understand the content you are presenting to them should always be your top priority.  


It’s all well and good showing off your ability to use wild animations or an  obscure font that looks like handwriting, but if it could impede your audience’s understanding in any way, it’s time to rethink.  


It’s important to bear in mind that according to the World Health Organisation, at least 2.2 billion people in the world have some form of visual impairment. So, there’s a good chance that someone in your audience will be affected too. It’s essential to be mindful of this when you are putting a presentation together, particularly in relation to fonts and colours, to ensure that your message is understood and digested in the way you intend.  


Always ensure that you are absolutely certain your audience will be able to engage with the content you put before them before considering how awesome you can make your slides look.  


3) Find the right fonts 


One of the most important principles of good presentation design revolves around selecting the appropriate fonts and text sizes for your deck. We’ve got to admit, there’s a lot of pressure to choose the right font. They really can make or break a presentation.  


When it comes to fonts, there are no hard and fast rules about size or style. However, readability should be key. If you’re desperate for some guidance to follow, using a minimum of 12-point font for the body of the slide (ideally 14 or 16point) and around 36point for key headlines should suffice 


With regards to the fonts you choose, if in doubt, it’s safest to use the system fonts. These will usually be easy to read and, crucially, they will be preinstalled on your computer, and those you might be presenting on. Traditional fonts like Arial or Helvetica are particularly popular in presentations for their clarity and accessibility. 


You may well want to use your brand’s own recognisable fonts, but be sure they are easy to read, including at a distance. If not, avoid. We’re all for effectively branded presentations, but never at the expense of audience comprehension.  


4) Colour with purpose 


When it comes to the key principles of good presentation design, it’s impossible to overlook colour. Colour is a powerful tool in presentations that, when used cleverly, could enhance your talk and help you get your point across. Although, it’s less about which colours to use and more about how you use them.  


When you’re designing a PowerPoint presentation, choosing colours shouldn’t just be about what looks pretty. Use colour with purpose. 


People draw connections and meaning from colours, which you can exploit in your presentation to help you deliver your message.  


For example, you could utilise colours to emphasise the tone of your presentation. If the topic of your talk is playful and creative, you might want to consider making use of bright, bold colours. If it’s more serious (like a pitch deck or investment presentation) dark colours can help to bring a cooler, more professional feel.


Using your brand colours will make for the easiest design choice. It’s great to use these if possible (and appropriate) to give your presentation a slick, branded look.  


Colour and contrast 


Colour can also be used to help your content really pop. Picking an eye-catching primary colour and working with whites, greys and blacks to support it can be a great way to bring your slides to life without risking any visual confusion.  


Alternatively, you could be a bit more daring and work with complimentary colours. Many colour combinations work well in terms of contrast, such as yellow and blue. A useful resource for finding complimentary colour palettes is Adobe Colour. 


When exploring complementary colours, do bear in mind that some people in your audience are likely to be affected by colour blindness. Across the globe, around 300 million people suffer with colour-blindness. That’s 1 in 12 men, and 1 in 200 women. 


Although you might find that red and green contrast well against each other, they are likely to be confused by your colour blind audience members.  


However daring you decide to be with the colour palette of your presentation, ensure that the colours will only enhance your deck, and not impair anyone’s understanding.  


5) Inspire with images 


Another incredibly important principle of good presentation design is always use good-quality, high-impact imagery.


Powerful visuals that convey your message, contribute to your story and give a professional look and feel will enhance your PowerPoint presentation and help your audience understand your message.  


Inspiring imagery


Cliched stock images, clip art and poorly cropped, blurry photos are just not going to cut it anymore. Quality images matter, and they’re by no means difficult to come by.  


There are plenty of website that allow you to download Royalty Free images for commercial use for free, including Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay. These sites make it easy to be imaginative by offering artistic and unique images that you might not otherwise have considered using. 


Layout matters too. Anyone can drop an image onto a slide. What makes a great presentation pop is the way they are used. PowerPoint’s cropping and effects tools allow you to easily personalise your images and really make them stand out. You could even try playing around with duotone. 


By embracing a more creative approach to image selection, you will be in with a far better chance of engaging your audience and leaving a positive, lasting impression.  


The essential principles of good presentation design 


Combining these 5 essential principles of good presentation design with a compelling narrative will equate to transformational presentations that bring the results you want. 


Paying close attention to font, colour, layout and image selection will help you to enhance the comprehension of your audience and ensure your message is delivered clearly and effectively.  


Be like the very best presenters and embrace these simple principles to transform your presentations today.  


Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you craft your story, and bring it to life with brilliant design and functionality, so you deliver a killer presentation every time


Ultimate Guide To Creating A Winning Sales Presentation Deck