Learn about the concept of similarity and why it is important in slide design.
- [Instructor] In PowerPoint slide design, creating a unified and similar look for your slides can be done really well, creating something that looks sophisticated, clean, and polished. Or it can go really wrong, creating what some have dubbed death by PowerPoint, habituating the audience with the same design, or the same bulleted structure over and over again. A template can be helpful and can save you time, true, but it can also get you into trouble if it's used too much or if your content or your message doesn't fit into or work with that template.
You are ideally creating a cadence, a rhythm or pattern within your design, with your content, and even with your environment, with your audience. But when you find you have something important to say, something that you want to stand out, that is when you need to break the pattern. But before you do that, you first have to know how to create similarity. In assets, contrast needs similarity. And trust me, your presentation needs contrast.
That is what is going to highlight your main message. The most important sticking points are the action items you want your audience members to take away, but before you can begin to pull out all those pertinent details, you have to plan and streamline your other visual elements. In PowerPoint, you first choose similarity by choosing to reuse a handful of well chosen layouts from your slide template. Customize these layouts and the template if you must in order to fit your overall presentation.
Just be careful if you work at an organization with strict style guidelines. Chances are you have to still follow them, but most of the time there are ways to stay within those guidelines and customize the template too. But if the reason there are guidelines in place is because of a legal department, then usually they are not willing to budge I've often noticed. Just be sure that any changes you make fit your overall design concept, that align to your presentation's audience, message, and the specific environment, if known.
But when thinking about ways to create similarity, the key elements you will be leaning on the most are color, size, and even shape. If you do choose to use a template, these are the design features that will already be decided for you. So those are the three basic ways within a slides template to plan for a similar and consistent environment. But there are others too.
Orientation can be used to create similarity between objects too. Here we have a bunch of equilateral triangles, but the three that are pointing in different directions are easy to spot even though all triangles are the same size, and color, and shape. That effect is created through similarity because we have enough triangles all pointing in the same direction. Texture is another unifying element and one that can be quite useful in several contexts in PowerPoint, especially since PowerPoint gives you so many easy to apply shape and picture effects to use, which can be combined to create just about any look.
Here I have a slide I created with a simple statistic about bullying. I've made all the elements on the slide similar. The images of the teens are similar. The shapes behind them are similar. Even though they're all different colors, they are all vibrant colors and the same style and texture. Now, if I want to follow the statistic listed above, I can do something to make one of these students stand out, like change the texture.
Here I applied the texture line drawing to both the circle and the picture of the boy in the center. Or if I want more contrast, I can change the color of the image too. And if this is still too subtle, I can keep tweaking and playing with the contrasting element on that one student to make him stand out more until I reach the desired effect. Perhaps a blur effect is better, but none of that is possible unless the rest of the elements on the slide are similar enough.
This slide works because my bullied student in the center contrasts with the brightly colored in focus photographs of the other students. One final note about similarity that I'd like to leave you with has to do with your audience. Remember, you are designing for your audience, just as you are designing for your content and your environment. If your audience is accustomed to a certain style presentation or seeing slides designed a certain way, departing from that format and structure drastically can be too much of a contrast too.
So in speaking of similarity, and in keeping with similarity, you also have to keep your audience in mind as well, and what they are familiar with. People don't like change. Slides and presentations are no different. If you vary the layout of information too much and too often, the audience must go hunting around for the information, which you may or may not want all the time. Making some information hard to find can be beneficial for memory, but doing it on every slide or even every day can be too overwhelming, overtaxing, and exhausting.
As such, through similar colors, sizes, shapes, and other elements, you want to create a unified experience for your audience to guide them through the presentation experience so they know what to expect and only strategically surprise them at the right moments.
- Designing as non-designers
- Key design components
- The need for hierarchy
- Hierarchy in bulleted slides
- When bullets are cognitively necessary
- Using space effectively
- Creating similarity and contrast strategically