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Yes, design matters

6 Design Tips For Better Presentation Materials

Posted on October 16, 2020
Image of a notebook with a design sketched out in pen

I’ve been working with my students in PRST 615 Program Evaluation on logic models this week and one of the elements is the design. My students are awesome and have done a fabulous job, but I’m sure they baulked a little at some point reductions for what might seem like trivial design issues. But I assure you even the smallest design flaw can detract from the content – and that is never the outcome you want. How many times have you attended a presentation or received a document or looked at a prepared chart and thought, this doesn’t look very professional? Perhaps an image was pixelated or the alignment was off? In these instances, viewers often spend more time focusing on the design issues versus the content.

Now, in full disclosure I was not a design major in college, but I am a pretty creative person with a generally good eye, and you do not have to have a background in design to create quality professional-looking presentations, documents, etc., but there are some basic design principles you should follow:

Complementary Colors

You do not want to use clashing colors or too many colors in any kind of presentation materials you are creating. It is usually best to choose colors that reflect your company’s brand. For example, Starbucks states, “Our green is iconic. Visible for blocks. It’s our most identifiable asset, from the colors of our aprons to our logo.” So, why would they use purple versus “Starbucks green” or degrees of that green in a PPT presentation or a pamphlet or some other presentation material? They likely wouldn’t.

White Space

All too often, people try to cram too much onto a page on the presentation space. White space allows the eye to scan the page and it makes it much easier for the reader to see all of the content in the space. When there is too much crammed in, it can be confusing and distracting to the eye.


Shapes are important and did you know that circles are considered the most versatile shapes used in graphic design? Well, it’s true. This doesn’t mean you should fill your space or design with a bunch of circles, but it does mean that as you think about your design, you should carefully consider the shapes you choose and how they will complement your content and help you achieve your desired outcome.


Avoid fancy fonts. Let me say that again and with a little more gusto – never use fancy fonts! Keep your font choice simple. There are two types to choose from: serif and sans serif. Serif fonts have “feet” or more decorative elements to the letter whereas san serif fonts are considered more modern and lack these decorative elements. You can choose whichever you prefer, but it is generally considered that serif fonts are easier to read. Another consideration is whether or not your communications team has style guide with a preferred font. Whichever font you choose, stick with it and avoid using multiple different fonts.


More than likely any kind of presentation materials you are working on will include both text and image. In this case, it is important that you layout the page in such a manner that the image and text complement one another versus one overpowering the other. This includes white space, it includes lining up the images with the text, etc. to ensure nothing looks lopsided or out of alignment.


Finally, I have two comments about images. First, do not use images you do not have permission to use. There are plenty of sites that offer unattributable images that are high quality and free of charge. Second, do not use pixelated images, this one issue will immediately make your hard work look rushed and unprofessional.

Again, I am not speaking as a designer, rather I am speaking as a professor and a professional who cringes when I see poorly designed presentations or presentation materials. If you follow these tips, even if you are not inclined toward the creative side, you can still prepare professional materials that are well-designed. Keep in mind that poorly designed materials will prevent you from conveying your intended message.

Kind regards,

Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor and Dept. Head, Goodwin College
Assistant Dean, The Graduate College
Drexel University




Posted in interpersonal-communications, professional-development-career-tips