Simplicity and understatement

Are you having a hard time deciding on colors or an arrangement for your slides? An easy solution that always looks good is to shoot for simplicity and understatement.

Review one of your recent presentations and do the following:

  • Remove non-essential elements including distracting images and colors
  • Remove 3D graphics (convert to 2D), unless they’re really clear and consistently used
  • Choose muted colors rather than bright ones (a Zen aesthetic, perhaps?)
  • Combine redundant elements or see how one object can serve two purposes

In Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen blog, “Clear visuals with as little text as possible” you can find an excellent discussion of simplicity along with strong visual content, as well as some examples.

Here are the background styles in PowerPoint 2007. Of course, you can use templates and themes, but you use these styles for their simplicity.

PowerPoint 2007 background styles

PowerPoint 2007 background styles

You can create similar effects in earlier versions of PowerPoint using a one-color gradient and the From Corner shading style. Here is an example that I created in PowerPoint 2003:
similar effects from PowerPoint 2003

similar effects from PowerPoint 2003

It works well to use a title slide with much more visual interest and then settle down to one of these simple backgrounds for the rest of the slides. 

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