To bear in mind when designing slides

Things you might have heard before, but are a good reminder.

  • Pictures are superior to text!
    Maybe you remember in primary school how you showed the rest of the class pictures when you had to give a talk, those pictures from back than are the slides of today. You do the talking, the slides are there to visually support your message.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words, at least a good picture! So be picky in selecting images, use high quality and vivid photos.
  • Limit text on your slide, get rid of details and include only the essentials (you can mention details in your speaking notes)
  • All text should be short and snappy: use powerful single words, short sentences or a few concise sentences.
  • Bring up one main idea per slide: don’t overload your audience with too much information at once, give them time to process all information.


Look before you leap!

Before you start designing a new presentation, you do well to ask yourself what slide format you need to give your public an optimal viewing experience. Should your slides have 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio to make full use of the projection screen? PowerPoint does not help you which format to choose, it opens a new presentation automatically in widescreen format. So be aware!

The standard output on monitors and screens used to be 4:3. Now the format of most screens is 16:9 or widescreen. PowerPoint has gone through the same evolution, as since 2010 the default dimensions of new presentations are 16:9 (although the slide size 4:3 is still called ‘Standard’ in PowerPoint)

Forewarned is forearmed, but sometimes you do not  know in advance which kind of screen will be used. If you’ve made the wrong choice and made a widescreen presentation that you have to display on a 4:3 projector screen or vice versa, your slides will not fill the entire screen. Either horizontally or vertically you’re will lose a part of your projection space. The black bars in the pictures underneath illustrate this.


So the worst case scenario is not too bad! But try to avoid it if you can.
Of course, you can convert your presentation into the right format, but this can cost you a great deal of time. In a future article I’ll tell you how to fix this.

Icons made by from is licensed under

Get rid of boring Word docs!

In the beautiful brochures – which are made by the communication department of Howest in the Adobe suite – text is sometimes surrounded by coloured frames. It is one of the ingredients for a fresh Howest look.

Luckily, this types of style elements are not exclusive to the Adobe suite. You can perfectly integrate them in MS Word to spice up long, dull documents. Though the method of working in Word may differ from the one in Adobe and is not always so obvious.

Take the coloured frames for example, you may think – just as I thought – to integrate them via the feature Text Box on the tab Insert. This is okay for normal text, but I noticed that text boxes do not work for numbering like in multilevel styles and footnotes. If you put such “special” text in a text box, the numbering of the list is no longer correct.

A solution to integrate this element without losing the numbering? Insert a
Rectangle (tab Insert > shapes) instead of a Text Box, give it a lively colour and put it behind the text via the feature Send Backward > Send Behind Text on the contextual tab Drawing Tools.

The document above is made in Word. Besides little style elements like the coloured frames, the page number in little triangles, the text balloons, … the document catch the eye by using a lot of colour and contrast!

By integrating these little style elements you are one step closer to a fun and readable document!

Reblog: The evolution of PowerPoint—introducing Designer and Morph

Introducing PowerPoint Designer and Morph, new intelligent tools that automate the creation of slides and presentations—helping everyone get more out of Microsoft Office. With a cloud-powered recommendation engine and smart animation technology, these new PowerPoint capabilities help anyone create polished slides and captivating motion effects with just a few quick steps.

Source: The evolution of PowerPoint—introducing Designer and Morph

Shapes versus placeholders: the crucial differences

In the view Slide Master of PowerPoint, you can insert both text boxes as text placeholders. Both seem the same at first sight, but when you return to the normal view of your presentation differences become cleary noticeable. This post highlights the differences between text boxes and text placeholders or, in a wider context, between shapes and placeholders.

Even if you’ve never heard of Placeholders before, you are probably more familiar with them then you might think. Take the first slide of a new presentation for example. It contains two frames in which you can enter text according to the instructions, but which you also can delete, resize, colour,…. These flexible frames look like text boxes but are in fact Text Placeholders.

If you go to the Slide Master and scroll through the different layouts you’ll notice that there are -in addition to frames for text- also frames for pictures, charts, tables, SmartArt, Media, Online pictures or content in general. These are all placeholders.
If you make your own template, you can insert these placeholders by the feature Insert Placeholder on the tab Slide Master.

Besides placeholders, you can also insert shapes (including text boxes) in the Slide Master view. But unlike the first, shapes cannot be adjusted in the normal view. If you insert for example a blue text box in the Master view and return to the view Normal, you will notice that this is a fixed element on the slide which is impossible to select, and thus impossible to adjust.

There is also a second difference between placeholders and shapes: a placeholder can be put on the back or foreground on the slide whereas a shape will always remain in the background when you insert them into the slide master.

However, both shapes and placeholders are useful when it comes down to making a PowerPoint template. How to use these two elements correctly is for a future post.

Based on PowerPoint 2016.