Presentation Crash Course #4: Design not decoration

by Improve Presentation Last Updated: 2018.08.01

(If you’re just joining the Weekly Presentation Crash Course by Improve Presentation, you might want to start at the beginning!)

Extreme slides from the 90′

Remember those old school presentation slides from the 90′? Back in the day we often experienced two types of extreme slide design.

The first type of extreme slides looked smiliar to text book page – lots of words, unformatted, probably copy-pasted straight from Microsoft Word. Usually the presenter used these kind of slides as his own prompter during his speech.

The second type of extreme slides included multiple colors that did not match at all, lots of images, icons, shapes, animated gifs (sic!), different types of fonts and a lot of content on top of it.


Not many people cared about slide design back then. These horrible powerpoint presentations were all about decorating and not designing.

Distractions are confusing your audience

Slide decorations cause distractions and are confusing to your audience. Sometimes these so-called decorations can increase the complexity of our slides, making it difficult to deliver our intended message effectively.

Decorating our presentation slides is not a good idea for an effective presentation. Decoration is an afterthought and is usually not part of the design.

Every element or object on your presentation slides must have a purpose. They must contribute in helping you to effectively deliver the message in your presentation.

90% of a creative process is destructive

This means you need to reduce in order to get the essence of your message. If you want to display a strong message, focus your statement on specific sentence that represent the main point of your presentation.

Consider using just a single word on a slide to convey your core message. Want your audience to remember several ideas? Don’t show them all bullet-style on a single slide; reveal them one at a time, creating story, and share an example or anecdote to illustrate each one.

Good design is problem solving


Design matters. But design is not about decoration. Design is about making communication as easy and clear for the viewer as possible.

I’ve been amazed at how often those outside the discipline of design assume that what designers do is decoration—likely because so much bad design simply is decoration. Good design isn’t. Good design is problem solving.”

-The Art & Science of Web Design by Jeffrey Veen

Have an image or quote that accurately expresses your idea? Let it! Don’t be afraid to remove everything else from the slide, and let that one powerful image say it all.

This is a blog written by Improve Presentation. We are presentation experts. We design high quality Powerpoint Templates and Keynote Templates and create custom unique slidedecks for our clients. See our work