We sometimes hear that students encounter PowerPoint slides that are text heavy and tedious. In this digital age, audiences have become savvier and more aware of how content is presented to them. This means that basic design skills have become more and more important.

But, never fear – you don’t need to be a graphic designer or have some innate eye for style to create PowerPoint slides that are a bit more helpful and engaging. By following some general principles and making some tweaks, you can make a real difference to the look and feel of your slides and how they are received by your students.

Let’s explore some of these principles…

Content is king (and queen)

Focus on key points
No amount of aesthetic enhancement is going to help if your content isn’t well organised, or if there is too much of it on your slides. You’re the expert in your discipline, so when designing your slides, think about the key points you want students to take on board – these are the things that should most likely be on your slides. Design your slides to complement your verbal content, rather than using them as a script.

Tell a story
Think of your slides as telling a story, with a beginning, middle and end. Build on key concepts throughout your slides to scaffold student learning. This will be helpful for students during the presentation and also when they are reviewing slides and reflecting back on the session, or if they weren’t able to make the session at all.

Less is more
Give your slides a title so it’s clear what each slide is about. Keep the amount of text on your slides minimal – think shortish, chunked and easily digestible portions of text that highlight key takeaways from your overall presentation. Bullet points can work well, but will ideally be short and limited to a few per slide.

Keep your slides focused on key points

Keep your fonts on fleek

Font size
Make your text size at least 18pt, and choose sizes that complement each other and provide enough contrast to differentiate headings and subheadings from body text. This will all add to the visual hierarchy of your slides. If you need to make your text really small to fit it all on the slide, there may be too much of it.

Types of fonts
Stick to simple, clean fonts that are easy to read. A general ‘rule’ for PowerPoint and screen presentations is to use sans serif fonts for both your titles and body text. Examples of sans serif fonts include Arial, Helvetica and Calibri – you will most likely already have an array of these fonts on your device. If you use one of the Griffith templates, fonts are already set up for you.

Font colours
If you’re using one of the Griffith templates, stick with the title and body colours already set up in the template. If you’re not using a Griffith template, sticking to a colour palette of about 2-3 colours will give you enough to work with but not overwhelm either you or your students.

Decorative fonts generally aren’t ideal for PowerPoint slides

Make your images schmick

Finding and choosing images
Check out our previous post on finding images for some great copyright free image sources and information on how to access the Griffith image library for photos of our students and University. When you’ve downloaded some images, this post might help you decide which images to use and that are most relevant to your context.

Creating your own images
The SmartArt and Drawing tools in PowerPoint can be really helpful for creating simple visuals to enhance your content. When creating these, keep contrast in mind so the text is readable. Choose colours that complement each other, are easy on the eye and provide enough contrast (for example, black text doesn’t work so well on a red background, but white text will work a treat).

If you’re choosing your own colours, you can use a colour tool such as Color Hunt or Adobe Color CC to find curated palettes or mix your own. To use, copy the RGB or HEX code and use it wherever you edit your colours.

Using your images
Use high resolution images so they don’t become pixelated and blurry, and be mindful of keeping proportions in place when resizing images.

Ideally use one image per slide. If you want to use multiple images, try placing them next to each other or combining them into a grid or collage as a single image – there are some browser based image editing tools to help you do that.

You might also like to experiment with full sized images, which can be really impactful. You can try putting text over the image – just make sure there’s enough contrast between the colours in the image and your text colour.

The white text is much clearer than the red text

Stay aligned

Keep your layout consistent by aligning content in a similar way throughout the presentation and by following a pattern with your fonts (i.e. all titles in the same font and size, all subtitles in a similar fashion). Ideally you will see some sort of design pattern and cohesiveness forming with your slides. This can make a huge difference to how your slides look and feel.

Keeping your layout consistent doesn’t mean every slide has to look exactly the same, but rather that they all come from the same presentation.

Simple and consistent layouts and following patterns helps create cohesion

On the move

Some folks are fans of PowerPoint animations, but the key is to not overdo it or it risks appearing gimmicky. Stick to the occasional slide transition, such as revealing sequential content on a diagram, or leave them out of the equation altogether.

Want to learn more?

Microsoft has created an incredibly comprehensive short online course designed to help you create well designed PowerPoint presentations. You can do the whole course, or just focus on the areas you want to enhance.

Stay tuned for more visual literacy and design skills posts, coming soon to LF Press.


Did you know that there are Griffith branded templates available that are all set to go with Griffith brand colours, fonts and useful content slides? If you are using one of the Griffith templates, it’s important to stick to the Griffith branding in terms of the fonts and colours already set up in the PowerPoint file. All you need to do with one of these templates is add your content.