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10 Design Tips to Make Your Presentations Look Polished

Marc Schenker May 5, 2021 · 14 min read

No amount of design tips can save your presentation if it’s not created with purpose and doesn’t ensure effective visual storytelling and communication. A professional, polished look is also crucial to any powerful slide deck presentation. When designing presentations, understand that your audience needs to easily figure out the key points while also staying riveted to your slides.

Creating presentations that hook your audience is always challenging. To get an authoritative sense of what it takes to make them look sharp and persuasive, we went to the experts in our Creative Market community. These Shop Owners are some of the best in the business and give us detailed insights into the work that goes into these successful creations.

Read on for their design tips that you can immediately use to turn your next slide deck project into a winning presentation, from which your customers will receive amazing value.

1. Minimalism: Less Is More

The temptation for many graphic designers is to add too many flourishes to their slide decks. The problem with this approach is the inevitable clutter that this causes. As a result, such decks will be subdued in the effectiveness of the messaging that they should convey.

On the other hand, someone who greatly values the simplicity of minimalism is designer and photographer Jessica Safko of Your Sunday Studio. Her eCourse Slide Deck Template is a study in cleanness in design.

Her pro tip revolves around eliminating messaging friction in your presentations.

“Keep your content simple! Your design, photos, and text should work to emphasize the presentation points, not distract from them. Try to keep all text as simple as possible, so the audience can stay engaged in the spoken presentation. This means leave space for key points, but stay away from writing out the presentation script on each slide.”

2. Grids Allow for Organization

We hear the word “grid” thrown around a lot in design. Grids are systems for organizing layouts, making them absolutely essential for planning. They have applications in traditional print design, such as for posters, books, and magazines; they also are used in virtual applications like websites, mobile apps, and other user interfaces.

Grids come in various shapes and sizes:

  • Modular
  • Manuscript
  • Column
  • Hierarchical
  • Pixel
  • Baseline

Mantas Naujokas of Jumsoft relays his number one pro design tip for creating slide decks, which centers on your use of the grid.

“The most essential part to creating a great presentation is creating a layout grid. No matter what grid you choose, it will help you stay organized, efficient, and keep track of the flow of your ideas.”

Jumsoft’s Farming Keynote Template is a perfect example of the order that grids create in design.

Mantas’ bonus tip for designing presentations relates to where you can research for inspiration.

“Naturally, even the best presentation can become boring to the audience if it looks bland, so making it actually look good is just as important. For inspiration, we frequent designer communities, blogs, and graphic design literature as part of our daily reading.”

3. Purpose-Driven Design Makes the Best Impression

We’ve all seen them: Slides that are fancy when it comes to ornamentation like icons and other graphics. While these look appealing and catch the eye, for sure, they’re not always the best way to ensure effective communication of your presentation’s message.

For VIP Graphics, which makes design assets for pros, one of the most vital design tips comes down to using visuals with purpose.

Their Pitch Deck Presentation Template demonstrates this principle of visuals that optimize storytelling.

“Every year, I work with 100+ companies to create presentations (ranging from Forbes 30U30 startups to Fortune 100 corporations). Too many presentations I see (especially templates) use diagrams, icons, or graphics solely for the sake of using them.

For instance, the most-liked presentation designs on Dribbble rely on heavy use of generic icons, illustrations, and royalty photos. While these make for visually engaging presentations, they don’t actually add to the pitch narrative and distract from the core content and storytelling. Moreover, illustration- and photo-heavy templates are generally less useful to end-users who do not have the resources or budget for custom photography and illustration.

On the other hand, a well-placed iceberg can make a complex market opportunity immediately easy-to-understand.

Glossy slides dilute your pitch and message more than they add to it. Purpose-driven presentations close more deals than pretty ones.”

4. Color Gradients Make a Presentation Pop

Color gradients are those attractive, gradual blends of color that make designs come alive. Think of them as color transitions. As far as design tips go, adding such subtle transitions of color in your slides allows for an easy-on-the-eyes effect, which effectively highlights your content, making it more memorable to your users and their audiences alike.

For Shahidul Islam, the team leader of design shop White Graphic, a big part of their templates’ storytelling is based on smart color selection. Gradients are at the core of their presentations, such as their Digital Marketing Plan PowerPoint deck.

“Beauty prevails when using gradients. We use gradients in different ways to enhance our templates. Our themes are crafted in beautiful business colors. We first choose several good colors. Considering the category we’re working in, we select the specific color accordingly. We use six color palettes in a presentation.”

5. Design Tips From the Ancient World: The Golden Ratio

Even if you’re not a designer, chances are high that you’ve heard of the legendary golden ratio. For those not immediately familiar with the golden ratio, let’s take a quick refresher course.

This is the mathematical relationship between two numbers, based on their ratio being the same as their sum’s ratio to the bigger of the two numbers. Known by a host of other terms—such as the golden mean and golden section—the golden ratio has been studied since the time of the Ancient Greeks. It’s roughly equivalent to 1.618.

Let’s look at this representation in design and mathematical terms, which makes finding this relationship more straightforward. Just divide any line into two parts, such that the longer portion divided by the shorter portion equals the sum of both parts, divided by the longer portion. Think of it as A (the longer portion) + B (the shorter portion) ÷ A = A/B = 1.618.

Designer Shan from Wilde River Studio understands this mathematical beauty approach intensely, which is why she incorporates it into her presentations. Her Brand Strategy Workbook is an example of this approach.

“My number one design tip involves the golden ratio. My go-to saying is ‘functionality over beauty.’ I design my presentations so that the eye flows easily across each page. I like to use the golden ratio as a point of reference to know where to place the headings, paragraphs, images, and any other design element. This keeps the flow of the presentation consistent and gives the reader a sense of certainty and ease throughout the presentation.”

6. The Learning and Inspiration From Design Trends Should Never Stop

Design tips are only as good as your own initiative to stay up to date with current trends. That’s why it’s important to take inspiration from a wide range of sources on the Internet. Before designing presentations, consult blogs, communities, and social media to discover any trends that are just emerging or that you’ve already missed.

Designer Rasid from RRGraph strongly believes in taking inspiration wherever it can be found on the web. Rasid’s recent Neumorphic Style Powerpoint Template reflects the inspiration from the Neumorphism design trend as part of this template.

“By continuing to learn and being sensitive to current design trends, we can always create standout products. I advise every creative to follow the latest design trends. You can look at product showcases, read case studies, and watch presentation tips and tricks on YouTube. Other than that, you can also follow top influencers and build connections with other designers across social media.”

Rasid’s bonus, actionable tip delves into the types of tools designers have at their fingertips for presentations.

“For the technical aspect, I would say that designers should familiarize themselves more with the tools they use, like PowerPoint, Google Slides, and really any presentation maker software.”

7. A Multi-Pronged Design Strategy

Sometimes, it greatly helps to look at your presentation from multiple angles when you plan its design. How will your users make the most of it? How will their audiences be most able to understand the presentation?

To answer questions like these and more, designer Frankie from Marigold Studios breaks down the creative process via the following design tips. Marigold Studios’ The Grid | Canva & PPT epitomizes the stellar results you can get when you follow a multi-pronged design approach.

Format & Media

“Always consider where the audience will view the presentation before getting started to determine your ideal presentation slide size. Will it be shown on a prompter or website, or will it be printed? Double-check with a client before getting started, or you might end up having to redo the design.”

Start With a Grid

“Whether a book, a presentation, or another layout, the easiest way to get started is to set up a grid. A grid makes the placement of text, images, numbers, and other elements super easy. You can start with a simple six-column grid, or, if you’re a bit more of a control freak like myself, use a 12 column by 6-row grid minimum.”

Paragraph and Character Styles

“Set up ground rules for fonts, font weight, and font sizes to be used for headings, subheadings, numbers, and body text. Consult a brand guide if available. This will keep the design looking consistent and establish hierarchy. And for heaven’s sake, no Comic Sans, please!”

Keep It Simple…

“Most presentations are a quick introduction to an idea or business. Slides should be quick to read and to the point. Ensure that you cut out dribble or else split up slides that are sharing too many ideas or talking points. Remember the 3 Cs: Consistency, Clarity, and Content.”

…But Keep It Interesting

“Although they should be straight to the point, that does not mean they should be boring or overly repetitive. Add some color or design elements to keep it from feeling bland. You don’t have to throw the kitchen sink at it, but a few thoughtfully placed elements that complement the main brand will go a long way in making a presentation feel well-thought-out and crafted. You can also pull your audience’s attention back to the screen by adding some movement, animation, or video to a few slides. If it’s interesting for you to view, it will be interesting for the audience.”


“Add a summary just to refresh viewers about the topics covered. This can be at the end of a chapter or the end of a presentation. Maybe add links to the corresponding page in order for them to review anything they might have missed.”

8. Clarity and Cleanness in Presentation Design

The trick to designing presentations lies in not just their simplicity, but also their clarity. One of the ways to ensure this clarity is in the cleanness of design. When you understand how the graphic design of the colors, shapes, and illustrations should complement your presentation’s text—and vice versa—you’ll be better able to design winning presentations.

TheSeamuss, a design shop specializing in templates, shares their thoughts on making the graphic design and the text work together seamlessly with each presentation. Their Must Have Slides | Keynote presentation gives you a look at what clarity and a clean design can achieve.

“When creating a new slide, I always think about how to convey certain information as simply and clearly as possible. A presentation is a great way to convey information to other people through graphic design. Even the most interesting information only in the form of text will be more difficult to perceive. On the other hand, graphic design, which is just based on the desire to create something beautiful, will not work without a specific goal. These are two sides of the same coin.

Here are three quotes that I think best describe the concept of design in general and the creation of presentations in particular:

‘The design is not just what it looks like and feels like. The design is how it works.’ – Steve Jobs

‘Design is the intermediary between information and understanding.’ – Hans Hofmann

‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’ – Albert Einstein

9. Planning Before You Create Is Essential

Sometimes, the best design tips are the ones that are so fundamental that it seems like many creators are already implementing them. Of course, just the opposite applies since the basics are often overlooked, especially when you’ve been creating presentations for years. That’s why it can be helpful to revisit the basics, as in digital design lab Visuel Colonie’s case.

Before they start on any presentation, they also throw themselves into a deep dive of research and copious planning to ensure that their designs are meaningful and in-demand. The shop’s Santorio Google Slides deck is the result of having a detailed plan as the foundation of the creative process.

“Our process for designing a presentation template begins with deciding on the purpose of the presentation and then making a list of its contents. We perform research and create a mood board before we even think about designing in earnest. We also use Pinterest to collect various references for inspiration. We think hard about the fonts that we want to use—we use free fonts from Google Fonts, and we stay up to date on the latest design trends.

Only once we’ve completed all of the above are we ready to roll up our sleeves and execute on our presentation concept.”

10. A Unique Slide Deck Stands Out From Everything Else

One look at our Presentations category, and you’ll quickly see how many presentations you can choose from. We have a plethora of talented creatives contributing their designs, so that’s to be expected. However, one effective way of making the presentation you design catch a customer’s attention is by making it unique.

That word, “unique,” gets thrown around so often, so what does it really mean, though, specifically?

According to design studio Elokka Std., reaching true uniqueness when designing presentations involves specific, easy steps you need to take. Case in point: The studio’s giant Lookbook Keynote Big Bundle features various design trends as the motifs in their slides, giving their presentations a unique angle.

“I really want to make my slide deck stand out and unique from others, so I love to explore and research the latest trends and ideas. This involves the presentation design area and other niches like fashion, interior, typography, illustration, etc. For example, I research what the trending color palette used in fashion design is, popular interior design styles, and the latest typography trends. Next, I carefully pick the components I need for my slide deck: the styles, font, color palette, stock photos, illustration elements, etc. Finally, I combine them all to create a unique and different presentation deck.”

Thinking Outside the (Presentation) Box

Perhaps the one, prominent theme in the design tips shared by our Shop Owners is to think outside the box when designing your presentations. Their actionable advice focuses on what you, as the graphic designer, can do to differentiate your products from your competitors. Instead of cluttering up your layouts, go for minimalism. As opposed to winging it with your approach, have a plan and use a grid to lay out your vision.

The end result isn’t just a more visually appealing slide deck, though that’s already a big win. It’s also more satisfied end users and customers who’ll appreciate the extra thought and effort you’ve put into your presentations. And when you succeed in helping someone tell a riveting story and streamline their communication, you’ve achieved the heights of great graphic design.

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About the Author
Marc Schenker

Marc is a copywriter and marketer who runs The Glorious Company, a marketing agency. An expert in business and marketing, he helps businesses and companies of all sizes get the most bang for their ad bucks.

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