Slide Design


Authors Background

NPD Framework

Slide Design

Slide Objects



Over time the ancients learned how to build wonderful temples that appeared to be perfectly symmetrical and linear by understanding the engineering, by understanding the ‘technology’ and not necessarily understanding the science behind their structures. From these ancient societies, we can develop good practices on how to build great slides. The key is to understand how the viewer or listener is going to ‘see’ those slides. For examples, if we were going to have audio recordings on a particular slide we would assume the objects were animated and then record our audio to be synchronized with those animations. But this is counterproductive because you are making a determined effort to match the animation rather than deliver the narrative. The approach should be reversed. The most effective method to creating voiceover slides with animation and highlights is to simply create the ‘detailed’ slide with its components, objects, text, images and so forth and not to animate the objects until the scripted narrations have been uploaded. As we have discussed, at this point the pictorial storyboard should have been completed, all the slide scripts verified, and we are ready to begin final assembly. Once the actual objects have been added to the slide, record the script or upload the narrations for each slide and upon completion go to the slide animation menu (this will vary based on the software being used) and begin to animate the various objects to match the audio. This is one of the best approaches I have found to crafting a communiqué with audio and timed animation. Creating what appears to the viewer to be a seamless audio/animated production.

I have found, over the years, after creating the Opening “Gotcha Slide’ that a ‘personalized’ slide, where we wish to develop a connection to the audience enhances the overall presentation. This form of a slide typically contains a video of the presenter or presenting team.

For example, after the opening slide one that outlines the communiqué and introduces the presenters, is typically the best one to incorporate an audio/video object. I typically have an audio/video slide following the opening that explains to the viewer what they are going to be viewing.

In that ‘personal’ slide the viewer gets to ‘meet’ the presenter and can place a face behind the voice. This adds a human touch to the presentation and hopefully begins the interpersonal connection so important in communiqués’.

A question that often arises is would the communiqué be better if a personal   audio/video object is embed on some or all slides?  The real question to answer is, how will the video of the narrator impact the other objects on the slide? Will it enhance or distract from the other objects? Is there any benefit to the narration if the presenter is being viewed? These are important design considerations when crafting the pictorial storyboard.

Depending upon the software being used there may be multiple features available that enable this personal touch without distracting from the slide object. For example, in Adobe Presenter, the capability to designate, in a sidebar display the presenter’s image, biography, e-mail address, company affiliation, etc. allows the view to be continuously reinforced with who is presenting. As the presentation is playing the sidebar will display the image and all information about the current presenter. This is a very nice feature, if the communiqué has multiple presenters, who are presenting segments of the presentation. This will add a personal touch without impacting the slide objects. On the other hand, if the software being used only allows for video objects on the slide you would probably have some video in the beginning segment of the presentation and then have only audio objects on the subsequent slides.

Another aspect to consider when designing the storyboard is the landscape of the slide or frame and the story being told by that slide. For example, let’s take text representation on the slide and see how many ways we can effectively display that content. We can use traditional text fonts with bullets or lists, as paragraphs, etc. We could also use diagramming text in Microsoft PowerPoint that would be called ‘SmartArt’ or for titling we may decide to use decorative text which PowerPoint displays as “WordArt’.

First, let me discuss diagrammatical text, “SmartArt” is truly a diagramming tool as opposed to a decorative text “WordArt” which is often used as a tag line or title on a slide. However, in both cases we shouldn't confuse either object with text (plain, bullet or numbered). Each object has its own benefits and value to the specific slide and thus the presentation. Using diagrammatical text, we could show a flow cycle simultaneously with a bulletized list. Using plain font, we would list the text in bulletized format or an ordered list and then incorporate a diagram that depicts the process. Therefore, rather than have one object to control on our slide we now have two objects. We may feel we have better control to animate and support the narrative using two objects this is one of the design questions when creating the storyboard. What may happen, is when our storyboard is presented to the creative arts department, they may give us suggestions on how we can better represent the text that is being displayed. However, it should be our responsibility to understand what we want the objects on the frame or slide to convey and support the narration. We could elect to expand the bullet format by replacing the standard bullet icon with images that correlate to the topic or content on the slide. The choice is ours on how we will convey the story being told. What one must realize is that text, in any of its forms, is going to be one of the most important objects on the slide. Yes, we have audio, we may have embedded audio/video, pictures, etc. but our main object will always be text. It is essential that we decide which text format best illustrates, conveys and supports the content on a slide. Using diagrammatical text simply for the sake of having a fancy font is not a good design specification. We use this type of object to simultaneously convey some set of relationships.

Using decorative text objects is quite different. Typically, we use decorative text as a title or tagline highlighting something on the slide. To use it in lieu of a bulletized list would overpower the landscape by embellishing the text on the slide and distracting from the narrative. Remember the objective is to deliver information and a clear ‘take away’ at the close any object that supports that function is acceptable.

When you design your storyboard, you will need to decide, bullets, ordered lists, plain text, diagrammatical text or decorative text. The decision is based on the systemic perspective of the slide and the entire presentation. As we are aware animation adds movement and will be one of the considerations on the selected type of text. The presentation itself also plays a very important role in the type of format used to display the textual objects. If our presentation is being given by a professional firm, for example a law firm or accounting firm, we would not want the font to be flamboyant, colorful or for that matter convey a frivolous appearance. On the other hand; our presentation is on a holiday party the font format can be festive. So, as we construct the pictorial storyboard it is important for us to identify the type of formatting we are going to be using on our text. If there is a reasonable benefit or rationale for using one form over (diagrammatical text, decorative text or plain text) then incorporate the selection into the design specifications.

Thus, when designing a slide/frame in the storyboard phase (NPD Framework), you must think sequentially for each object on the slide/frame but systemically for the specific slide to the overall story. We also have to take into consideration that each object has a specific appearance in the flow but will not necessarily be exclusive or the only object to occupy that timeline and location. There may be two, three or more channels of content i.e. objects that support each other and must simultaneously be presented.

So, when we think of slide design, we must not think of it as strictly a sequential introduction of objects but rather the introduction of sets of objects.  These design considerations must be decided upon after the story has been crafted and during the creation of the pictorial storyboard.