Not every presentation slide is about finding the right image. In my work, I encounter a lot of "layout puzzles": tables or diagrams of boxes that need to convey complex trade-offs and relationships. The challenge is to convey the message simply, without making things too simplistic.

Here are some of the steps I go through:

  • Group things together, split things up until I get to table rows/columns or boxes that are more or less on the same level of importance
  • Edit down text to get clear box/row/column labels that are as short as possible, or when short is not an option, each have about the same amount of words (the number of lines covered is very relevant in typography)
  • Enforce some sort of grid to the page. Each box/column/row should have the same size, or span a multiple of grid elements. (In my presentation app SlideMagic it is not possible to violate this principle)
  • Swap rows and columns so that similar items end up next to each other. Re-arrange boxes in the diagram so that connected boxes are close and connecting lines do not cross.
  • At the final stage, add colour to make visual groupings that you could not create with physical proximity or connecting lines.

This might sound like tedious work, but the end result is often a diagram that forms the backbone of your entire presentation.

Image from WikiPedia