This question has been bugging me for years: why does PowerPoint look like PowerPoint and not like a well designed piece of graphics design work. The answer is obvious for poorly designed slides full of bullet points. But still, even when slides are designed by a professional designer (including me), they will not reach the professional and designer look of a good piece of print design.

I have not found the answer yet, but am getting closer (maybe). Especially after reading an enormous amount of books on graphics design and typography, and a renewed interest in graphics used in television productions (Fox is horrible, MTV is good). Here we go (written in random order):
  1. PowerPoint presentations use over-used fonts. Arial, Verdana, Calibri, it just does not look as good as Helvetica or other print classics
  2. Presentation design = filling Microsoft's default bullet template
  3. PowerPoint presentations are stuck in between text and display sizes. An average presentation sentence is so short that we can put it in bigger characters than a text-size, but still too long to put it in an enormous display font. Fonts are not designed for this twilight zone. (Helvetica is an example)
  4. Most good PowerPoint designers understand the concept of white space, and use it. However, we still tend to keep margins around the slide very small, making the whole composition look cramped.
  5. It is tedious to change the leading(the vertical distance between lines of text) in PowerPoint, so we end up using the standard proportion that was designed for small font sizes (and too large for display font sizes)
  6. Nobody really uses a consistent grid structure slide after slide
  7. PowerPoint designers hardly break up a text string to play around with a sentence's typography. Lower part of the sentence, color part of the sentence, flip parts of the sentence. For example: if you want to visualize squeezed, you could pick a cliche stock image of a squished orange, or your could crush the typography of the word "squeezed" in between 2 forces.
  8. Presentation designers pick images that are too powerful, overwhelming, creating a constant barrage of inconsistent visuals with too much going on. Look at a quality piece of print: calmer images, with consistent colors, more white space, more coherent.
  9. We use too much color. Quality graphics design often has muted colors, with a few bright accents. Presentation designers cannot resist the urge to use the full spectrum of colors forcefully on every slide in the presentation
  10. Presenting like Steve Jobs is making your presentation white on black
  11. Images always have the standard rectangular shape, roughly the same as the screen aspect ratio. Why not use very narrow images, round ones? Something different
  12. Presentation designers mostly use text size to emphasize what text is important, and what text is less. Subtle color differences that are so important in print graphics design are not used
  13. Text sizes should always be the maximum possible. Cutting words is great, but why not use the extra space to create more white space on the slide, instead of filling it all up with a bigger text size?
  14. Too much symmetry. Most objects are still centered in the page.
  15. Not used to mixing fonts (partly because of the text/display size twilight zone). Good graphics design uses a few on a page to give interesting contrast. Presentation designers use one (usually).
  16. The limitations of the 4:3 and 16:9 screen, we presentation designers have to do without the vertical dimension that a poster designer can leverage
  17. The one-distance-has-to-fit-all situation. When you look at a poster you can view it from a distance and see the big characters and shapes, intrigued, you can come closer to read the details in the fine print. No such thing in PowerPoint. You sit where you sit, in a fixed distance from the screen.
  18. Presentation designers always hold back and never go to the creative edge a poster designer would go. We have seen too many bar/column/pie charts, bullet point lists, boxes and arrows. It is hard to leave the classical slide compositions behind, and to come up with something daring and new (for 20 slides in the deck).
Continuing my journey into the world of graphics design.

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