Design Tip of the Day


Our design tip of the day is all about unity.  Unity is about harmony, balance, and one-ness (Source).  In order to create a slideshow with unity, you must know what works well and what will never work.

Design Basics, a University of Texas at Dallas course, covers unity here.  The course defines unity this way: “In design, unity describes the feeling that all the elements in a work belong together and make up a coherent and harmonious whole. When a work of art has unity, we feel that any change would diminish its quality” (Source).  Similarly, in slide:ology, Nancy Duarte defines unity as “sensing the structure of information” (Source).  I like to think of unity as the common string that runs through a slideshow; that string links the first slide to the last.

Duarte says you can achieve unity in many ways including an overall structure (such as a grid); a theme; or a look or style (Source). Similarly, Design Basics at UTD explains that unity can be created by using repetition, proximity, and continuation.  Repetition occurs when an “element repeats itself in various parts of the design to relate parts to each other,” and proximity is about making “separate elements look as if they belong together” (Source).  Lastly, continuation creates unity because “continuity in the form of a line, an edge, or a direction from one form to another creates a fluid connection among compositional parts” (Source).

Here is one example using Duarte’s idea of “overall structure” as a part of unity:

In the image above, I used a grid to explain the three main parts of “connecting” with an audience, the first way Garr Reynolds explains delivery in The Naked Presenter.  I use a series of grids in my Delivery Workshop, and I keep returning to them to ensure the audience is on track and focused.  The grid is familiar for them.  I explain the grid above in greater detail here, and you can see a more detailed example of how I use grids throughout the Delivery Workshop slideshow.

People like unity because it makes a presentation easy.  Because of that common thread running through each slide in the presentation, the audience gets it.  The material is easier to understand because it is easier to visually process.

Templates are a form of unity.  However, premade templates in Keynote and PowerPoint suck.  Please do not ever use a template again.  As I’ve said time and time again, start with a plain black or a plain white slide – no text boxes, no headings, no picture placeholders.  Start with a blank slate so that you can truly think like a designer.  Templates are a form of unity for those who don’t know what they’re doing.  Learn more about why you should avoid premade templates here.

Instead, create your own unique template with its own unity unlike any other presentation.

Above is an example of my new visual resume.  The unity comes from many features.  First, I went with a unified color palette: black, white, and pink.  Additionally, the presentation is unified by the use of only black and white photography, 99% of which include vintage images.  There’s also unity in the font selections; I only use two: Komika Axis and Helvetica Neue Ultra Light.  Lastly, shapes are repeated to create unity.  On each slide, you will notice two large circles – one outlined by the other.  You won’t find unity like this in Keynote or PowerPoint.  You have to do it yourself, and the only way is to think like a designer.  You can pull inspiration from everywhere, just as I pulled my color scheme inspiration from Kate Spade’s website for Spring 2012.

What kind of unity have you designed in your own presentations lately?


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