Design Tip of the Day: Create Your Own Template


Earlier this week, a reader asked a great question:

“I bought into the presentation revolution concept and looking to create a series of presentations soon. I completely agree with the advice ‘don’t use a pre-loaded template,’ but I also know I need unified design elements for a cohesive look… Where are these ‘presentation revolution 2.0’ templates that leave out the worst of the old-school PPT flaws but help me as a non-designer to create a unified look?”

When you are designing a visual presentation in Keynote or PowerPoint, you definitely want to avoid selecting a premade template.  Why?  First, everyone else is using one, so you won’t be able to stand out in a positive way.  Second, those premade templates lead to death-by-PowerPoint.  Garr Reynolds explains that many people “assume that using PowerPoint […] means using it the way the Microsoft templates suggest (title, bullets, small charts and graphs, etc.) rather than as a simple digital storytelling tool that can amplify a person’s live message with full screen video clips, easy to see quantitative displays, high quality photography, good type, and so on” (Source).  In order to join the presentation revolution, we must actually stop thinking about PowerPoint the way we currently do.

So what do we do?  Where are the “Presentation Revolution” templates?  The point is, as I explained to the reader question in a follow-up email, to create your own template.  For non-designers, this is really, really hard because we’re so used to relying on Sedona, Craft, and Industrial.  Where in the world do you begin?

Most presentation designers suggest first “going analog” to brainstorm slide design ideas.  Instead of pulling up Keynote, close your computer and think about what you’re trying to convey with your slides.  Do you even need slides?  If not, distribute a handout to your audience and speak without that crutch.  If so, it’s time to think about your own template.

Let’s say that I’m giving a presentation about dogs.  I obviously don’t want to take this approach:

Instead, I want to create my own template.  I decide on black-and-white images with black and white text.  The repeated elements (all black-and-white pictures; the same font/typeface; the same color text) work together to unify each slide.  Slide 1 will flow into 2 and 3 all the way to 25.  In Keynote, I select a “black” template and remove all premade elements such as text boxes.  I am in control of my template – not Keynote.

After considering what “template” I want to create, I search for images of dogs in Compfight, the only place I use to find high-quality images.  I make sure I’m searching “all text” (not just “tags” from the image’s owner) as well as “Commercial” images (research what type of license you need to be using).


I save some great images for my slideshow and get to work applying the template I decided upon.  Click on the video below to see me work on breaking up the slideument (above) into four separate slides:


If you’re interested in going above and beyond the standard fonts in Keynote or PowerPoint, check out DaFont.  Two great resources to help you select a color palettes to unify your slides are Design Seeds and Kuler.

What is your burning presentation design question?  What can I help you with this week?


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