Slide Makeover: Example Edits Using 3 Simple Visual Design Concepts


A few months ago, the Junior League of Greater Orlando held its Fall Provisional Retreat.  The goal of the Saturday event was to introduce new recruits to the League’s mission, history, structure, and each other.  The Vice President of Active Membership is in charge of the Admissions/Provisional Mentor program, the team that hosts the Provisional Retreat, and this year, the VP asked me to put a video in her PowerPoint presentation.  Being a PowerPoint fantastic obsessed with turning death-by-bulletpoint into slides that are truly visual, I asked the VP if I could redo her entire slideshow.  She graciously agreed, and with just two hours of work following three simple steps, the PowerPoint underwent an extreme slide makeover.

Here are the original slides:

Bullets, clip art, confusing charts, and the required JLGO template… Oh, my!

First, I applied the picture superiority effect.  Chiara Ojeda of Tweak Your Slides recently wrote an article called “Does Visual Really Matter?” Chiara discusses the picture superiority effect, and I love this video she found explaining the concept in 30 seconds:


Here is one example of Slide #6’s “before” and “after” its makeover applying the picture superiority effect:

As you can see, I divided each bullet point into its own separate slide.  This follows the “one main idea per slide” rule of visual design.  The rule of thumb is that if you have six bullets on one slide, you should give each bullet its own slide.  Your audience can stay with you as you cover each “bullet” (each main idea), and they won’t read ahead.  That ensures your audience will stay with you, and your visual design will support your presentation as opposed to distract and detract from your message.

It’s tough sometimes to work with companies and corporations that have branding standards because they require certain elements in certain places on a template.  For example, the template here required the red and white framing, the JLGO logo on the bottom right-hand corner, and the use of the Arial font only.  I tried to work my way around these restrictions, as the “template” here naturally leads to ineffective slides.

Let’s take this confusing “chart” as another example of what needs revising:

People cannot understand this slide, and this confusion leads to the third important rule of slide design: the three-second rule of glance media.  An audience should be able to process your slide in three seconds because it is glance media – not a document.  A book is a document.  A handout is a document.  Slides are a visual medium like a billboard or a magazine ad.

So what did I do to revise this confusing mess of a slide?  I made each element its own slide, applying concepts 1, 2, and 3.  Keep in mind that a slideshow is linear, so no arrows were necessary because of the use of the year combined with the image of what happened that year.

In all, I turned the 8-slide original death-by-PowerPoint into 28 slides applying the three basic visual design concepts covered here: the picture superiority effect, one main idea per slide, and the three-second rule of glance media.  It took me just as long to create those 28 slides as it took to make the original 8-slide creation… How do I know?  I asked.  For those who are curious, it took two hours for the original and two hours for the revision.

Now, there are still problems with the revisions.  Obviously, the template kills me.  Why do I have to show the red and white framing on each slide?  Why can’t I just cover it up and make the entire picture or image the background of the slide?  Why does a logo have to exist on the bottom right-hand corner of each slide?  Garr Reynolds explains the ineffectiveness of this often-used technique in “Who says we need our logo on every slide?”  Studying and learning from our slide design masters, such as Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte, can help us update templates so that we maximize their effectiveness.  Perfect?  No.  Significantly better?  Yes!

What are your steps to revising a deck of terrible slides?


3 thoughts on “Slide Makeover: Example Edits Using 3 Simple Visual Design Concepts

  1. This was a helpful article. The “diagnosis” and the “cure” are both helpful to read. I think a number of us don’t have the luxury of creating-from-scratch as much as we have to breathe life into existing presentations..

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