Visual Design: Slides Must Have Unity


When I learned that I would have a few very special guests attending my visual design lecture this month, I redesigned my lesson plans.  While these lessons aren’t quite Slideshare-ready yet, I would like to share them with you over the next few days.  I promise to debut the new visual design Slideshare presentation before the end of January!

The new lessons focus on teaching my students 7 key rules for effective slide design.  Read rule number one: Slides Are Not Documents; rule number two: Apply The Picture Superiority Effect; and rule number three: Slides Should Be Simple.  Today, we take a look at the fourth rule:


Unity is a basic and universal principle of design.  Kent State University’s definition of unity is simple and perfect for our application on slides:

“Unity is the relationship among the elements of a visual that helps all the elements function together. Unity gives a sense of oneness to a visual image. In other words, the words and the images work together to create meaning” (Source).  The opposite of unity is noise, chaos, and confusion.  This is why slides must be simple.

PowerPoint and Keynote often get a bad rap because they cause the user to create documents.  When we take a closer look at a template, here is what we see:


The Venetian template in Keynote does many things incorrectly.  It forces the user to focus on text as opposed to the picture superiority effect.  It asks the user to input bullet after bullet of text on the slide.  It is the quintessential document generator.

However, the template does one thing correctly: unity.  Templates are the perfect example of unity, and we can study a template to learn more about the design principle.


Kent State reminds us that unity can be achieved in a variety of ways, through a repeated shape or similar shapes; through a common pattern or background; or through the use of space (Source).  But we must learn to create unity ourselves in our presentations.  As opposed to selecting a tired, boring template such as Venetian, we can create unity in our slide decks by repeating a shape, repeating a font, or repeating a color palette on each slide.

For example, on the slide deck I created (above), you see two fonts repeated: League Gothic (all caps) and Blackjack.  You see a unified color scheme: black, white, and green.  You see that most of the images are black and white, so the look and feel of the pictures displays unity.  Lastly, a repeated circle shape is seen on the slides displaying the visual design “rules.”  The more unity you include in your slideshow, the more cohesive the presentation.