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You can make them with Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, or another program. Slideshows are a reality of the working world. Sooner or later you’ll run into one. You might even have to make one yourself.
If you’ve never made a slideshow before, you might be sweating bullets. How are you, a novice designer, going to put together a professional presentation when asked?
Well, here are some common design mistakes that you should always avoid.
1. Never Use Comic Sans
If you run in design circles, or you have a graphic designer for a friend, you’ll know where we’re going with this. The “Comic Sans” typeface is a meme and a joke.
It is often the default presentation font of those who don’t know its history. The legacy of Comic Sans as one of the most hated typefaces is long and sordid. Simon Garfield, writing for the BBC some time ago, broke it down well:
But why, more than any other font, has Comic Sans inspired so much revulsion?
Partly because its ubiquity has led to such misuse (or at least to uses far being its original intentions). And partly because it is so irritably simple, so apparently written by a small child.
For a full rundown, read the article that’s linked above. The short answer is this: while some of the hatred towards it is overblown and it does have its purposes, Comic Sans was never designed for work. You need to use something else if you want your work taken seriously.
2. Avoid Cursive Script
On top of never using comic sans in your slideshows, you should avoid using cursive typefaces, too.
While cursive writing can make for a beautiful design element in moderation, it can be difficult to read from far away. This is especially true if your slideshow is animated or there is a low color contrast between your typeface and your background elements.
Most people have issues seeing cursive fonts from far away, and that’s simply because they’re not very legible. When you’re presenting your slideshow, you want people focusing on your content and what you’re trying to sell. You don’t want them squinting in an attempt to understand what you’re showing.
So what typefaces can you use, if you can’t touch Comic Sans or a cursive script?
Try sticking to sans serif typefaces: they’re simple to read, modern, and professional. If you’re unfamiliar with what “sans serif” means, check out our explanation on the most important typography terms.
3. Never Use an Image That You Don’t Have Permission to Use
One thing that we warn people about on this site is to make sure that you have permission to use the images that you’re using.
If you’re not a photographer or a designer, you might be tempted to grab the first pictures you find on Google. If you don’t have permission to use these images, however—and you’re putting them in a slideshow that is work-related—you can get in trouble. The copyright kind of trouble.
If you’re using Google Slides, Google even warns you to follow proper licensing agreements when you use their “Search the web” function. So you have no excuse. Trust me, running afoul of this is something you’ll want to avoid.
If you can’t take your own photographs, never fear. Here’s a list of sites that host free, high-resolution stock images.
4. Never Enlarge Pixel-Based Images
Have you ever sat through a presentation where a slide pops up and the picture on it looks kind of… fuzzy? This is because a pixel-based image has been “stretched out” past its maximum dimensions. It looks blurry and unprofessional as a result.
While slideshows can be enlarged on a screen through a projector, when you import a pixel-based image into your slideshow it will be a certain size. If you grab one of its corners to stretch it out to fit the page, for example, it will turn fuzzy and lose details.
If your picture is too small to use it in your slideshow, consider using another.
5. Don’t Place Your Text in a Random Order
It makes sense not to include too much text in your slideshow, but what about where you place the text? Turns out you have to worry about that too. If your writing is all over the place, regardless of how much or how little there is, people will have a hard time following it.
When placing your text, try to follow the normal reading pattern of the eye. If you don’t, people can falter while reading. This will be made worse by the fact that your slideshow is transitioning, or moving, from page-to-page.
6. Don’t Ignore the Importance of “Theme”
Having a cohesive look to your slideshow can go a long way in selling your product. You want things to be sleek and pleasing to the eye.
The best way to put your audience at ease through these visuals is by having a nicely thought out “theme”, or design package.
Themes are usually pre-made designs consisting of matching typefaces, colors and elements that can be repeated throughout your work. They look good together, and when combined these elements will help to create a certain mood or feeling—think “playful,” “calming,” or “serious”.
Without a theme, different pictures and elements won’t match. Your slideshow can look like it was hastily slapped together at last minute. If you’re given the option to use a theme, don’t discount it.
Be purposeful about the type of theme that you use, however. If you use the wrong style for the product that you’re talking about, it can be equally jarring.
Follow a Presentation’s Do’s and Don’ts
Let’s spell out the do’s and don’ts again:
- Never use Comic Sans.
- Avoid cursive script.
- Never use an image without permission.
- Never enlarge pixel based images.
- Don’t place your text in random order.
- Don’t ignore the importance of a theme.
These are some of the most common design mistakes that you’ll find in a slideshow, and you should try to avoid them whenever you can.
Design isn’t the only area of a presentation that you have to worry about, however. Your content and how to talk about your slideshow matters, too.
Check out our list of the most common mistakes that people make in their PowerPoint presentations.