Make Complex Graphics Easy to Understand (Part 2 of 2)

Rendering complex slides or graphics in PowerPoint can be challenging. In my previous article (Part 1), we learned how to conceptualize (visualize) complex content using three methods:

  1. Get to the Point
  2. Chunk It
  3. Connect the Dots

Now it’s time to turn this concept …

… into this final slide.


The following three steps show how I rendered this graphic.

Step 1: Template

Access your Slide Master by going to your View tab and selecting Slide Master. Within Slide Master, I created this template layout using basic shapes and lines.

When possible, insert your logo as vector art because it is resolution independent and you can scale it without losing quality when printed or projected. I recommend these vector file types: EMF, WMF, and SVG (for the latest version of PowerPoint).

Step 2: Peg Blocks

To make the Peg blocks, follow these step-by-step instructions.

Download this PowerPoint tutorial:

Alternatively, you can add depth using PowerPoint 3-D effects. For this exercise, I manually added the 3-D effects to give me optimal control over color and angles.

Duplicate the left peg block then select Flip Vertical to create the right block. To make the center block, remove the connectors and draw a Trapezoid shape for the bottom (to give it the 3-D effect with the proper perspective).

Step 3: Icons

Use the following step-by-step instructions to make the Lower Cost, Speed Delivery, and Lower Risk symbols.

Download this PowerPoint tutorial:

The remaining elements are standard PowerPoint shapes and text blocks. For the arrow, draw an Up Arrow (under Insert/Shapes). Use the Reshape node to transform the traditional arrow shape into one without an arrowhead. Apply the color or gradient of your choice.

Finally, add supporting shapes (e.g., nested rectangles) and text as needed. To add text, go to the Home tab and select the Text box tool to draw one on your slide. Enter your text then scale and position it for optimal legibility.

Clear, compelling communication is a critical success factor in any presentation. Use the three methods—Get to the Point, Chunk It, and Connect the Dots—along with these rendering techniques to improve the quality of your content and aesthetics. When you do, future graphics will be easy to understand and more impactful.

Download a copy of the PowerPoint tutorials here:

Mike Parkinson (Microsoft MVP and APMP Fellow) is an internationally recognized visual communication and presentation expert, professional speaker, and award-winning author. Mike is one of 16 Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs in the United States. He regularly conducts workshops and creates graphics, presentations, and learning materials for companies like Microsoft, FedEx, Xerox, Dell, and Boeing as well as at learning institutions and organizations.

Mike owns both 24 Hour Company ( and Billion Dollar Graphics ( He authored a popular Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics book and is completing his latest book on PowerPoint for Educators. You can reach Mike at




rofessional speaker, and award-winning author. Mike is one of 16 Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs in the United States. He regularly conducts workshops and creates graphics, presentations, and learning materials for companies like Microsoft, FedEx, Xerox, Dell, and Boeing as well as at learning institutions and organizations.


Mike owns both 24 Hour Company ( and Billion Dollar Graphics ( He authored a popular Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics book and is completing his latest book on PowerPoint for educators. Contact Mike at now to learn more about how he can help you hit your goals.





Make Complex Graphics Easy to Understand (Part 1 of 2)

Most complex presentations do not need complex graphics. Clear, easy-to-follow content improves understanding, recollection, and adoption. The KISS—Keep It Simple Silly—rule applies to all forms of communication.

However, there are times when illustrating complexity is required. For example, you may want to show that the information or solution you are presenting is complex and, therefore, requires specific experience or expertise to complete. For other presentations, you may have a mixed audience of technical and strategic thinkers.

A complex solution does not need to be confusing. It should be clear, concise, organized, ordered, and easy to understand. Albert Einstein once stated, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Because the confused mind says no, a complex graphic must quickly and clearly communicate the main point (the message). It is our job as presentation professionals to help the audience understand the content.

The following are three methods I use when making a complex slide graphic:
1. Get to the Point
2. Chunk It
3. Connect the Dots

Get to the Point

Summarize your graphic with one, concise message (i.e., headline or takeaway). The main point should be obvious. It should give your audience a reason to care. Provide them with a benefit. Make them want to spend time reviewing your graphic. If the main message is that your solution saves money, speeds delivery and lowers risk, the graphic should clearly show this. It must be blindingly obvious. Never bury the main point. Highlight it through aesthetic choices such as icons, symbols, size, style, color, and positioning.

Chunk It
Chunking breaks complex content into bite-sized, digestible morsels. Group and label similar elements to avoid confusion. For example, arrange your approach into a timeline. Drawing a box around each phase chunks those activities and clarifies when they occur, making the content more approachable. (You are grouping solution elements into labeled “buckets” of information.)

The reason most complex graphics fail is because they are created by the author for the author. They apply their knowledge of the subject to make assumptions about the audience’s proficiency—and often these assumptions are wrong. Instead, see it from your audience’s perspective and how they relate to the subject. Group your content hierarchically. Use labels and titles to categorize similar elements.

Connect the Dots

Prove that you can deliver to the audience your stated benefit by connecting the solution elements to the promised outcomes. For example, use symbols to flag those tools, people, or processes (solution elements) that are responsible for delivering the results (e.g., saving money, speedy delivery and/or lowering risk).

I recommend sketching your ideas before rendering a graphic. Sketches increase objectivity when evaluating your message and method for communicating it because simple drawings are judged more on content than appearance. Rendered graphics are judged by aesthetics before the associated message and method

The following sketch is an example of how I used these three methods to showcase a benefit to my audience.

After your concept is approved, render your graphic in your tool of choice. The following slide was created in PowerPoint. (In my next article, I will share how I made this graphic.)

Clear, compelling communication is a critical success factor. The three methods—Get to the Point, Chunk It, and Connect the Dots—work together to improve communication quality and your win rate. Use them when creating your next complex graphic to deliver a better presentation.

About Mike Parkinson (Microsoft MVP and APMP Fellow):

He is an internationally recognized visual communication and presentation expert, professional speaker, and award-winning author. Mike is one of 16 Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs in the United States. He regularly conducts workshops and creates graphics, presentations, and learning materials for companies like Microsoft, FedEx, Xerox, Dell, and Boeing as well as at learning institutions and organizations.

Mike owns both 24 Hour Company ( and Billion Dollar Graphics ( He authored a popular Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics book and is completing his latest book on PowerPoint for educators. Contact Mike at now to learn more about how he can help you hit your goals.

[Video] Dishing on Presentations with Adam Tratt, Haiku Deck

In this month’s “Dishing with Presentations” interview, we chatted with Haiku Deck co-founder, Adam Tratt. Adam is an entrepreneurHaiku Deck logo with start-up experience and as a consultant with the Microsoft Office team. Haiku Deck is a free app that makes presentations simple, beautiful, and fun.

10 Tips to Transform Your Presentations – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

Adam shared his insights on how all things presentations and the presentation industry trends he expects to see in the next five years. The growing applications using Artificial Intelligence (AI) has impacted their product plans.  Haiku Deck Zuru is a powerful new application that uses artificial intelligence to instantly transform your ideas into beautiful presentations. Haiku Deck Zuru beta is available exclusively for Haiku Deck Pro subscribers.

Haiku Deck has set up a special price just for PXpert readers.  You can get a 15% discount on a yearly subscription.  Just go to their website.  Use the code MPC15.




Sharyn Fitzpatrick
Editor, PresentationXpert

NEWS: Prezi Announces Acquisition of Infogram


It has been a busy month for Prezi, the visual presentation platform that helps people connect more powerfully with their audiences and customers. They just acquired Infogram, a leading, web-based data visualization company as their first wholly-owned subsidiary. Infogram specializes in charts and infographics for customers who need to quickly and effectively convey complex ideas. This is Prezi’s first acquisition and financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“Prezi was inspired to unite with Infogram because of our shared mission to help people make better decisions by providing more effective tools for visual communication,” said Peter Arvai, Prezi’s CEO and co-founder. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the data that backs it up makes it credible. And without a story, data falls flat in effectiveness.”


“Joining forces with Prezi means our mission to bring beautiful and informative infographics and other data visualization technologies to more users will happen even faster,” said Mikko Järvenpää, Infogram’s CEO. “With Prezi, we will continue our work as a world leader in data visualization to create more powerful, delightful and useful products than ever before.”

Founded in 2012 and based in Latvia, Infogram has exploded in popularity and emerged as an innovator in the area of data visualization and has over 3 million users, who have created over 5 million charts and infographics that have been viewed over 1.5 billion times. Infogram conveniently offers multiple data import options. Users can create a variety of charts, maps, and infographics by simply uploading a file, connecting to various cloud services, or taking advantage of Infogram’s API.

Infogram has been adopted by a wide variety of customers, including media companies, key businesses, and educational institutions. Infogram is also the most successful startup that has originated from Latvia–just as Prezi is the most successful startup that incubated in Hungary and bridged that success to create a global company with offices in San Francisco, Budapest and Mexico City.

What’s Next?

Infogram will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Prezi and will remain in Latvia. Prezi will continue to invest in research and development of Infogram and will create a Data Visualization Center of Excellence in Latvia.

To view the original version on PR Newswire, click here.

NEW: Microsoft’s Presentation Translator Translates Presentations in Real Time

Creativity and ingenuity have fostered some great ideas that drive our lives today. Microsoft continues to challenge its community to find innovative applications for its products. At the recent Microsoft Build 2017 conference, the focus was on using Microsoft AI to “amplify human ingenuity”. Harry Shum, Executive Vice President, Microsoft AI and Research spoke to the audience about how the ever-changing landscape of technology innovation. He said, “Thanks to the convergence of three major forces — increased computing power in the cloud, powerful algorithms that run on deep neural networks and access to massive amounts of data — we’re finally able to realize the dream of AI.”

What is inspiring about Microsoft’s approach to AI is how easy they have made it for all levels of technical skills from that experienced designer to students in a classroom. Fostering innovation is one of the cornerstones of Microsoft’s out-of-the-box projects coming from “The Garage”, an internal resource that supports and encourages problem-solving in new and innovative ways. This is a worldwide initiative with a community of thousands of employees who push the envelope of technology, creating new and exciting solutions to every-day problems. A robust product management process and team back it.

One of the most exciting new releases is an Office add-in for PowerPoint – Presentation Translator. Using Microsoft’s Translation API for real-time translation in multiple languages during any PowerPoint presentation, presenters can display translated subtitles in one of more than 60+ supported text languages as they speak. Additionally, up to 100 audience members in the room can follow along with the presentation in their own language, and on their own phone, tablet, or computer.

Key Features

  • Real-time subtitling: Speak in any of the 10 supported speech languages – Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish – and subtitle into any one of the 60+ text translation languages.
  • Customized speech recognition:  The accuracy of speech to text and then, the translation of the content is critical for the add-in to be effective.  Using Microsoft Cognitive Services’ Custom Speech Service,  the add-in will use the content of both your slides and your notes to learn any jargon, technical terms, names of people and places, or acronyms you may be using in your presentation so that they appear correctly for the audience. It also transcribes audio streams into text suitable for display to a user. Transcription includes adding appropriate capitalization and punctuation, masking profanity, and normalizing text.
  • Translate PowerPoint Text: Translate the text of PowerPoint while preserving the original formatting, including translation between left-to-right and right-to-left languages
  • Audience Participation: Share a QR or five letter conversation code and your audience can follow along with your presentation, on their own device, in their chosen language.
  • Open up to multi-language Q+A: Unmute the audience to allow questions in any of the supported languages (10 for spoken questions, 60+ for written ones)
  • Inclusivity through Accessibility: Give the deaf and hard-of-hearing the opportunity to join the presentation without the need for a physical interpreter with closed captions.

Powered by Microsoft Translator live feature, the audience can use their own device to follow what the presenter says, translated into their own language.

Which languages are supported with Presentation Translator?

In its current iteration, the service supports Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. While the focus here is on translation, you also could use the same service to caption a presentation for audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The list of supported speech recognition (presenter) languages and translation (subtitle, slides translations and personal device real-time translations) languages include:

Afrikaans Filipino Klingon (plqaD) Serbian (Cyrillic)
Arabic Finnish Korean Serbian (Latin)
Bangla French Latvian Slovak
Bosnian (Latin) German Lithuanian Slovenian
Bulgarian Greek Malagasy Spanish
Cantonese (Traditional) Haitian Creole Malay Swedish
Catalan Hebrew Maltese Tahitian
Chinese Simplified Hindi Norwegian Thai
Chinese Traditional Hmong Daw Persian Tongan
Croatian Hungarian Polish Turkish
Czech Indonesian Portuguese Ukrainian
Danish Italian Queretaro Otomi Urdu
Dutch Japanese Romanian Vietnamese
English Kiswahili Russian Welsh
Estonian Klingon Samoan Yucatec Maya
Other Language Lists:

To learn more about  the other language lists – Conversation (speech) Translation, Neural Network (NN) Powered Languages, and all-text translations – click here


Presentation Translator opens communication channels to wider audiences where joining the conversation is possible, regardless of their language. If you travel abroad for work and need to present to local country audiences, this could change the way you communicate. Breaking that language barrier enables everyone to hear your message and understand it in their language, whether it is your content or just instructions on how to participate. You make that connection with your audience in their language which makes them more comfortable. In today’s world, our diverse audiences are multi-lingual and having the option to share the content in multiple languages at the same time is a key for our future.

We can’t wait to see what’s next!

Prezi Launches “Prezi Next”, Offering Real-Time Audience Feedback and Analytics for Presentations

Did you know that 90% of the information we take in comes to us through our eyes¹?  The growing demand to add visual storytelling and engaging interactivity to the presentation experience has triggered innovation and focus in the presentation industry over the last year. Capitalizing on insights from their 85 million users, Prezi has created a groundbreaking, interactive, and robust next-gen visual presentation platform with the launch of Prezi Next.

According to Peter Arvai, CEO and co-founder of Prezi², these insights drove the creation of Prezi Next, so presentations will be “transformed from a typical ‘one-way’ dialogue to an interactive conversation that supports immersive storytelling.” “Prezi Next also sets the foundation for us to adopt, support, and implement emerging and future technologies, such as the augmented reality preview we’re sharing at TED 2017,” he continued.

Building on the storytelling elements of the original Prezi product, the new product offers a more flexible intuitive editor with customizable designer templates and an interactive format which lets presenters move freely between topics and adapt on the fly, without having to flip through slides. Through this approach, called “conversational presenting,” presenters can focus on what interests their audiences most, a method that is proven to be more engaging and effective.

Role of Analytics

Understanding how your sales targets interact with your content is a key indicator of how to personalize their experience all the way through the sales funnel. Previously only available to teams, this feature enables you to polish your presentation based on real-time analytics. Personalization is the key to success in demand-gen so using this tool will enable you to tailor your presentation to what is most important to your target and drive more defined and effective sales funnel.

In their knowledge base online, they have great tutorials on analytics including viewing a presentation’s statistical data, page view summary, breakdown by viewer, and editing a link’s analytics.

What’s New in Prezi Next?

It is built on the latest HTML5 technologies and includes the following features to help users more easily create, present, and analyze their presentations.

For creation:
  • A new editor: Prezi Next is built on a completely new editor, which is easier and more intuitive to use, and enables customers to create presentations more quickly.
  • “Smart Structures”: To help users more easily structure, modify, and move information in their presentations, Smart Structures allow you to easily expand on your messages to show context. Information containers behave in a smart way and make it easy to expand your content with one click.
  • Designer templates: Prezi Next includes 100 new designer templates that can be easily customized to fit any brand or topic. Even new users can quickly create professional-quality presentations that set them apart and make them more memorable.
For presenting:
  • Conversational Presenting: Through a new dynamic, flexible format, users can more easily navigate a presentation from point A to point Z, or go straight to point M, without flipping through slides.
  • Zoom Reveal function: Allows presenters to tell their story and reveal information as they go, adding excitement to their narratives.
  • Prezi Viewer for Android and iOS devices: Users can present anywhere at any time.
For analytics:

In the Premium package, Prezi Next includes analytics features which allow:

  • Real-time view tracking: Users can see who is viewing their presentation, and when.
  • Real-time sharing: Users can see who is sharing their presentation, and with whom.
  • Content optimization: By providing data on view times for each part of their presentation, users can see which content is resonating best with their audience, where they spend most of their time, and where they drop off.
Getting Started with Prezi Next

Learning a new or updated technology is certainly easier with a tutorial. Prezi has set up a quick start knowledge base with clear, easy-to-digest tutorials. There are seven topics including:

  • Installing and logging in
    • Supported browsers:
      • For editing: Prezi Next presentations can currently be edited using Chrome, Firefox 64 bit, and Safari 10.
      • For viewing: Presentations are best viewed with the latest versions of Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Edge, or Internet Explorer.
  • Working in your language
  • Starting a new presentation

If you want to learn more about “Conversational Presenting”, download their free eBook here.

Take the time to go check out “Prezi Next” and then take it for a test drive.  It is free to download. Prezi Next is available now worldwide. For more information on Prezi Next premium pricing, please visit

Let me know what you think of Prezi Next via email.






  1. Hyerle, D. (2009). Thinking Maps: Visual Tools for Activating Habits of Mind. In Costa, A. L. & Kallick, B.(Eds) Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind: 16 Essential Characteristics for Success (pp. 153). Retrieved from:
  2. Prezi Press Release on PR Newswire: 

[Webinar] PowerPoint Presentation Hacks for Business with Nolan Haims

Nolan Haims
Microsoft PowerPoint MVP

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
11 am PDT/ 2 pm EDT

Special Introductory Price $169


Effective and impactful presentations are integral to your job success. We use presentations to sell an idea or a product, both internally and externally. How do yours stack up? We all know the kinds of presentations we like to see: those with less text, fewer bullet points, and more visuals. And yet time pressures and habit too often lead us to break the “golden rule of presentation” when we have to create our own slides. Join presentation expert and Microsoft PowerPoint MVP Nolan Haims for a 1-hour special PresentationXpert webinar on creating better presentations through more efficient use of PowerPoint and by implementing time-tested techniques for eliminating the major causes of tiresome slide decks in the corporate world.

Nolan will show you how to:

• Work faster and more efficiently using the best unknown PowerPoint tricks & hacks
• Customize your Quick Access Toolbar to reflect your working style
• Reduce text with the “three-word challenge”
• Eliminate bullet points through “chunking”
• Avoid creating slides destined to be cut later through “bumper stickers”
• Easily create handouts by exploiting PowerPoint’s notes page design features
• Write effective headers
• Source and choose effective imagery

Managers, supervisors, graphic and PowerPoint professionals, administrative assistants, sales professionals, marketers – anyone who uses Microsoft PowerPoint and wants to save hours and save hours of productivity.

You’ll get a list of sources for imagery – both paid and royalty-free, access to Nolan’s magic list of corporate brand logos, a cheat sheet for hacks and shortcuts, and more.

With more than 20 years experience in the field of visual communications, Nolan Haims helps organizations and individuals show up differently and tell better stories with fewer words. As principal of Nolan Haims Creative, Nolan leads a team of visual design professionals dedicated to all types of visual communications including presentation, data visualization, traditional print and identity design. As a designer and art director, he has created high-end presentations, keynote addresses, and pitches for Fortune 500 CEOs, leading financial institutions, top foundations, and all the major television networks. Most recently as a Vice President and Director of Presentation for Edelman, Nolan helped the world’s largest public relations company consistently win multi-million dollar pitches by communicating more visually. Nolan trains organizations to think visually and to create and give more effective presentations. He speaks at national conferences and writes extensively on visual storytelling, including at his own site, For his continuing contributions to the presentation industry, Microsoft has designated Nolan one of only eleven PowerPoint MVPs in the U.S. As such, Nolan consults regularly with the development team on the industry standard software. In a past life, he was an award-winning magician and juggler and performed with the Moscow Circus and Vermont’s Circus Smirkus before turning to theatre. Nolan directed and wrote professionally, creating stories on stages in New York and around the country for a decade. He holds a degree in media writing and theatre from Northwestern University.

The Evolution of the Presentation Specialist Job Grows as Does Demand for Talent

The demand for presentation design experts is growing significantly as the role becomes a critical part of an organization or team. Why? First impressions can mean the difference between the success and failure of a product. Today, presentations are a critical part of how we communicate our business messages.

A text-heavy slide that is hard to read is not going to win you any business. Would you want to buy anything from someone who used any of these slides?

But, you are swamped with multiple projects and you really don’t have the best PowerPoint skills. So, what do you do? Organizations are realizing that they need to work efficiently and use their resources wisely. This is a perfect reason to work with a presentation specialist who can help your presentations be that strong visual message needed to close that deal. It can be an internal resource, often found working in marketing and sales, or an external resource.

Presentation Specialists are in high-demand both internally and externally. According to Artisan Talent Agency, there is a growing demand for high-end presentation design skills by their corporate customers. It is a job position that they have a high demand for qualified candidates. 

“What is driving this increased demand for presentation specialists?”, I asked. She explained that for their agency, it is the emergence of the infographic as a key information tool that has really been a driving factor. Health-care and consulting firms are the sectors that seem to be driving the increased reach of infographics as a messaging tool. Did you know that in the last five years, the use of infographics has increased 800% per year? Google trends research concludes the demand for mobile and visual learning are key factors to the continued growth.

End of the year financial data projects has also become a perfect project for a specialist who can create an understandable way of presenting financial and other analytics. Here is one example of a bad data slide which also happens to be one of Nolan Haim’s favorite for “Worst Chart Slide”:

Nolan Haims did a wonderful PXpert webinar on how to tell the story of your data. It doesn’t have to be hard to understand or boring. He shows us how to design charts that are both clear and beautiful. Here are two examples of how to show the story of data:

Having the ability to see the story of the data and how to present it is an important skill to have.

Who are presentation designers?

They go by many names or classifications. They are called PowerPoint experts, PowerPoint designers, Presentation Experts, Presentation Specialist and more. There is now a wonderful trade association, Presentation Guild, that is a great resource for this role. I am proud to be a member. One of my favorite descriptions of this job is theirs. Their job title is “Presentationist”.
In their 2016, Presentation Guild Salary Survey Report, they offered a great profile of a presentationist. Let me share it with you.

Another interesting detail is that 39% of the participants in the survey have “presentation” as part of their job title which is great news for the industry and a show of respect for this role.

The Salary range in the Presentation Guild report was between $51K and $75K. This is consistent with other salary surveys for this role., a job searching site, has the salary range between $43K and $69K with the national average being $57K. also offered salary ranges but at $20.70 per hour or $43.6K per year, their information seems too low.

To get more details on the information provided in the Presentation Guild Salary Survey Report, click here. It is free for members. You can join for $99 per year and get it free. Or buy it for $59. Guild membership is a worthwhile investment in yourself. It is a great resource and community.

Experts, Recruiters, and Agencies all seem to agree that a presentation specialist needs to be a good business communicator with a creative visual eye. They should be proficient in Microsoft PowerPoint and use graphic tools like Illustrator, InDesign, PhotoShop, and others. In addition to PowerPoint, presentation specialists should also be proficient in Keynote, Haiku, and/or Prezi.

Where do you fit into this world of presentations? I am curious. Email me.

The Graphic Design Industry – Where Does a Presentation Designer Fit?

In the last decade, the emergence of Presentation/PowerPoint Designer roles has skyrocketed from the darkened corner of Desktop Publishing (DTP) to the heights of keynote speeches and world-viewed presentations as well as touched on practically every design discipline in-between. The niche lovechild of DTP and Graphic Design, Presentation Design, now sits on the precipice of becoming the newest specialization in Graphic Design.

A Phenakistoscope

The history of graphic design has seen the development of three major disciplines each of which have various levels of overlap. Of the three key disciplines, the print-based design was the first and oldest. The next development was motion design with the earliest examples being the Phenakistoscope and then the animated flipbook in the early-to-mid 1800s. As the century ended, there was an explosion of interest in motion and animation design which then thrived for the next 100 years and now every time you turn on a TV, you are bombarded with motion design, everything from the intro reel of your favorite news channel to the credits at the end of a movie. The third discipline, Interactive Design, evolved broadly with the advent of computing. The user not only watched motion or looked at print, but could also interact with it by giving commands or prompts. The first broad use of interactive design was in the mid-to-late 1900s with early computer systems. As computers became more sophisticated and operating systems were designed and improved upon, the visual design became more and more important. This was the first boom in interactive design, with early operating systems leading the way. As the World Wide Web developed, this form of design branched out and exploded across the world, every website is an interactive design, every program on your computer (including PowerPoint) is an example of this design discipline. In fact, anyone reading this article either on a phone or on a computer is engaging in at least 3 levels of interactive design.

The development and emergence of these disciplines of design have been largely chronological, however, the big question that is most relevant to us today is: where does Presentation Design sit? After discussions with many people from these disciplines, there is a feeling that Presentation Design sits outside the scope of Graphic Design altogether. I’ve met many professional and highly skilled Graphic Designers across all these disciplines who will simply not touch Presentations. Why? Because there is a significant stigma associated with working within the programs available to create presentations (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.). Some blame lack of features, some blame inexperience, some blame operability, but ultimately it stems from the elitism of specialist Graphic Design software and the ‘commonness’ of Presentation Design software.

I see PowerPoint a little differently. I see it as a tool that can encompass all of these design aspects. Admittedly, there are pros and cons of using PowerPoint as a tool to produce each of these designs, however, show me a program that allows you to display on one screen your design, which encompasses the principles of print design, then seamlessly integrates animation into the design all the while allowing the end user to navigate them, or allowing a pilot to navigate an audience through a non-linear presentation based on the needs of the audience, all whilst being a program that is included in the world’s most famous productivity suite of applications and on over 500 million computers worldwide. Nearly everyone with a computer has PowerPoint. Anyone can open the program, create some slides, some bullet points and press ‘Start Slideshow’. This does not make them a Presentation Designer. The hurdle we need to overcome is not introducing Presentation Design to the world, the hurdle is to show the world what Presentation Design SHOULD be.

The good news is that a Presentation Designer is always in relatively high demand. Industry demand will only ever grow for this service as pitches and inter-business presentations become so competitive many companies are moving from ‘getting whoever knows how to use PowerPoint in the office’ to ‘getting a professional with knowledge of audience communication and best practice in designing for these circumstances’.

The big question is, will the Graphic Design industry eventually accept Presentation Design (and by extension, PowerPoint) as a new specialization? What do you think? Let’s get the conversation started.

Email me and with your thoughts.

About Tom Howell:
Tom Howell is a PowerPoint designer and the founder of Synapsis Creative, a boutique presentation design agency. Tom started his career as a designer for multiple disciplines and specialized in PowerPoint 10 years ago, and has never looked back. With a talent for animation and interactivity, his work has been featured on Microsoft’s webinar series on PowerPoint and in multiple online magazines and articles. He regularly speaks at conferences and seminars and is a key figure for presentation design in the industry. His clients come from an array of different industries. Tom loves the challenges and successes that are achievable in PowerPoint and lives to make presentations stand out for all the right reasons.


Don’t miss my “Dishing on Presentations” conversation with Tom Howell. It is engaging and packed full of presentation wisdom from “down under”. Click  here to watch


[Video] “Dishing on Presentations” with Tom Howell

In this month’s “Dishing with Presentations” interview, we went “down under” to speak with Professional Presentation Evangelist, Tom Howell in his Synapsis Creative office in Sydney, Australia. What comes across in the conversation with our editor, Sharyn Fitzpatrick, is how much Tom is passionate about PowerPoint and all it can do for his clients and our industry. He is enthralled with what you can achieve with presentations using skills and creativity and how it continues to evolve as a creative tool for graphic designers and presentation designers. His global client list includes Microsoft, Universal Pictures, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Goldman Sachs Investment Banking, Proctor & Gamble, Nestle, and the United Nations. All of which add credibility to his successes and his wealth of knowledge and experience. He shares his insights into how to become and grow as a presentation designer. Enjoy!

Sharyn Fitzpatrick
Editor, PresentationXpert

P.S. I use Zoom to record the interview and Power Director to brand it.

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