Most presentation decks look awful, and no one knows what to do with that fact.

We’ve had Powerpoint now for almost two decades (?) and most of us still don’t know how to make clean, simple, well-designed presentations. Even one of the world’s richest men apparently can’t pay someone to get it right for him:

No offense, Bill Gates. Now please don’t forget to write me into your will.

One of the things that annoys me most about slides is backgrounds.

If you mix complex, multicolored photos with a solid-color (even a white) background, you’re going to get a presentation slide that feels both naked and garish – and that few people want to look at for long.

Here’s what I mean:

Doesn’t that just make you feel gross? And it’s not even the worst example of background mishandling. Imagine adding a couple of photos and clip art, and you have the average presentation.

Now try this:

  1. Pick one photo. Eliminate all the rest.
  2. Blow up the photo to full size, then arrange your layers on each slide to send the image(s) to the back.
  3. If I plan to overlay text, adjust the brightness of the background down to a range between -50% and -70% to get a tone that blends well with white text.
  4. Add text in white.

Voila.

Not bad, right? For minimal work, you’ve eliminated the eyesore of white space and contrasting colors. You make it easier to focus on either the text or the image, rather than both at the same time.

You’ve made things better by making them simpler for your viewer and for yourself.

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