Four elements of presentation design

Good design should add to or reflect the meaning, not distract from it or obscure it. So how do we achieve this?


Derek Murray

Building presentations

Building presentations


Derek Murray

3 minutes

"Bad design is smoke. Good design is a mirror.”
–Juan-Carlos Fernandez, architect

In other words, good design should add to or reflect the meaning, not distract from it or obscure it. So how do we achieve this? Lucky for you, there are a few simple rules you can follow to make sure whatever it is you have to showcase is both attractive and efficient (and efficient because it is attractive)!

Time to get crafty

We may not all be artists, but many of us have had to put on hats we never imagined throughout the course of our careers. This could include designing presentations, posters, videos, and even websites. Whether or not you’ve had to yet, knowing what makes a design good will undoubtedly help you in the professional world.

Four elements of design

The four guiding elements of design are contrast, hierarchy, direction, and unity.

Using contrast to your advantage can help emphasize certain points and highlight distinctions. You can pull the element of contrast out of the toolbox by using contrasting shapes, contrasting colors or shades, and contrasting typography. All these can help you distinguish keywords or concepts while still providing all the information.

Meanwhile, visual hierarchy distinguishes the level of importance by where they are placed on the page or slide. For instance, a key concept may be in the middle of the slide while supporting factors can be demonstrated in smaller bubbles around the center.

This aspect of design is supported by direction. Direction communicates the order in which to process information. This element is handy when you are creating a list or breaking down steps. You can communicate an order in many different ways, like left to right, top to bottom, or even biggest to smallest.

Finally, the element of unity ties all these concepts together—literally and visually. Unity refers to the way you balance these elements on one page or throughout a presentation. 

Working together

Ultimately, the elements of design should work together in conveying the meaning of your piece of work. When implemented and balanced properly, these principles will make your message clearer, more concise, and more memorable. It will also probably be more fun making presentations now that you have some go-to ideas for making them functional and fashionable!

Who said business communication had to be boring?