PowerPoint Design in 2009: The experts talk

PowerPoint Design in 2009: The experts talk


PowerPoint Design in 2009: Blogpost summaries

PowerPoint Design in 2009: Blogpost quotes

PowerPoint Design in 2009: Why Design Matters?

I asked a number of  experts to answer the question “What would you like to see in PowerPoint slide design in 2009”. The experts include presentation design professionals, academic researchers and authors. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order of their first names:

Cliff AtkinsonCliff Atkinson

Author of  Beyond Bullet Points.

“The fundamental research results remain as true in 2009 as in 2008 – removing extraneous information from a screen actually increases learning. So what’s a good New Year’s Resolution for presenters?   Think of the screen as a filmmakers canvas, your words as the engaging narration, and your handouts as the repository for detailed information.”

Guy KawasakiGuy Kawasaki

Author of 9 books (latest is Reality Check), venture capitalist, frequent commenter on PowerPoint/Keynote.

“The one word PowerPoint slides that you click as if you’re reading a sentence one word at a time are a waste to me. I think PowerPoint slides should have at least 4-5 words.”


Credit: Rikk Flohr

Julie Terberg

Co-author of Perfect Medical Presentations, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional.

“I’d really like to see more presentations that are designed as a whole. No more Frankenstein-esque, pieced-together, freak shows where the presenter pulled slides from old shows and simply edited text – or worse, added more text. I’d like to see more graphic designers involved in developing presentations!

I would like to see more well-rehearsed presenters, using clear, uncluttered presentation visuals that have been created expressly to help their audience understand and remember key points.

I’d like to see many more companies give presentations as much effort and consideration as they do their annual reports, corporate web sites, and other marketing materials.”

michaelheadshot1_bw_smallMichael Alley

Associate Professor of Engineering Communication at Penn State University, author of The Craft of Scientific Presentations and the paper Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides: The Assertion-Evidence Structure.

“What I would like to see in PowerPoint slide design for 2009 is as follows:

1. Fewer slides and more blank screens (slides should be projected only when they serve the presentation).

2. Fewer words on each slide (ideally one sentence headline, no more than two lines, that states the assertion of the slide).

3.  Graphics rather than bullet lists to support the headline.

4. Selection of a single light or dark color for the slide background as opposed to Microsoft’s distracting decorations.”

nancyduarteNancy Duarte

Principal of Duarte Design (designed slides for An Inconvenient Truth), author of Slide:ology

“1. New visual benchmarks for solving complex communication problems. Large photos and sparse text are getting quickly adopted which is great. But they only work for keynotes and marketing. So what about the physicians, scientists and engineers? Best practices for these folks should arrive on the scene in 2009.

2. Corporations that flush bad PowerPoint and design their stories well will see their stock price increase: This is the year where we’ll start to see some companies hit a tipping point. The ratio of good to bad PowerPoint will tip towards good and their company value will be clearly seen by customers, employees and investors.

3. Presenters will begin to feel the pressure: Status quo isn’t good anymore. Presenters will begin to feel audiences demand quality communication. There’ll be heckling and protesting from the audience when the presenter doesn’t design their visuals well or rehearse their material.

4. PowerPoint will become a rich multimedia environment: This one’s a bit of a crap shoot, but wouldn’t it be great if PowerPoint could provide a simple media-editing and management system that had nice playback and actually worked each time?

5. PowerPoint will be used by the new President: Obama seems to embrace technology, so he just might embrace PowerPoint. If he does, he’s smart enough to do it right. Oh dread the day we take a big step backwards by having politicians confuse us even more by utilizing this medium.”

mayer_021Richard Mayer

Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Author of more than 390 publications including 23 books, including Multimedia Learning.

“The most important change in the way that people use PowerPoint is to base the design of PowerPoint messages on evidence-based principles.

In my book, Multimedia Learning: Second Edition (Cambridge University Press, 2009), I describe 12 principles for how to design effective multimedia messages (including PowerPoint messages) based on dozens of rigorous experiments. Other evidence-based principles can be found in The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and in e-Learning and the Science of Instruction (Pfeiffer, 2008).

It is important to view PowerPoint as a medium that can used with effective or ineffective instructional methods. PowerPoint per se does not cause learning, but rather the instructional method you use for presenting material via PowerPoint is what causes learning. For the past 20 years, my colleagues and I at the University of California, Santa Barbara have been conducting scientifically rigorous experiments aimed at determining what works with multimedia presentations. My hope for the future is that the results of this research can be used to improve the effectiveness of PowerPoint messages.”

sethportraitSeth Godin

Best-selling author (latest is Tribes),  entrepreneur and agent of change.

[Note from Olivia: This comment is in direct response to the post from Laura Bergells that was the catalyst for this project.]

“Simple: she’s wrong. As the first person to speak up and out about single ideas/images and death to bullets, I take this one personally. Resist temptation. Do not backslide!”


  1. PowerPoint Design in 2009: Does Design Matter? : Speaking about Presenting - [...] e-mail contributions that I received quoted in full. These are from Cliff Atkinson, Guy Kawasaki, Julie Terberg, Michael [...]
  2. Creating slides for technical presentations « Real. Smart. Now. - [...] in my duty to you. Around PowerPoint, anyway. I’ve done you a disservice. And it’s this comment by Nancy…
  3. PowerPoint Design in 2009: Most promising new technology : Speaking about Presenting - [...] e-mail contributions that I received quoted in full. These are from Cliff Atkinson, Guy Kawasaki, Julie Terberg, Michael [...]

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