Designing for PowerPoint


Designers frequently assume that PowerPoint operates like a web page and they need to design in pixels. This is not the case. PowerPoint uses only physical page dimensions like inches or centimeters. While you can spec a PowerPoint page in pixel dimensions, PowerPoint converts the pixels to inches based on the screen resolution of the computer you are using. When such a deck is sent to a client, the size almost always changes because they likely are using a different screen resolution.

The old standard for PowerPoint shows was based on the 4:3 screen ratio of CRT monitors. For this aspect ratio, use a 10.0" x 7.5" (25.40 cm x 19.05 cm or 60.23 picas x 45.17 picas) page size. This prints nicely to an 11" x 8.5" page with a 0.5" margin all around.

Now that most computers use wider 16:10 or 16:9 monitors, presentations will make better use of the screen if they use the newer widescreen format that became standard starting with PowerPoint 2013 for Windows. 13.33" x 7.5" (33.86 cm x 19.05 cm or 80.28 picas x 45.17 picas) is the best page size and prints to a legal-size sheet. 10" x 5.63" (25.40 cm x 14.30 cm or 60.23 picas x 33.91 picas) is also OK and fits well on a letter-size page.

Bleeds don't exist in PowerPoint. When slides are printed, only the actual slide area is sent to the printer. To guarantee correct display of objects that meet the edge, we extend them over the slide edge by 0.01" to ensure a white line doesn't display at the slide edge. You don't have to include this in your art, it's an automatic part of our production process.

Graphic Formats

Designers must learn in school to use JPEG files for logos, even though it's nearly the worst format for this purpose. If that's not the explanation, I can't understand why this bad practice is so widespread. Here are 2 articles from our Best Practices blog. The first explains why JPEG is a poor choice, the second has the current best practice for logos in Office files:

JPEG Logos? Fail!
Best Quality Logos for Office

Always send us vector (Illustrator) files for all logos. We'll turn them into EMF files for use in PowerPoint, Word or Excel. Don't try this at work: Adobe Illustrator makes the worst EMFs on the planet. These are the advantages of EMF over JPEG:

JPEGs are great for photos. Just use them for that.

Your design files can be in almost any format, but we're geared to work with InDesign or Illustrator. We can still use Quark XPress files. If you designed it in PhotoShop or PowerPoint, send that file. We can make it work. We're completely cross-platform, so macOS or Windows originals are both good.

Slide Layouts

All modern versions of PowerPoint makes extensive use of inheritance (CSS also uses this concept, where one style can be based on another). Slide layouts inherit information from the slide master. Then slides inherit from their slide layout. A classic catastrophe occurs when artists don't get this concept and delete all or most of the slide layouts. Then the slide can't inherit information from the master, because the inheritance conduit is gone. This is usually not repairable: the presentation must be reconstructed from scratch.

Each different type of slide needs a layout. You might create a design that has a title plus a large photo for one slide, then a title with a large text area on the next. If the size of the text area and photo are the same, both slides can use the same layout.

On the other hand, you may have slides with a title followed by 2 photos, each separated by a small white space. This slide should use a separate layout, with the placeholders apart by exactly the design distance. Then the user doesn't have to do any layout work, they just pop in the pictures.

For a template, we analyse your design, then quote by the number of different slide layouts required. If the result is too expensive for your client, you should seriously consider simplifying the design so we can reduce the number of layouts. Expecting your client to get the same results without the slide layouts to support them means many hours of extra work for the users, with pretty bad results.

Text Styles

The closest thing that PowerPoint has to typestyles are Text Levels. Every text placeholder can have up to 9 levels of text, each with different sizes, fonts, weights and bullets or numbers. If you not creating at least three different styles for text levels, you are crimping your client's ability to vary the appearance. Consider creating bulleted and unbulleted versions of every style. Each different slide layout can have different sets of styles, if necessary.

Then, in your design, include at least 2-line samples of each level, so we can see your intended leading and space before and after. We can get very close to your intention, if you show us what your intentions are.

One of Brandwares' unique services is that we can also create 9 styles for text boxes as well as text placeholders. Often, these will be duplicates of the styles used in the placeholders, but that's up to you. Again, send design samples that show at least 2 lines of dummy copy for each style.