Slideshow Design Principles That Say “Wow”

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Someone once told me that design is a medium for persuasion and not decoration.  I never truly understood this statement nor did I ever incorporate it into the slides I created until recently.

Here are two important slide design principles that can have a huge impact on your ability to deliver a fantastic presentation as a mental health professional.  The slide images I’ve included in this post come from talks I’ve given over the years.  Hopefully, you’ll see a positive progression in my slide development based on the successful adoption of the following design principles.

Signal to Noise Ratio

In summary, this design principle looks at the ratio of relevant to irrelevant elements on a slide.  The higher the signal to noise ratio the better.  If you achieve a good level of simplicity in your design you are in essence improving your ability to convey a message to your audience.

In addition, the use of empty space is another important factor when looking at this ratio.  Contrary to popular belief, empty space has a purpose.  It gives a voice to the positive elements already in the slide.  It helps to build recognition where you have very little time to create an impression.

Here are a few examples:

Old “Objective” Slide

  • In this slide I used a lot of bullet points in order to get my message across.


New “Objective” Slide

  • I decided to update my “objective” slide by reducing the noise created when I chose to use too much text.  I hoped to gain better clarity of message through a more elegant design that leveraged more empty space.


Old “Customer Focused” Slide

  • Once again I attempted to pack as much information as possible onto this slide.


New “Customer Focused” Slide

  • In this slide I avoided bullet points and saved the content for my own delivery. I chose to use more empty space and create an intriguing message to capture the viewers attention.


Slide Balance & the Rule of Thirds

Slide balance involves a number of important design rules.  You can bring a more dynamic and engaging feel when it is used to its utmost potential.  Below are a few examples.

Old “Permission Marketing” Slide

  • In this slide I used a small photo to engage the viewer.  The balance is okay but is the message truly engaging?

New “Permission Marketing” Slide

  • A good idea when using text with images is to place the text within a larger image.  I also chose to use a picture that would bring about a stronger emotional response than my old slide.


Old “Be Remarkable” Slide

  • My overall balance is off in this slide and I created a picture collage that may have been more confusing than impactful.


New “Be Remarkable” Slide & the Rule of Thirds

  • Once again I chose to place the text within a larger image to create a cleaner and more powerful slide.  I also used empty space to emphasize the point of the slide.
  • And finally, I used an interesting rule called the rule of thirds.  This is a basic design technique that helps to add balance and higher aesthetic quality to your slides.  If you divide the slide into nine sections as indicated below you will have four intersecting lines.  These four intersecting points are areas you might want to consider placing your key images versus placing them in the center.  It creates a far more interesting and engaging slide!


There are many more tips to explore when it comes to design but these should help improve your slide development significantly.  Good luck!



  1. Dr Charles Parker  May 31, 2009

    That signal to noise ratio idea and the examples are just great – I still find myself in the old slide routine.

    Looks like you have switched from PowerPoint as well – they have a clear Mac feel – did you go to Keynote with iWork?

    Excellent material thanks, following you on twitter, and recently switched to thesis – just have to get my headline/banner in.

  2. David Diana  June 1, 2009

    I find it is always a work in progress for me but I feel I’ve made some substantial improvements in slide design recently. I have started the switch from Powerpoint to Keynote but I know I’m not talking advantage of all its feature just yet!

    And I just love Thesis as a template. You’ll certainly get a lot out of it. If you ever need someone for graphic design and WordPress customization I suggest going to Richard Powell is the one who made my site come to life and I think he is the best designer out there!

  3. David Diana  June 1, 2009

    Oops…here is the actual URL for Richard Powell:

  4. Dr Charles Parker  June 3, 2009

    Many thanks, will likely look up your friend Richard, – thanks for the tweet notification. Every time I come back here it feels like home, great job,

  5. David Diana  June 3, 2009

    Anytime Chuck. Glad you are still enjoying the site. And I’ll keep working hard to offer good resources and tips. definitely look up Richard Powell at Samedis. He’s the reason why might site is as inviting as it is. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

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