Principles of Slide Design: White space

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Create professional slides by following our 5 simple steps to using white space in your PowerPoint slides effectively.

While we use the term ‘PowerPoint’, these design principles apply equally to any presentation software.

Most presenters don’t realize the importance of White space or Negative space in their slide design. So, they end up creating slides that look complex and cluttered. Let us start by understanding the meaning of…

Using White space in PowerPoint Slide Design:

Take a look at the following slide. We have indicated the areas of white space with red dots.

White Space in Slide Design
Source: PowerPoint Charts & Diagrams CEO Pack

White space is the unmarked space around the visual elements on a slide. The space between the text boxes, the unmarked space inside the text boxes, the space between the title and the visual element, the gutter space around the visual elements etc. –are all white spaces (even if the unmarked space is not white in color).

The white space around a group of elements unifies the visual elements. The same space between the visual elements pushes them apart and identifies them clearly.

Why leave space on your slides?

Good use of free space makes it easy for your audience to organize the information being presented in their mind and helps them to focus attention on key elements on your slides.

Without such free space your slides look cluttered and complex.

Here are 5 steps to use white space effectively in your PowerPoint slides:

Here is a messy slide, which doesn’t use good slide design principles:

Messy Slide Design Example

Let us make over the slide using these 5 steps:

1.    Keep the slide background clean

Strong backgrounds tend to make your slides look unnecessarily complex. Remove the background and see the difference it makes in the look and feel of your slides.

powerpoint slide without background

As far as possible, use a simple white background for your slides. If you want some color, use a slight gradient or floor to break the monotony.

2.    Remove the footer

Don’t be compelled to use your logo on every slide. It wastes valuable real estate on your slides. Use your logo and any other disclaimers / legal notices in the first and last slides.

See the amount of space that is freed up when we removed the footer.

Slide design without footer

3.    Remove unnecessary clipart

If an image is not ‘essential’ to explain your point, remove it. Pointless clipart not only occupies space but also hijacks the attention of your audience. See the extra space we gained by removing the unnecessary clipart images from the slide:

Slide designed minus clipart

4.      Convey one idea per slide:

Realize that it takes the same time to deliver one slide with two points or two slides with one point each. Breaking up your slides allows you enough space to convey your message with clarity.

presentation design extra white space

As a thumb rule don’t include more than ‘one idea’ per slide. This is one of the basic principles violated when slides are badly designed.

5.    Differentiate the title from the rest of the content

The title of your slide tells your audience about what to look for in the body of your slide. So, it helps to clearly differentiate the title from the rest of the content.

You may differentiate the title by using any of the following:

  • Different font type  and font size
  • Different font color
  • A background bar with a contrasting color
  • A line between the title and the body of the slide etc.

Let your title be distinct and clear.

When you follow these 5 simple slide design tips on using space in your presentation design more effectively, your slides will look clean and professional. Here is a comparison of our slide before and after applying the 5 tips:

Slide design with white space before and after example

Recommendation:

There are a number of useful articles on Slide design in this site that help you make professional slides.

You can also take a look at the PowerPoint Charts & Diagrams CEO Pack to improve the design of your slides.

750+ different ready to use, professional templates that you can copy paste into your PowerPoint slide for an instant makeover. All elements are made in PowerPoint and can be easily modified, edited, changed to suit your presentation needs. Browse the templates in the pack here

This article is part of series on Effective Slide Design. You can find the other 2 parts here:

Effective Slide Design Principle 1 : CHUNKING

Effective Slide Design Principle 2: DOMINANCE

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