It’s always a challenge to create a presentation with a consistent look. It can be so easy to get too creative and overwhelm your students with an overly designed slide deck. But the last thing you want to do is confuse your students with different design styles, colours, font and images.
The best way to tackle this problem is to create a style guide. A style guide is simply a document that outlines all of the design decisions you have made for your eLearning presentation. Having a consistent approach to your design will create a more professional looking slide presentation for your webinar or eLearning course.
Creating a Visual Identity
As you build the visual identity for you presentation it can help to think of yourself as a brand, especially if you are creating a series of courses, or the course is closely aligned to your business. Many instructors creating their first course haven’t even begun to think of themselves as having a business identity, but you should. Your brand or business identity informs how your audience will perceive you. Through your design you can inform your students about how you want them to relate to you and your content.
What program should you use to create your style guide?
A style guide doesn’t have to be a complicated document. You can create it right in your slide presentation software. Whether you use PowerPoint, Keynote or Google Slides start with a blank slide and start developing a visual identity for your eLearning presentation.
What should you include in your Style Guide?
A simple style guide needs to address:
- Colour palette
Making your design decisions
As you make your design decisions consider these questions:
- Who is your student?
- What is your industry?
- What type of personality do you have as an instructor?
- What is the content of your course?
Answering these questions will help point you toward a specific look or design style. Establishing a visual identify you can carry into your student recruitment strategies.
Style Guide Tips
Choose appropriate fonts
There are lots of fonts available to choose from, many free and inexpensive. Fonts can say so much about you and your content. It sounds odd to say it, but choose a font that supports your content. Be sure it’s easy for your students to read. You never want to sacrifice legibility for a fancy display font.
Fonts also have a personality and you can communicate emotions and feelings through different types of fonts. Is your persona as an instructor playful or serious; is your content discussing compliance issues or practicing soft skills like communication.
Select no more than two fonts to use in your presentation. Use one font for your headings and one for the body of your text. Establish a standard font size for main headings, sub headings, body text and references. Keep in mind you do not want to size your body text at less than 24 pts. Picking a font pair is not an easy task for non-designers. Here’s a font pairing tool for non-designers that uses free Google Fonts. http://fontpair.co/
Apply a colour scheme and be consistent in using it throughout your presentation
Colour can also set the tone for your presentation. At first, it may seem easy to pick out a few colours that will work, but once you start combining them together you may find your first choices are not quite working as well as you had hoped. It’s not always easy to come up with a unique colour scheme.
The colour scheme you create will be used for text, background, shapes, charts and illustrations. You want to be consistent in using colours throughout your presentation. Before you start creating your own colour palette look at the pre-set colour themes installed in your slide software. You may find something that will work for your presentation.
If you are ready to create your own colour palette try using Coolors. This free online tool allows you to build colour schemes based on the theory of colour. https://coolors.co/18206f-17255a-f5e2c8-d88373-bd1e1e
Select and use a set of icons
Icons communicate concepts simply and can communicate faster than words. They will help your students recognize processes, themes, and the context of the content presented enhancing their comprehension. You can use them as bullets, in your navigation, categorizing information or simply to enhance explanations.
There are many different styles of icons and you’ll want to resist the temptation to mix and match icons. Consistency in the style and use of your icons throughout your presentation will ensure your icons do not overpower your content. Poor icon choice can be a distraction. As with your fonts and colours, it’s your content that remains the most important focus of your presentation.
You can create your own icons right in PowerPoint or download a set from many of the available online resources. The Noun Project is a great place to start your search. https://thenounproject.com/
At some point in your presentation you’ll want to use shapes to create illustrations, diagrams and charts but you do not want to clutter your slides with unnecessary shapes and 3D effects. Just like selecting your font and colour palette, you want to be consistent with how your shapes look throughout your presentation. You don’t want to switch between flat, shadows, or 3D renditions of your shapes. Pick one style and use it throughout your slide deck.
Using photos and images
Select images or photos similar in their look and feel and reflect the content of your presentation. They should feel part of a group and not randomly downloaded from around the internet. Avoid mixing drawings, cartoons, and photography together in your presentations. Choose one style and look for a few examples to include in your style guide. The best aligned photos are the ones you take yourself but there are many websites where you can purchase or download free and paid images. It may be easy to google images and download what you find, but you never want to download an image from google without knowing the original source and reading the licence agreement. Because an image can be found on the internet doesn’t mean it is freely available for you to use in your course. One of the free marketplaces I’ve used is Unsplash or Life of Pix http://www.lifeofpix.com/. Search and find the ones that have images aligned to your topic area, and be sure to check the licence agreement.
If your business has a logo you will want to use it. In your style guide, decide where you will place the logo on your slide and be consistent. That being said, it’s not really necessary to have your logo on every slide. It’s taking up valuable space on your slide and it’s not contributing to your course content. The most appropriate place to place your logo is at the beginning of your presentation. After the introduction your students know who you are, you don’t need to keep telling them.
A word about copyright
Finding fonts and images with the appropriate copyright can be tricky. Be sure you use websites that have clear licensing information and follow the terms and conditions of using the resources you’ve selected.