Before-After: Asymetry

When arranging elements on a slide it is very common to go with a symmetrical design where all elements are placed in a symmetrical fashion such as center aligned on the slide. This is seen in the “Before” slide below. This is okay but very common and lacks impact and excitement.

Another way to arrange the elements is in an asymmetrical fashion or with asymmetrical balance. This happens when contrasting elements are arranged in such a way that the weight of the whole visual still appears balanced. This can be seen in the “After” slide below.

Assymetrical balance among elements can be an effective way to guide viewers through the design.


Before - Symmetrical Balance


After - Asymmetrical Balance

Source: Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen Design

Image Sources: Gastonmag & krits

Before – After: Fun with Type

This “Before/After” post will be a bit different than my usual ones. I have included more than one example of a “Before” and “After” pair. I did this because I felt this topic needed more examples to be really clear.

Which brings us to today’s topic; fun with type. We have all be recommended using full bleed images on our slides and I am a big advocate of that myself. But it is not always necessary to use a large image. Sometimes the point can be expressed simply with text. By being a little bit creative with the formatting of the text the result can have a significant impact.

For example we are expressing or making the point that something is big. Instead of finding an image of a large boat, an elephant, a skyscraper, a mountain or whatever else you can think of, just type the words “BIG”. Then make the text super big, maybe even bleed the text off the slide. This is shown in the “Before” and “After” below. This clearly communicates the point that we are talking about something BIG.

Not everything lends itself to this type of creative use of type. For example it is possible to write the text “small” and use a really small font-size. The problem is that no one will be able to read it and it might annoy the audience. People like to see and understand what is on the slides even if you as a presenter say the word small.

Below are the “Before” and “After” examples.

What are some examples you can think of?

Before 1:


After 1:

After - BIG

Before 2:

Before - Spacious

After 2:

After - Spacious

Before 3:

Before - Warm

After 3:

After - Warm

Before-After: Make it BIG

When designing slides always remember to design for the last row. Make sure that whatever it is you are showing on your slides is big enough to be seen from the back of the room. If you have text on your slides, make the font size big enough so that it can easily be read from the last row. There is nothing worse than being in the back of the room not being able to see what is on the slides being presented. So remember to make it BIG.


Before - Small Text


After - Big Text

Image Credit: OeilDeNuit

Before-After: Widow Word

Writing a paragraph of text, also know as typesetting a block of text, can bring some challenges. One such challenge is what is called a widow. This is a single word by itself at the end of the paragraph. This is something that should be avoided. Another challenge is with what is know as the rag. This is the shape the text makes on the non-aligned side. So if the text is left-aligned the rag is on the right. We should always look at the rag and make sure it doesn’t create a distracting shape.

Below is a “Before” showing a quote typeset with a widow word and the words “past” and “the” perhaps sticking a little bit far out.  The “After” with the same quote is typeset much better.


Before - Text Block with Widow


After - Text Block with No Widow

Before-After: Too Many Fonts

When designing a slide it is necessary to choose how many fonts or typefaces to use. The answer to the question of how many different typefaces to use in one SlideShow is typically one or two. There might be times when you need to use more, but there has to be a good reason for doing so.

Many typefaces comes with many different sizes and weights (bold, light, black etc. ). They can also be italics or condensed. This gives you a large amount of variations within one typeface. You can easily create hierarchy within your text by choosing different combinations of weights and sizes etc. and you do not need to use many different typefaces. By using fewer typefaces it is easier to create harmony within your slides and in your presentation.

Below is a “Before” that uses 3 different typefaces and the design is kind of messy. In the “After” only one typeface is used so we have nice harmony and by using different weights and sizes we can create a nice hierarchy to focus the viewer on the important parts of the message.


Before - Too many typefaces


After - Only one typeface

Before-After: Kerning

Kerning is a term used in typography and refers to the spacing between letters. It is different from tracking in that tracking adjusts the space between letters evenly while kerning adjusts the space based on character pairs. In a well-kerned font the space between characters is the same or has similar area.

Sometimes when we make text really big or use certain fonts the kerning will be off and there will be too much (or too little) space between certain characters. Typical character pairs are V & A or W & A but it can be off on others as well.

When bad kerning happens in our text we must adjust it to bring back good balance in the text and increase legibility. Below is an example with a Before and After showing the original text with no adjustment and then the text with adjustments. In this example the kerning issues are on the number 100,000, particularly noticeable between the 1 and the first 0. The space appears much bigger than between the rest of the characters. I also adjusted a bit between the second 0 and the comma. The after shows a much more balanced 100,000. So remember to check your kerning and adjust if necessary.


Before - No Adjustment Applied


After - Kerning Adjustment Applied

Image Credit: mokra

Before-After: Align Heading and Sub-Heading

This is really just a quick reminder to always align things in a structured way and not place items/objects randomly on your slides. In this example we have a larger main heading and a smaller sub-heading. In the Before and After below it makes sense to align both headings on the left edge. I also adjusted the character spacing on the main heading so that the two headings also aligns on the right edge. This creates an invisible square and both headings appear together like a unit. It creates better unity and harmony on the slide.

I used drawing guides to help me with the alignment of the text. There are also alignment tools in PowerPoint you can use.

The main point is, don’t place objects randomly. Place them with purpose and use alignments to help you do that.


Before - No Heading Alignment


After - Headings Aligned

Image Credit: asifthebes

Before-After: Leading

Leading is the amount of space between lines in a paragraph of text. I guess this is sometimes called line spacing. Too much or too little space between your lines can make the text difficult to read. Sometimes when you make your text really big, the space between lines increases too much. It becomes too big. In slideware the leading is usually set by default to about 20 percent larger then the font size. So if you use very big fonts in your slides you may have to adjust the leading (or line spacing) to make related text closer to each other so they do in fact appear related.

Below is a before and after showing a slide with the default leading (in PowerPoint) and a slide with adjusted leading. The amount of adjustment you must make depends on the size of the font used and a visual inspection of the result of the adjustment. Remember too little space is also bad.


Before - Default Leading


After - Adjusted Leading

Image Credit: Spatial Mongrel

Before-After: Rule of Thirds

Power Points - Rule of ThirdsThe rule of thirds is composing your photos based on a simple grid of thirds. This is a trick used by movie producers, graphic designers and professional photographers. When used with slides it means to dived the slide into thirds both horizontally and vertically as can be seen on the image to the right. The points created at the intersections of the vertical and horizontal lines are actually called power points. The primary element is then positioned on one of these power points.

Using the rule of thirds leads to aesthetically pleasing and professional looking imagery. It helps to create a composition that is balanced, possesses energy , and creates more interest than simply centering the featured element.

When the primary element is so strong as to imbalance the composition, consider centering the element rather than using the rule of thirds, especially when the strength of the primary element is reinforced by the surrounding elements or space. If the surrounding elements of space do not reinforce the primary element, use the rule of thirds and add a secondary element to the opposing intersection of the primary element to bring the composition to balance.

Below is a Before and After showing the difference the rule of thirds can have when used on slides.


Before - no rule of thirds


After - rule of thirds

Image Credit: harper07

Sources: Universal Principles of Design, Slideology,