Dreaded PowerPoint Graphic Design Advice Needed

I could definitely use some help… The company I work as a graphic designer for is doing a company-wide transition to Office 365. I frequently create/design sellings tools for the sales team to use out in the field - many of which are presentations (what they prefer). Because of this transition… I need to use PowerPoint for any and all presentations going forward. (Insert annoyed/frustrated/angry face here.) I am not a fan of this plan, however it’s out of my control… I typically live in Photoshop and Illustrator, so going backwards to PowerPoint and dealing with limitations and restrictions for some things is not the most enjoyable. Aside from that, this transition has a few other issues that I’m hoping some of you could provide advice on…

The nature and requirements of these PowerPoints: These are set presentations that I create on my device and are stored in a shared location for the sales team to use on their device during sales calls. Every PowerPoint needs to be fully customized to our company’s brand standards and also need to be compatible with macOS, Windows, and iPads.

The issues:

  1. I work on an iMac running OS Catalina and the end-users use either a PC running Windows 10 or an iPad. Despite embedding the fonts used, the formatting is disrupted when the end-user opens the PowerPoints.
  2. We also use Microsoft Teams to collaborate on some of these PowerPoint presentations. This too poses compatibility and formatting issues since I use an iMac and the other collaborators utilize a PC.
  3. Video Formatting: We need the ability to embed videos into the PowerPoint as they are occasionally used in areas with no internet access. How do we go about embedding a video that can be accessed on Mac, PC, and iPad? We have tried many different formats and what works on one doesn’t work on the other, etc. Is there a way to embed a video that can be accessed on all devices.
  4. Advice on ways to make PowerPoints fully customizable? I’ve been playing around with creating themes and templates but still feel like there are many limitations that I’m struggling to find workarounds for.

If anyone has great advice that can solve all these issues, I would be forever grateful!

Are you exporting as a package and having these problems? Packaging should grab all the linked files, fonts, videos, audios.

How do you export as a package in PowerPoint? I’ve only done that for InDesign documents.

Yes, but it’s pretty unlikely anyone will. The Mac/PC challenges are one thing, but add the iPad platform as a must-have 3rd compatibility requirement, and you will just keep running into walls.

In the scenario you describe, PowerPoint is the least of your problems. It’s actually an excellent application for what it does, and what you characterize as “limitations,” are just differences from that to which you’re accustomed. It actually does many, many things that Adobe apps don’t. You do realize you can still use Photoshop and Illustrator for contributory graphics, right? Powerpoint is just another layout tool. Sure there are some typographical challenges, relatively speaking, but as a designer, keeping it simple is something you should be doing even when the tools don’t force you. The embedded video format compatibility thing is an obstacle for sure—again, primarily because of the iPad requirement. A company that runs MS Office on PC’s and then equips the Sales staff with an incompatible stand-alone device like iPad is simply making misguided IT decisions that you may not be in a position to solve for them by working content deployment miracles.

I’ve been in this exact situation before… My advice is to keep designing the bulk of the presentations in photoshop/illustrator, then export the elements as PNGs to import and rebuild in powerpoint. I wouldn’t do any background coloring, design, or even live text in Powerpoint (unless its needed in key areas); just slide order/organization, subtle transition pieces, and animating individual PNGs to achieve bullet by bullet style animations within a slide.

That’s the easiest way to create individual slides, and it certainly opens up more creative possibilities than are in PowerPoint itself, but it also limits the ability of the person making the presentation to make changes.

From my experience, people invariably want to change things in their presentations right up until the last minute. When graphics and words are locked down in a PNG, those kinds of changes aren’t possible.

Like any kind of design, the problem at hand needs to be addressed in a way that’s most conducive to a solution that works best. Since the designer isn’t generally making the presentation, the best solution is typically one that enables the presenter to change the details of the presentation to fit the situation at hand.

Some things, of course, just aren’t possible to create natively in PowerPoint, in which case building the slide image in another application is the only option. On the other hand, becoming proficient with PowerPoint or Keynote involves becoming familiar with the tools in those programs and using them to the best advantage possible. Yeah, there are severe and maddeningly frustrating limitations, but within those limitations, there are some interesting possibilities for animations and various kinds of data charts graphics that can be used to create effective slides.

Designers, as a general rule, hate PowerPoint. The options are limited, it’s frustrating to work with and it just sort of sucks. Even though that’s the case, I think many of the problems designer have with PowerPoint is that it’s different from what they’re used to. PowerPoint is made for non-designers, and as such, it’s made to be fairly simple to understand and use.

An important thing to remember is that slide deck presentations need to be simple and straight-forward to back up and reinforce what the speaker says. This is exactly what PowerPoint and Keynote are designed to do, and it really is possible in both these applications to do just that using nothing but PowerPoint and, ugh, Arial.

The reason Powerpoint is the presentation app of choice is because typically, everyone in the organization has an MS Office seat, and regardless of who designs a slide deck, the presenter is then free to assume ownership and make edits over the life of the content to adapt it for specific audiences, products, and venues. For that reason, live text is a must. Otherwise, it might as well be assembled in a more designer-friendly app and delivered in an un-editable format.

I truly see this as a positive, for the designer that is responsible for making them, and the company. Just because a sales person knows what they want to say, and knows how to type on a keyboard, doesn’t mean they know how to type in a live complex PowerPoint presentation that was programmed, structured, and designed by someone else… something is bound to break.

If there are specifics from presentation to presentation that need to change and require a box of editable text, that can easily be planned for instead of defaulting to a fully designed presentation as live text just for the off-chance the ENTIRE thing can be reworked by anyone on the fly. Like how often is a presentation going to be completely reworked without the designer involved? Is it so often that company should sacrifice a centralized authorization of all presentations, sacrifice good animations/effects, scarifies good typography, and increase the likelihood of font/formatting issues? In my experience, “the workers that don’t know how to make good powerpoints need to be able to rework their entire powerpoint minutes before the presentation, add new slides, images, animations, etc, just because they are incredibility under-prepared”, is actually an exception, not a standard to design an entire system around.

I think the misconception is that powerpoint gives anyone the ability to make and edit good presentations, but the reality is not many of those people actually know how to make and edit good presentations.

You’re certainly right about an open PowerPoint deck being an invitation for destroying an otherwise well-designed presentation. On the other hand, it is their presentation and they are the presenter.

There are lots of different situations where either locking things down or leaving them open might be appropriate.

An individual who has hired me to create a presentation almost certainly wants to be able to make changes to suit the occasion — especially where words and changing data are involved. Having to call me up to make changes the night before a presentation is not only inconvenient for everyone involved, it costs the client money and lessens the chances of them hiring me the next time.

On the other hand, an in-house designer who is part of a marketing team and who is creating a slide deck for a sales team needs to think in terms of consistent company messaging and branding rather than setting the stage a rogue salesman to make a mess of things.

In either case, though, the right balance seems appropriate. Getting there means, as with any other design project, working with the people involved and arriving at the best possible solution with everyone understanding and agreeing to the solution. Locking things down to prevent an untrusted team member from changing things points to a dysfunctional situation that ought to be remedied by talking rather than placing a lock on the door. I mean, we’re not trying to keep a burglar out of the house; we’re working with a partner to accomplish a mutually shared goal. And, yeah, in practice working with people can be more complicated than that.

My other point, though, is that PowerPoint really isn’t all that bad for what it is. It does what it’s supposed to do and does it reasonably well, if not a little awkwardly. PowerPoint’s ability to use animation to enable the presenter to reinforce and draw attention to their main points is pretty cool and not really replicable with static images. For most (not all) things, it’s really just not necessary to head to Illustrator, Photoshop or whatever to create a slide.


I’m not sure there’s any misconception. And, “good” is a subjective concept. In some situations, “good” is black bullet text on a plain white background, with a few simple graphs and/or flow charts. It’s all that’s wanted and all that’s needed. In general, designers tend to be in denial with respect to anything that basic. Often, presenter-types make their own slide decks exactly that way and leave designers out of it for that very reason. (Not to mention the extra time they’d have to wait while we massage out a more visually rich motif.) We regard those as awful and bland, and it’s what gives Powerpoint a bad name, along with how counter-intuitive using it can seem to design pro’s. With my 2 decades+ experience in an in-house, I’m painfully familiar.

1 Like

Couldn’t agree more.

from Microsoft:

Keep in mind the packaged version of the show can’t be edited. You need to maintain a master file, and that’s where your team can make all the changes. Then create a packaged version when it’s finished and ready for distribution. If presenters need to make changes on the fly, they need reopen the master, rather than the package. You change the master, then create a new package. The presenters may hate that, but that’s how you avoid error messages for missing assets.

Powerpoint is highly customizable, but it has limitations, especially when it comes to graphics. That’s where Photoshop trickery plays a role. What exactly do you want to do?

I’d love to count up the number of unspecific references to Powerpoint’s “limitations,” in preceeding posts, but then I wouldn’t have time to type this. I just can’t help wondering just what all these handicaps must be. I would concede its weaknesses with respect to typography, but actually, there are controls for just about every type of spacing you’d want to adjust; you just have to hunt them down.It is an “office” app after all.

As for graphics, of course like any layout tool, there’s no raster image creation or editing, but there are basic (and some not so basic) vector drawing tools, graphical styles, themes, and effects (hamfisted as they may be), and the ability to import and manipulate anything you can spin up in some other more sophisticated package.

Add to that nicely integrated spreadsheet-based graphing and charting,along with fairly extensive animation capabilities, and I’m pressed to imagine what else you’d need in a layout tool for on-screen presentation.

©2019 Graphic Design Forum | Contact | Legal | Twitter | Facebook