Look ‘n’ feel matter – images

There’s this old wisdom that says “a picture tells more than a thousand words”, but incidentally some images in PowerPoint presentations tell nothing at all. They’re just there because they’re pictures. They don’t add anything to the content, and they also don’t add anything to the aesthetics of the visual — sometimes they even do the opposite, and just make the slide look ugly.

In the previous posts of this “look ‘n’ feel matter” series I have touched upon fonts and color. Today I am giving a few practical tips to get more out of the clip art and photos you add to your presentation:

  • First of all, it’s a mistake thinking that all images have to be functional elements, such as data charts, product pictures or organograms. There’s nothing wrong with adding some eye candy to your slides, and appeal to your audience’s emotion.
  • Of course, you’d better pick some images that are related to the topic you’re presenting about and that enhance or clarify the content. It’s a bit awkward to show a beautiful photo of a sunset on a tropical island, when you’re presenting your company’s air suspension compressors portfolio.
  • In any case, avoid using standard clip art that comes with your presentation software. Most of the people in the room will get a déjà vu feeling when you show them a man climbing a bar chart, a colorful dollar sign, or yet another one of Microsoft’s stale screen beans. There are ample places on the internet where you can buy or borrow high quality and original images.
  • When your picture is too big, scale it down or crop it to fit (and compress it afterwards – if you don’t want the size of your file to grow explosively.) But when it’s too small, don’t try to enlarge it! You will blow up the pixels and end up with something blurry and unprofessional (tip: you may always try to use a reverse image search tool like TinEye or src-img to find a similar bitmap with a better resolution.) If you don’t want to change an object’s dimensions, keep the shift key down while resizing it. Otherwise, you may end up with some unwanted results. Just have a look at the picture below, and guess the real Elvis duck…


  • And, finally: don’t feed the chameleons! Try to be consistent in style and colors. Avoid mixing photos and line art (of course you may insert charts and diagrams whenever they’re needed.) Though black-and-white photographs and color highlights make a great combination.

A few words about copyrighted material: always make sure that you have permission to use the images. Looking for media made available under a Creative Commons license is probably the most safe and legal way to go. When searching on Google, you may set a filter on usage rights in the Image Advanced Search function.

Next week, I will talk about using bulleted lists in your presentations.

Other articles about this topic that are worth reading:

De gustibus et coloribus

De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum” is a Latin expression that translates as “it’s no use debating taste and colors.” A good presentation is like a tasty dish and it requires the right skills —as well as a cook with ample personality and passion— to prepare. I  know that not everybody is a three-star chef, but this doesn’t mean that you have to serve mediocre junk food to your audience. Anyone can acquire, adopt and apply some basic kitchen techniques. Read my words. Taste and colors DO matter. And so do the look and feel of your presentations.

Check out the visual below. Doesn’t it look a bit tedious, ugly and tasteless?


  • Fonts: do you really want to mix that many typefaces on one single slide?
  • Colors: are you sure that people in the back of the room can read the pink emphasized words?
  • Bullets: will you be able to present the slide without reading out the entire text?
  • Background: this looks like a stock PowerPoint template. Boring, isn’t it?
  • Images: are these the best or most original pictures you could get?
  • Multimedia: not visible on the static image above, but imagine the clip art animated and the bullets flying in from left and right… (ugh!)

So, you’d better fetch your pots and pans, light your oven, and sharpen your kitchen knives! Because, in my next 6  posts, I am going to dig into the art of creating compelling visuals and give you some easy-to-follow do’s and don’ts for making your slides look more professional and yummy


For an entertaining hands-on on how not to use PowerPoint, watch this video of stand-up comedian Don McMillan:

Other articles about this topic that are worth reading: