There are many reasons for improving the look and effectiveness of your slides presentation or documents; not only to please the eyes but it will also help to convey the message to our learners easily or to enhance their understanding of the content.

Our working memory capacity is very limited as explained in Cognitive Load Theory which was developed by John Sweller. He published a paper on the subject in the journal Cognitive Science in 1988. “Cognitive load” relates to the amount of information that working memory can hold at one time. Sweller said that, since working memory has a limited capacity, instructional methods should avoid overloading it with additional activities that don’t directly contribute to learning. Don’t overload your brain if you want to learn better. Therefore, it is important for teachers to scrutinize the elements in their visual work and be more intentional when it comes to designing their slides or documents to reduce extraneous cognitive load.

Design Guide

In his book Dual Codings With Teachers, Oliver Caviglioli outlined four simple but effective rules to improve your visuals; Cut, Chunk, Align and Restrain. Each process is illustrated using real samples taken from my own lesson slides or documents with explanations beneath them.


Minimal margins all around, way too long columns, a lack of titles for paragraphs, a hidden hierarchy and there is no design behind it-these are just some of the features that typify the most common graphic mistakes that teachers make in constructing documents or slides.

There is a single effort to be more interesting- the use of Comic Sans typeface. The urge to cram in as much content as possible makes it so much worse. In all, one would sigh with reluctance faced with such a page to read.

The After thumbnail shows how more pleasant and effective reading the improved version would be. Readers do not want to face a wall of words. Like magazines, have a large amount of white space at the top as well as narrow, nearly empty columns. These allow the page to breathe which makes the reader, feel comfortable. There is much more space at the top. With such an amount, the title doesn’t have to be large in order for ut to stand out.

Below the title is a stand first sentence that introduces the content in a pithy way. The content looks much more accessible being in two columns. It is easy to accomplish this degree of change.


Although this is still a two-column layout, it includes additional features that aid to pique curiosity and facilitate searching. The right-hand call-out box stands out, and illustrations and little lines or graphics aid to focus the eye. The page is now organised in a way that makes sense and clearly distinguishes each page element. This makes the page more appealing and easier to explore, similar to a magazine page. Overall, this is a page that begs to be read.


Our eyes and minds constantly search for patterns. Magazines and newspapers are all constructed around an invisible grid. This professional approach fully understands the need for order. The understandable yet fundamentally mistaken assumption of teachers to be artistic by introducing what appears to be the random placement of elements on a page is a major handicap in their communication effectiveness. Alignment can immediately transform the quality of your page and slide designs. Notice how much cleaner and more professional the aligned version looks.


Along with the urge to be artistic through seemingly random placement, comes a tendency for a profusion of fancy fonts and a riot of colour. It may seem counter-intuitive but executing restraint will greatly enhance your creations. Use only one typeface- two at the most. When two are chosen, ensure one is sans serif and one serif. Make their use consistent. A serif is a decorative stroke that extends off the end of a letterform. Typefaces that have serifs are referred to as serif typefaces, while sans-serif typefaces do not have those decorative strokes. Some popular examples of serif typefaces are Times New Roman, Garamond, and Georgia. Some popular sans-serif fonts are Arial, Futura, and Helvetica. Instead of having a large block of colour with text on top, leave it black and white with a small graphic element to denote any colour key you are using.

More Tips

  1. To avoid wasting mental effort going from one to the other, labels should be positioned near the image to lessen the split-attention effect.
  2. Bullet points aren’t a speaker’s aide’s memoir, and no one wants to hear you read the lists out. Short, direct, and pithy words, like those found in newspapers and magazines, are the answer.
  3. Consider the person in the back row. Can they easily read your slides? Take note of the font size and colour, as well as the general colour contrast on the page.
  4. The greatest secret of graphic design is to use a grid. For graphic artists, it is the most significant tool. It provides both flexibility and predictability. With the help of grid, alignment can be done effortlessly.
  5. The more straightforward your slides are, the more you and your speech take centre stage. Readers’ attention will be drawn away from the main content by riots of colour, fonts, and flashy graphics.
  6. Use a single illustration style and stick to it.
  7. Borders or text blocks clog up your presentation and distract from the topic.
  8. Left-aligned texts are easier to read than centred-aligned texts. Only titles should be aligned in the centre.
A grid guide was used to create these slides.

Tools Of The Trade

These are only some online tools or tricks that can help improve the look and effectiveness of your visuals.

  1. Edit Theme and Grid Guide Template- Use these templates (11×8, 12×12, 6×3) to create grid-based presentations. Go to View, pick Guides, and then Show Guides to reveal the grids. To edit theme, click on Slide then select Edit Theme to make changes.
  2. Free Icons-Iconsmania is free to use without linking attribution, though it is a little limited. There are several additional icon finders available online, including iconfinder and flaticon. Keep in mind that free downloads come with an attribution condition.
  3. SlidesMania Simple Slides Templates-SlidesMania is slide template heaven. You can find a range of elegantly and professionally designed slide templates. These easy-to-use templates will help you build attractive as well as effective slides in no time.
  4. Canva Magazine Page Layout Template-For a professional look, use Canva’s magazine templates.


Icons made by Freepik from

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