I am often asked what is presentation design, and if that is graphic design? The answer is no. They are not the same thing and if you prepare and/or use visual aids, slides, for public speaking you should know it too. And the reasons behind it.

A graphic designer is a communicator: someone who takes ideas and gives them visual form so that others can understand them.

This sentence opens the wonderful book Design Elements by Timothy Samara. At first sight there’s nothing wrong to substitute graphic design with presentation design. But when it comes to public speaking there is a catch: the presenter. In a presentation visuals are aids for the communication, not the communication. It may look a subtle difference but it is important and you should take notice.

In a nutshell a graphic designer creates something that conveys its message alone (most of the times, at least). A presentation designer create something that supports the speaker convey its message.

In practice it means that when you are designing slides you should take in consideration that they go along with a presenter, you or someone else, and they should not completely be self-explanatory. Otherwise what’s the need for the speaker? Rather they should help the audience visualise and understand what the presenter is saying, they should complement her speech.

Probably you need less text in presentation design; let the host explain the details and leave on the visuals the key points. Slides should be easily and quickly readable, because you don’t want to divert the audience attention from the speaker for too long. At the same time what could be difficult to express graphically, can be omitted from the slide. Rather rely on the presenter to integrate the visual with a vocal explanation.

So my definition is.

A presentation designer is a communicator: someone who takes ideas and create a storyboard and visuals that help the audience to understand the message of the speaker.

Cover photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels