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SHARPN | Visual Comms
Title of article written as text fitted into a circle, triangle and hexagon respectively
Title of article written as text fitted into a circle, triangle and hexagon respectively

Circles are great shapes for making bold points on a slide. But when you start typing in them, you’ll discover that PowerPoint only lets you put text in a virtual square within it. So you can’t go the full width of the circle, or create text in a roughly circular shape.

It’s the same for all shapes that aren’t rectangles.


Title of post with three versions of a cutout photo of a woman: normal photo, all black and all yellow
Title of post with three versions of a cutout photo of a woman: normal photo, all black and all yellow

Often in a document you need a visual way to represent people. Most of the time an icon is fine — usually a head-and-shoulders blob. Or you might choose a full-body icon (although that runs the risk of looking like the sign for the toilets).

A more ‘human’ approach is to use silhouettes. Your readers will instantly see that the shape is a person, without having to process all the visual information contained in face, body and clothing. Take a look at the example below.


SVGs are the clear future of icons. They scale perfectly and you can set them to any colour you like. You can even edit them in PowerPoint. But sometimes you are stuck with an old bitmap icon. Probably a PNG (portable network graphic). Either you are working on an old deck, or someone has found icons without checking what type they are.

At first glance, a PNG icon might look fine on your slide. But if you want to change it you’ll soon run into two major problems:

  1. PNGs scale badly. Just enlarge the PNG and you’ll soon see a…

Article title plus short animation of a diagram moving from a PDF file to a PowerPoint slide
Article title plus short animation of a diagram moving from a PDF file to a PowerPoint slide

Have you ever had a diagram in a PDF that you want to reuse? Or a logo you can’t find anywhere else? You may have resorted to taking a screenshot and pasting it into your slides. That’s not ideal: you can’t edit it so the colours and fonts won’t match your deck. And it could look a bit grainy.

A better way is to convert the PDF to SVG and then grab the drawing you need. And since many people don’t have access to PDF editing tools, here’s a free way to do that.

Step 1: Convert PDF to SVG and import to PowerPoint

  1. Use CloudConvert to convert your PDF…

No matter how visually compelling you make your PowerPoint document, you still need text. In fact, PowerPoint isn’t just for presentations — many companies use it as the de facto format for documenting almost everything. And it’s a powerful and entirely appropriate tool for doing that. Even text-heavy pages can work well in PowerPoint.

And yet there is one widespread bad habit that needs to stop: bullets on every line of text. It’s an ingrained default, often accepted without question. But bullets are only really needed in very specific situations — so let’s reset the default to no bullets.

Why should I avoid bullets?

They…


Image a slide containing two tables with a list of useful icons from the Segoe font family
Image a slide containing two tables with a list of useful icons from the Segoe font family

Have you ever wanted to use icons as shorthand in a table and had to manually place them? Perhaps you’ve spent hours aligning grids of dots or Harvey balls by eye. There is a much easier way: use a font whose characters are actual icons.

This technique is probably not new to you; you are likely to have used a Windings or Symbol font to put a tick or a cross in a table column. Those fonts have a few somewhat random shapes and symbols, but they are very outdated.

Enter Segoe MDL2 Assets. That’s a bit of a mouthful…


“Where can I find good icons?” is a question we hear on a regular basis. Or photos, or vector illustrations. Or colour tools. And so on. So we’ve created a list of our recommended sites and tools. You can find it here.


Image repeating the title of the article, plus a small animation showing three bullet points morphing to foramtted columns
Image repeating the title of the article, plus a small animation showing three bullet points morphing to foramtted columns

Next time you find yourself typing a bulleted list, try this format instead: arrange them as a horizontal list.


Article title plus examples of headshots in coloured circles, accompanied by an animated sequence of the changes needed.
Article title plus examples of headshots in coloured circles, accompanied by an animated sequence of the changes needed.

Sometimes you need to put faces on a slide. Perhaps you want to inject some humanity into an org chart. Maybe you’re bringing feedback to life. Or you could be building a profile on someone — perhaps even yourself.

The photos you have are likely to be of variable quality and style. One person may have provided you with a professional headshot (perhaps looking suspiciously younger). Others may have given you a lovely holiday snap or their Instagram profile picture. Assembled together, the inconsistency will reduce the quality and impact of your slides.

Here’s how to quickly fix that

The good news is that you can…


An illustration of a desk with notepads and pens, plus a photo of a light bulb, with two cutouts of people superimposed.
An illustration of a desk with notepads and pens, plus a photo of a light bulb, with two cutouts of people superimposed.

Perhaps you already use the icon library inside PowerPoint (and if you don’t, read this article). But wait: there’s more. The icons are part of a wider graphics library, which is richer and more useful than you might think.

Photos

Slightly hidden away under Insert tab > Pictures > Stock Images , it’s not a huge library by the standards of sites like iStock or Shutterstock. But it is free, and has a decent range of good quality photos right there in the PowerPoint ribbon. Importantly, the diversity of people represented seems reasonable. My litmus test is always to see what…

SHARPN | Visual Comms

Cutting through complexity

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