I am currently doing a master study in marine biology. Most of the slides in presentations I see (from students as well as teachers) are extremely cluttered with information and visually completely unappealing. There was never another approach than using Microsoft's Powerpoint as a presentation tool. While some teachers obviously focus on complete information on their slides I often wonder what the purpose of him or her being present and giving the lecture may be.

I recently started to do presentations in Inkscape (exporting them as single images), focused on very few words and a more or less appealing design (choosing colour themes, big text, little graphics, etc). While I'm sure I didn't do a perfect job I never got any appreciation that my presentation was liked in the way of design. However, I didn't do many and have not much experience in other fields of science.

Therefore I wonder what your experience is with simple slide design (rather than cluttered Powerpoint slides) in regard to science. Is it really worth to put some thoughts and time into design or do people nevertheless don't pay any attention to that?

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    You're asking a bunch of designers if something should be well-designed. I believe the answer from us is going to be a resounding "DUH!" :) What you need to do is ask a bunch of scientists if they care. Feb 3, 2013 at 16:25
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    You have only mentioned feedback (or lack thereof) with respect to the "design". What sort of feedback have you received with respect to the presentation overall. Ultimately, I'm not sure that this question is answerable in its current form. It currently seems like the question is only concerned with the aesthetic view of "design", but even if something is pretty, it doesn't mean it is "well-designed". Feb 3, 2013 at 17:21
  • This is a topic where there's actually quite a bit of research that has been done (after all, presentations working and failing wins or loses real money). I don't know the studies well, but here's a recent one to get you started, and here's an article based on "150 in-depth discussions of slides I have conducted with engineers, scientists, executives, and other professionals" Feb 4, 2013 at 12:35
  • Consider that most people (scientists and engineers especially) have almost no practical design skill-set, so what you see as a "style" is going to be mostly accidental and the rest is going to represent the style guide(s) set out for them as undergrads. I speak from personal multi-generational familial experience.
    – horatio
    Feb 5, 2013 at 17:32

2 Answers 2


I'm guessing people in general appreciate clean and easy access to information.

My personal experience is that I've always spent some time designing my presentations (I used to be a researcher), and I always received really good feedback for them being "different" and pleasing to the eye. Also, some of the best seminars I remember used great infographics.

I think good design does make a difference, and not from an aesthetic point of view, but from a communication one.

Slides are still valuable in scientific and technical presentations, especially when the audience needs to see images or visual relationships to understand the content. Because M. Powerpoint dominates something like 95% of the market, people tend to use it "blindly". If you are interested, these are some articles that talk about the evil of PP: Schwartz, "The Level of Discourse Continues to Slide," New York Times; Parker, "Absolute PowerPoint," New Yorker; Tufte, "PowerPoint Is Evil," Wired; and Keller, "Is PowerPoint the Devil?" Chicago Tribune).


Good presenters are fun to listen to, with any slides being used being the 'extra' bits of spice to make it all interesting.

Poor presenters read their slides verbatim which is a) boring, as people can typically read the slides faster than the presenter can read them and b) pointless, since you can just read the slides...no need for the presenter being there at all.

So, yes, you are absolutely doing the right thing. The slides aren't supposed to BE your presentation--merely enhance it.

  • Indeed: they should support and highlight your discourse, not deliver it. It is also very important to bear in mind that good design is not going to save your stuffy boring delivery!
    – horatio
    Feb 5, 2013 at 17:30

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