Basic rules for good looking slides and dashboards

Vivian Jeenel Blog

My everyday business is to make things beautiful. I create a lot of illustrations for STATWORX for advertisement. Like my last blog post my new post is inspired by my lovely colleagues. My colleagues are creating, among other things, dashboards to visualize the results of their analyses for our consulting projects and are working with Power Point for our data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence programming workshops. These dashboards and presentations have to be very appealing. Sometimes they ask me, if the elements on a dashboard are arranged nicely or if a slide is looking good. Of course, I do help and at the same time I try to explain, why I’m doing the things the way I do.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – is it?

How the beholder’s opinion is formed is still debated between scientist. But it is proven that symmetry, coloring or similarity are visually pleasing to everybody and you don’t have to be a designer to implement these stylistic tools successfully into your presentations. The Berlin School of “Gestaltpsychologie” wrote all this down in the “Gestaltgesetze” (English: gestalt laws). These laws are a good guideline. But how do you apply these laws in your presentations? In this blog post I will explain the most important ones with some negative and positive examples of Power Point slides and dashboards.

Overview of some gestalt laws for visual presentations

Law of Proximity | German: Gesetz der Nähe

Elements, which are close to each other appear like they belong together. If you want to ensure a uniform appearance, make sure to group related elements.

The negative example shows a dashboard with mixed up boxes. In the positive example I grouped some related elements together, harmonized the lenght and width of the boxes and sorted them by size. It is a small step with a big impact. The dashboard appears much tidier.

Law of Similarity | German: Gesetz der Ähnlichkeit

You can also group elements by using same coloration or forms for a consistent visual appearance.

I colored the boxes from the positive example of the law of proximity. Now it is even easier for us to see the difference.

Law of Prägnanz | German: Gesetz der Prägnanz

Prägnanz is a German word and means that something is good to memorize, because of its distinct shape. Means, by using memorable shapes your slide or dashboard will look good in the beholder’s eye and the information will be remembered for a long time.

As you can see in the negative example, just text and arrows are looking really boring compared to the positive example of Prägnanz using a distinct shape.

Law of Continuity | German: Gesetz der guten Fortsetzung

If the elements on each slide or dashboard are designed with continuous colors, shapes and positions it gives a clean and tidy look while browsing through the presentation.

First you see two negative examples of continuity. The boxes and the text are on different positions, the shape of the boxes are varied and the coloration is not the same in contrast to the next positive examples.

Law of Closure | German: Gesetz der Geschlossenheit

Closed structures are preferred in contrast to open structures.

The negative example shows a dashboard, which is looking a bit lost. The reason is that the layout structure is open without any contrast. The positive example looks much better, because I closed the structure and grouped related elements by applying the law of similarity.

Some hints for the end

First rule for a designer: Create a grid, which you can hide and show to ensure equal spacing. This is really important for a good-looking layout. It’s fun to take an old school paper and pen and scribble a bit, before implementing the grid in your layout tool!

I hope these examples will help you and my colleagues 🙂 creating visually attractive presentations. If you don’t have a corporate style guide to follow you should think about your layout and colors before filling your slide with information.

Über den Autor

Vivian Jeenel

I am marketing manager at STATWORX and I post my work, free downloads and talk about issues that I hope you find interesting, too. In my freetime I love to travel and to attend concerts and festivals.


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