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Creating a Branded Template

I have seen Nancy Duarte, a well-established expert in the area of presentation design, speak at a number of conferences, hoping that her skills will rub off on me and I will no longer need Polaroids to decide what to wear for an evening out.

She has broken the design process for templates into a number of distinct areas and provided some valuable guidelines for constructing a branded corporate template. What is striking about her final results is how clean they are and how different they look from anything in the Slide Design Task Pane.

Nancy's company, Duarte Design, creates a set of templates for its corporate clients that they can use for the main presentation types within the corporation:

  • Overall Corporate Template—Has a long lifespan, adheres to the tight guidelines imposed by the brand, and is used throughout the company.
  • External Templates—Used by verticals within the company for their own marketing, sales, or other endeavors. This can deviate from the main corporate template to the extent that the branch has its own identity.
  • Events Template—Used externally for limited uses, such as a trade show or presentation. This may be controlled more by the artist and might map to an event or theme.
  • Internal or Program Template—Used within the company for campaigns and may be updated for specific projects. Can have a short lifespan and may be confidential.

This gives you an idea of the scope of creating a set of templates for a corporation from a professional perspective. Depending upon the size and parameters of your own presentations, you may or may not want to create separate templates for these various applications.

But if you want to create presentations with a clear sense of identity relating back to you who you are and what you represent, you may want to continue down this path and think through some specific decisions.

Don't Fear Space

One of the first things that strikes you about a Duarte slide is how easy it is to read and absorb. There is no competition for attention among disparate design elements; even a logo, when present, is unobtrusive and subtle in its effect.

There are no extraneous clouds, dissolving lines, squiggles, curls, or blobs coming at you along with the material. Yet the slides are not bland. In many cases the colors are vibrant, and they are subdued where appropriate, and sometimes you ask yourself why anyone would pay for something so seemingly simple.

This relates directly back to the underlying design choices made about the original template—or blueprint for the presentation.

Analyzing Collateral Materials

If you are creating a presentation for a corporate client or work directly within a large company, you need to focus upon the design decisions that have already been made to promote its corporate image or brand. Duarte calls this auditing or studying the visual attributes of the brand.

A great way to do this is to analyze the website of the company and do a thorough review of their collateral materials. Obviously, the design and positioning of the logo is a key component to any design that may be used in presentations. In addition, the choice of colors and how they are used can best be gleaned by looking at a variety of web pages, reviewing brochures, and even taking a long hard look at business cards.

If you take a look at Google.com, you immediately see the simplicity of the overall look and the unmistakable color choices reflected in the letters comprising the corporate name.

Whether you've ever realized it or not, Hewlett-Packard has a certain shade of purple or dark blue associated with its main logo. An entirely different shade of blue represents American Express. These attributes are immediately obvious to a designer. For those who are not specialists in this field, the use of color and the layout of a page or brochure may become apparent only after time or, in some cases, never.

In Chapter 1, we added some images to a slide for our imaginary real estate presentation (refer to Figure 1-7). Let's pretend that this image represents our corporate logo and use it to illustrate some of the steps involved in creating a simple branded template.

Using a Grid System

Duarte uses a simple spatial grid concept to create a template that is in her words "a container for amazing content." The best way to see how her grid concept emphasizes simplicity is to contrast it to the PowerPoint Layouts in the Slide Layout Task Pane or the numerous placeholders that scream to be filled in within the Slide Master view.

In a new, blank presentation, whenever you open a new slide, the default layout is Title and Bullets, and the Slide Layout Task Pane pops up (see Figure 2-6).

Figure 2-6

Figure 2-6 PowerPoint prompts you to create a bullet slide or choose another layout, most of which have placeholders for content.

If you switch to the Slide Master view, which represents the true blueprint for all formatting for the design template (as we'll cover in more detail later), you get an even more complex set of placeholders crying out for fulfillment (see Figure 2-7).

Figure 2-7

Figure 2-7 PowerPoint's Slide Master view, which represents a blueprint for the template, also features placeholders for lots of text to be formatted.

Contrast this with the type of slide a designer like Duarte may create, which really springs from one of the simplest Slide Layouts in the Task Pane: Title only.

For a simple corporate template, she may add only a single thick line in a color coordinated with or central to the corporate logo. Or, she may position the logo beside the slide title.

You can either use the View > Grids and Guides feature directly within PowerPoint or create your own mini-grid system with a table or the Drawing toolbar to further refine the use of space within the template slide.

If you like, you can then Reapply the Title and Bullet Layout and reposition and format the bullets within the grid. Figure 2-8 shows the result.

Figure 2-8

Figure 2-8 You can create your own identity template from a Title only slide by using a grid system.

Duarte's team builds the various types of slides that her corporate clients may use by continuing to

  • Position text with white space within a grid system
  • Create vertical and horizontal anchor points
  • Use corporate branding elements

Positioning a Logo

The logo's position directly under the simple line or bar is just one possible choice.

As we can see in Figure 2-9, there are at least four other positions where the logo could be located that keep it clear of the main content areas.

Figure 2-9

Figure 2-9 Using a cleaner look and the grid layout, you have other positioning options for the logo.

Using either the multiple Masters feature of PowerPoint (or by saving any of these logo locations as a separate Design Template), you could create an entirely different "look" within your branded sales presentation or create a different look for a marketing plan, a training session, or any other application or presentation type you may need to create.

To create multiple Masters, you would simply return to Slide Master view, click create New Master on the Slide Master view toolbar, and reposition the logo in the four new locations for each new master (see Figure 2-10).

Figure 2-10

Figure 2-10 Four newly created Masters appear at the top of the Slide Design gallery in the Slide Design Task Pane.

Using a Branded Color Scheme

So far, we've only used the eight basic colors of the blank (white background) slides with which we've started. We can see a very basic and bland Color Scheme if we click the Edit Color Schemes prompt at the bottom of the Color Schemes part of the Slide Design Task Pane.

If we click the Custom tab within Edit Color Scheme, we can create our own Color Scheme composed of entirely different colors, as shown in Figure 2-11.

Figure 2-11

Figure 2-11 The Custom tab in the Edit Color Scheme dialog box allows us to set default colors for all of the slide elements in our template.

But what colors would we choose, and why are they important?

The ones here seem to complement the logo we are using, but let's examine it more closely.

To truly create our own branded set of slides, we will want to integrate the colors of the logo more completely with the Color Scheme of the presentation template.

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