It seems that the majority of graphic designers would rather have root canals than design a deck. Overall, they think PowerPoint sucks and that it’s not possible to do great design using that software. So it came as no surprise that a graphic designer recently posted a way to avoid using PowerPoint in a LinkedIn group I’m a member of. He believed it would be a great idea to create presentations using graphic design software, then export them as PDFs. Many other designers chimed in, agreeing that presentations would look much better that way. But would they actually be better?
You don’t know what you want. But I know what you need.
The thing that surprised me the most about this LinkedIn conversation was the fact that although the designer’s client said he wanted a PowerPoint, the designer wanted to give him something else. He thought that all the client wanted was the ability to do all of those hackneyed animations and transitions that I’m constantly warning you against, like making their logo rotate or having bullet points zoom onto the slides from every direction. I don’t think the designer realizes how most businesspeople use PowerPoint.
Last-minute edits? Tough luck!
If you’ve ever given a presentation you know that there can be last-minute edits that Have. To. Get. Done. With PowerPoint, it’s super easy for you to make most of your own edits without having to call in a professional. But what if the professional insists on working his way without considering your needs?
From the client’s viewpoint, nothing could be worse than an uneditable* PDF presentation. Imagine being a salesperson about to pitch to a new client and you mistakenly brought the presentation with last year’s prices. If the presentation’s in PowerPoint, then it takes only seconds to update the numbers. If, on the other hand, it’s a PDF presentation then you can’t do a thing about it. How’s that conversation going to sound?
“Gee, sorry, Mr. Jones. These are last year’s numbers. Our widgets cost a lot more now!”
Microsoft ≠ Evil
I think that graphic designers are prejudiced against PowerPoint because it’s a Microsoft product that runs best on a PC. And since to a designer PCs are evil, PowerPoint must also be evil. I say that’s crazy talk. It’s like saying you hate pencils because you can’t draw or that hammers are stupid because you’re no good at carpentry. Don’t hate the tool.
As a presentation designer, I’m always amused at the reaction I get when I tell other graphic designers that I love using PowerPoint. They think I’m weird and wonder how I could possibly enjoy using such crappy software. The answer is simple: I have mastered a tool other than the ones they’re used to using. And I use this tool to create great design.
Designers aren’t always right
Sometimes we designers think we know better than our clients, and in some cases that’s true. For instance, if one of my clients told me that their PowerPoint template had a bright yellow background and all the text has to be purple I would draw on my vast well of experience to frame the counter-opinion that those colors look awful together. But sometimes a client’s request isn’t as unreasonable as it seems. If a client insists on getting a PowerPoint file, they’re not doing it to make life difficult for the graphic designer. They’re doing it to make life easier for themselves.
If you are getting pushback from your designer when you insist on PowerPoint files, it’s probably because she isn’t comfortable using the software. Making sure you get the files you want in a format you can use will save you trouble down the line.
*Yes, I know it’s possible to hack PDFs and I do it all the time. But to Mr. or Ms. Average Business Professional, a PDF is a locked file.