In designing and reviewing thousands of PowerPoint presentations, websites and logos, we're constantly faced with the question: what is good design?
What makes a beautiful design often seems to be in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes. Varying preferences, functions and quickly-evolving trends tell us that part of beauty is applied and context-specific. For example, in this industry, we see specific fashion trends in website design.
Yet, we also experience that people who have no design experience or knowledge of a field can distinguish ugly designs from beautiful designs instantly, and usually unanimously. This seems to indicate that there also is a part of beauty that is universal.
The theoretical physicist David Deutsch, in his book “The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World,” argues that there is indeed both subjective and objective beauty, one that is as universal as the laws of physics.
Deutsch argues that it is easy to be misled by the empiricist view that there can be no objective philosophical or artistic knowledge.
If it is true that some objective beauty exists that we can all appreciate, then this is a useful point for designers.
By adhering to the following rules of universal beauty, even something as seemingly mundane as a PowerPoint presentation can become strikingly beautiful.
Flowers first appeared on earth only 130 million short years ago. When they arrived, they covered the planet swiftly, and have ever since. How fast they spread baffled Darwin.
Biologists describe their innovation as communicating across species. It is hypothesized that they did this, not by understanding how all insects think to attract them, but by using something that objectively exists in the universe: beauty.
The essence of that beauty is available not just to a specific culture, or even a species.
We still know little about objective beauty, or even if it exists. However, there are some well-known theories and suggestions that can be applied for business use.
Hard to vary. As Deutsch describes in his book, something is hard to vary when the design has details that fit together so neatly that changing any of them would ruin the overall picture. He mentions E = MC2 as an example of a beautiful equation.
For example, you might say that a flower that lost a petal, a beautiful poem that lost a word, or beautiful music that lost a note would be diminished in its beauty.
A relevant application of the goal to make designs hard to vary is to avoid design by committee. Design by committee has become a negative term used for design projects that have many designers, but not a unifying plan or vision.
Ensure a creative, unified vision by designating a decision maker who has a design vision.
Symmetry. We think of symmetry is a mirror image about an axis - which is accurate. But symmetry also has an even more universal meaning. It is when an object is not affected by any transformations, including reflection, rotation or scaling.
This concept is especially important in the age of digital art. Make sure your company’s designs have balance and can be easily resized, reshaped and repurposed without compromising aesthetics.
Harmony. In 1509, the mathematician Luca Pacioli wrote "De Divina Proportione" about the golden ratio. Pacioli advocated the ratio's application as harmonious, a view that much influenced his friend and collaborator, Leonardo Da Vinci.
The golden ratio is the geometrical ratio of 1.1618. And golden proportions arise when two golden ratios meet.
Designers can use this ratio in PowerPoint presentations to draw the audience or the customer to important points and to create a sense of pleasure.
1. Invariability in the alignment of PowerPoint presentations
Konsus does this type of work for many companies. By definition, alignment is the process of adjusting parts so that they are in proper relative position to each other.
Alignment takes objects that are placed in an unstructured way and places them in a specific way.
Since there are only a few specific ways that objects can be in alignment, but infinitely many ways in which they can be unaligned, this process is an example of making universal beauty.
2. Symmetry in logo design
The NATO logo is symmetrical in all directions:
3. The golden ratio in logo design
Examples of famous golden ratio logo design:
Whether or not there truly is such a thing as objective beauty remains an unsettled question. This being said, if it does exist, it bodes well for the future of design.
As we discover more about the principles that govern objective beauty, we should expect designs of the future to continue to become more and more beautiful.
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