Can PowerPoint be Beautiful?

By Sondre Rasch, Co-founder | Konsus

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”. Varying preferences, functions and quickly evolving trends tell us that there is a part of beauty that is applied, and context-specific. For example, we see this in industry-specific fashion trends in website design.

Yet we also experience that people with no design-experience, or knowledge of a field, instantly and usually unanimously can tell ugly from beautiful designs. 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 this is true, that there exists some objective beauty that we can all appreciate, then this is useful for designers to be aware of.

By adhering to the following rules of universal beauty, even something as seemingly mundane as a PowerPoint presentation, can become strikingly beautiful.

The Example of the Flower

Flowers first appeared on earth only 130 million short years ago. When they arrived, they covered the planet swiftly, as has 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, but by using something that objectively exist in the universe: beauty.

The essence of that beauty is available not just to a specific culture, or even species.


What is objective beauty, if it exists?

We still know little about objective beauty, or even if it exists. However, there are some 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 details would ruin the overall picture. He mentioned E = MC2 as an example of a beautiful equation.

For example you might say that a flower that lost a pedal, 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 designing by committee. Design by committee has become a negative term used for design projects that has many designers, but not unifying plan or vision.

Ensure a creative, unifying vision by giving a chosen decision maker with 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 to any transformations, including reflection, rotation or scaling.

This is especially important in the age of digital art. Make sure your company’s designs have balance and can be easily re-sized, re-shaped and re-purposed without compromising aesthetics.

Harmony. In 1509, the mathematician Luca Pacioli wrote De Divina Proportione on the golden ratio. Pacioli advocated the ratios 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 of the customer to important points, and create a sense of pleasure.


Three practical applications of ojective beauty in design:

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 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:

The future of 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 would bode 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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