At my previous gig I remember getting requests from clients all the time for things they needed which had to be created in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. That used to drive me bonkers. The other designers and I would scoff, “You can’t ‘design’ anything in Word or PowerPoint! Those programs aren't meant for that. Why can’t clients learn to use InDesign or one of the other design applications we use? Seriously!” But I’m here to tell you, that was pretty shortsighted of me. 

When it comes to computer ownership, PCs outnumber Macs roughly 20 to 1. That’s a lot of computers running Microsoft Office products like Word and PowerPoint. Even if you own a Mac and you use it for business, there’s a strong chance you’ve created communications and presentations using these programs. So why are so many designers reluctant to make things for our clients in Word and PowerPoint? What’s so frigging terrible about creating something that satisfies our clients’ needs while also working well from a design standpoint? Nothing.

Let’s look at this a different way. Graphic design is the business of visual communication. What is that? It’s conveying ideas or information in forms that can be read or looked upon. To me, this sounds an awful lot like what PowerPoint is used for. 

SO WHY ARE SO MANY DESIGNERS RELUCTANT TO MAKE THINGS FOR OUR CLIENTS IN WORD AND POWERPOINT? WHAT’S SO FRIGGING TERRIBLE ABOUT CREATING SOMETHING THAT SATISFIES OUR CLIENTS’ NEEDS WHILE ALSO WORKING WELL FROM A DESIGN STANDPOINT?

As designers, I think we sometimes lose sight of one basic idea. At our core, we are communicators. The tools of our trade area not computer programs alone, they are: 

  1.  Line
  2. Color
  3. Shape
  4. Space
  5. Texture
  6. Typography
  7. Size
  8. Emphasis
  9. Balance
  10. Harmony

Did you see the words Adobe, Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator in there? No? That’s because nowhere does it say “Thou shalt only build communications using specialized software for graphic designers.” Good design is about applying those ten tools listed above to make communications more effective and not about which computer program is used to display or create those communications.

Yeah, this never happened. Sorry.

Yeah, this never happened. Sorry.

Truth be known, it’s not easy to create something that looks “designed” in Word or PowerPoint. Most of the time, we have to build the art we need in other programs and then import those graphics into Microsoft layouts. To further complicate matters, the tools available in Word and PowerPoint are a bit limiting compared to what we’re used to as designers. But overcoming challenges and solving problems is what we do day in and day out. We should apply those same problem-solving skills to figure out ways to accomplish our clients’ requests. If that includes creating something for Word or PowerPoint, we need to suck it up and learn how to do it. The only limiting factors are our imagination, our patience and our willingness to help our clients.

While creating layouts in Word and PowerPoint will never be my favorite thing to do, I no longer scoff at it nor do I dread it. If our clients think it's necessary, then we should take their desires seriously. Because if we don’t, I’m sure they can find someone who will. And if they do, they may not be our clients much longer.


Coming soon: Tips & Tricks

In the next few weeks and months, I'll be sharing some helpful hints on how to create artwork for Microsoft PowerPoint and Word. These little nuggets of information will be specifically geared for graphic designers. I'll share information about vector graphics, master slides and some general ways to improve the aesthetic of any PowerPoint and Word files you're building. Until then, feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.