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Presentation ZenDesign - Book Review

1 January 2011
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

This 2010 publication, "Presentation ZenDesign," is the sequel to Garr Reynolds' 2008 work, "Presentation Zen." Much like its forerunner, this new book captivates with its stunning aesthetics. The presentations and accompanying photographs set an exceptional standard, surpassing other professional books in beauty and visual appeal.

The book emphasizes core elements, providing principles and tips for crafting compelling presentations. It delves into the following key topics:

  • Letters and characters

  • Colors

  • Images

  • General principles for reflection and presentation

The summary of the book presents only the essential points, with detailed explanations of each recommendation, accompanied by illustrations and demonstrations—compelling reasons to acquire the book. For those who haven't explored the summary of the previous book, a friendly invitation is extended below—PresentationZen. Happy reading!

Letters and characters


  • Primary: Condense text. Attendees come to listen, not just read the presentation. Bullets are unnecessary and counterproductive.

  • Consider letter size with attendees seated in the rearmost row of the hall or room where your presentation unfolds.

  • Not every font is suitable. A list of recommended English fonts and guidance on when to use each font are provided. Preferred fonts include Baskerville, Bodoni, Caslon, Franklin Gothic, Frutiger, Futura, Garamond, Gill Sans, Helvetica, Optima, and Rockwell.

  • Fonts can convey retro elegance, formality, or other feelings. Integrate judiciously. Avoid using a font that contradicts the overall message.

  • Maintain consistency in font usage throughout your presentation, or use fonts that complement each other. If you need more clarity about integration rules, stick to a single font.

  • When featuring multiple images or drawings on a page, position the title closer to the object it describes.

  • If a title describes an image spanning the entire page, consider not writing it horizontally but at a tilt for added interest.

  • Ensure the title and corresponding image convey a consistent message.

  • Ensure sufficient contrast for clear readability if a title is on an image.

  • For presentations with headlines in two or more languages, use different colors/sizes, designating one language as dominant (in color and size) and the other as secondary.

  • When dealing with extensive text, use one color for headings and another for secondary text; avoid including pictures.



  • Opt for a limited color palette, which is more effective than a multicolor approach.

  • Ensure the background color provides sufficient contrast with the image and text colors, preferably opting for a very light or very dark color.

  • Utilize compatible color groups, such as:

    - Same color with shadow/brightness variations.

    - Colors from the same family with subtle differences.

    - Contrasting colors.

    - Highlight: Utilize grayscale with only one highlighted content in color.

  • Choose an appropriate color for each object based on the content/message it represents. General color associations include:

    - Red: Assertive, powerful, passionate.

    - Pink: Romantic, soft, healthy, love.

    - Orange: Warmth, excitement, enthusiasm.

    - Green: Natural, harmonious, environmental, healthy, calm, lucky; also associated with jealousy.

    - Blue: Respectable, professional, successful, loyal, calming; also melancholic.

    - Yellow: Optimistic, happy, energetic; also cautious.

    - Purple: Luxury, wisdom, creativity.

    - Brown: Natural, earthy, solid, strong; also routine and conservative.

    - Black: Classic, formal; also indicates negation.

    - White: Pure, innocent, new, simple.

    - Gray: Respect, humility, stability, wisdom; also denotes lack of commitment, cloudiness.

  • When placing a title on an image lacking contrast, add an intense color as the background behind the title.

  • Select colors for headings that relate to those found in the cover image.

  • Use consistent colors instead of alternating between colors.

  • Screening tips:

    - When projecting a presentation using a projector, be aware that colors may appear differently.

    - If necessary, check and adjust before presenting.

    - If the projector is bright, consider omitting room darkening.



  • Highlight the significance of images in conveying your message. Opt for an optimal image that aids in enhancing the memorability of your presentation. Encourage creativity.

  • Choose photographs over paintings for a more professional presentation appearance. Avoid using copyrighted images to mitigate potential issues, as suggested by the author.

  • Integrate video judiciously for a strong impact, limiting it to one video per presentation.

  • Prefer using large images with incorporated headings rather than framing small background images in a different color with text on it. If a background is necessary, opt for white to minimize noise.

  • Position images deliberately, non-randomly using grids (e.g., 3x3) and snap to these borders.

  • Avoid using images that almost reach the edge of the screen but fall short of full size.

  • Exercise caution when adjusting size to prevent a loss of sharpness; maintain proportions for optimal results.

  • Consider including half an image on the screen's edge to stimulate imagination.

  • Highlight images directing the viewer's eye in a specific direction (spotlight, outstretched hand, arrow) and align the headline accordingly.

  • Be mindful of attention-grabbing photos of people, evaluating whether they enhance or hinder reflection.

  • Refrain from using an image as a repeating icon on the same slide (e.g., as a bar in a graph) to avoid unnecessary clutter.

  • Avoid background images with excessive information.

  • For presentations, images with 72 or 96 PPI are sufficient; higher resolutions like DPI 300 are necessary only for prints.

  • Utilize the crop function to focus your message on the most meaningful part of an image.

  • Use JPEG or PNG files for images, especially when experimenting with shading.

  • Ensure coherence among different images in your slideshow regarding color, style, and theme.

  • Leverage images to describe written content and convey the main message. For instance, use a powerful image depicting the scarcity of inventory instead of a monthly graph to discuss declining inventories.

  • Utilize the internet and image repositories like iStockphoto for photos not created personally. Extract ideas from associations obtained through word searches.

  • Create a depth effect by combining a large picture with a small one, making the larger image appear closer.

  • Although it is recommended to take pictures yourself, the author asserts that learning a few basic techniques can make this task easier than imagined, yielding impressive results.

General principles for reflection and presentation

General Principles:

  • Simplify. Clarity enhances message delivery.

  • Always consider which slides are expendable. Minimize content on each slide.


  • Exclude information that may confuse or overburden your audience, contain internal contradictions, or have spelling mistakes. Avoid presenting information your audience already knows is untrue.

  • Limit each slide to one message.

Tables and Graphs:

  • Tables are practical when the goal is for the audience to remember specific numbers.

    - Graphs, particularly bar graphs, help present comparative information.

    - Line charts are suitable for illustrating trends over time.

    - Pie charts are appropriate for comparing slightly different values.

    - Minimize the use of graphs and tables; if used, highlight only the figure with the main message in color.

    - Avoid challenging-to-read or disconnected headings for graph elements.

    - Exclude rulers and avoid three-dimensional elements to reduce noise.

  • Treat spaces and space with respect, emphasizing the featured content. Reducing these areas diminishes slide effectiveness.

  • Use animation to gradually explain complex ideas or illustrate movement, employing several slides with slight changes between them.

  • Ensure a logical connection and fluid flow between slides.

  • Maintain consistency within each slide and across slides regarding shape, color, and theme.

  • Never distribute a photo of your presentation to listeners, especially not before presenting it. If distribution is warranted, share in-depth, edited information as a separate reading document.

In summary, the key message is clear: Trim the text. People come to hear you, not to read the presentation alone.

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