episode 91: What is the Presentation Designer Skill Set?

  • This episode, Troy, Nolan and Sandy talk about being a presentation designer – which is different from being a web designer, a video editor, a motion graphics designer or a graphic designer. Presentation designers emerge from a collection of backgrounds and we talk about what skills a presentation designer today needs, and what skills they are expected to have.

Is Photoshop a critical software for today’s presentation designer?

  • Troy: Yes, but a lot less than it was years ago. There is so much design that can be done directly in PowerPoint now, a designer could survive without having Photoshop (I would not recommend it).
  • Sandra:  I say not needed. But often required.
  • Nolan: I think it is a necessity.

Is Illustrator a critical software for today’s presentation designer?

  • Troy: Again, more critical in the past. But being an expert in Illustrator design tools and techniques directly impact workflow, or how you work, in PowerPoint.
  • Sandra: I work in PowerPoint first when I create vectors. I would say not necessarily.
  • Nolan: I do very little project work in Illustrator. I use it primarily to edit quick things and convert files. So it is not critical, but important.

Is knowledge of video editing, skills and having video editing software experience critical to today’s presentation designer?

  • Troy: It may depend on the type of presentations you work on. I feel a lot of video skills translate to presentation design in terms of composition, focal point, motion. For highly visual motion presentations, yes, having video editing skills is important.
  • Sandra: I create videos from PowerPoint for self-running animation presentations with voice over and music. PowerPoint is my video editor and I feel this, being an expert in video specific editing software, may not be a critical skill for a presentation designer today.
  • Nolan: For video editing, I generally just want to trim, fade in/out or cross fade clips. All accomplished in iMovie some products from iSkysoft. I think it is a great skill to bring to presentation design, but not a must have skill.

How about print and layout design?

  • Troy: This is my background, and yes those skills translate to slide design. But print design to slide design, especially in text sizing and understanding content density is a huge gap/difference. I feel print layout is a great professional skillset that applies to every type of presentation design.
  • Sandra: My agency background and all the print design experience has definitely had an impact on what I do today.
  • Nolan: InDesign is probably my favorite program to work with, and I always shudder when I read on the InDesign forums about people designing presentations in it and importing JPEGs into PowerPoint. I would say that if you’re just a presentation designer, it’s not necessary. I think my work in InDesign has informed my ability to create print documents with PowerPoint.

Presentation design is unique in that we are almost always in direct contact with our clients. An average we have opportunity to interact with clients more than other designers – is that good or bad?

  • Troy: From a business perspective, it is great! From a design and productivity perspective, it can mean a lot of interruptions to the creative design time…
  • Sandra: Overall it has been good for me. But I establish boundaries upfront so most often clients defer to me as the expert.
  • Nolan: It is good, but it does mean presentation designers need interpersonal and client management skills too.


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