Storybook – Slide Formatting

PowerPoint Themes

When starting to work on a new PowerPoint project for a Storybook Presentation the first thing you will do is apply the appropriate theme.

What Theme to Use

Remember that the overarching purpose and utility of using a theme is to promote consistency in our presentations. Themes should be picked out at the beginning of development on a course. This is done by or with the Course Lead and is a part of the overall Course Theme. Themes should be used in a consistent manner throughout all presentations in a course.

How to Apply a PowerPoint Theme

It is best to apply a PowerPoint theme to your PowerPoint project at the beginning. Applying after you have already laid out content can cause unexpected results.

  1. Click the Design tab of the Ribbon.
  2. Hover your mouse over the theme thumbnails and click the tab that appears at the bottom of that section of the Ribbon.
  3. Click Browse for Themes… at the bottom of the menu that appears.
  4. Navigate to where the PowerPoint theme file is stored.
  5. Select the theme file and click Apply to apply the theme.

Creating PowerPoint Themes

PowerPoint themes set the backgrounds, fonts, font sizes, available colors, and layout of a presentation. Themes allow you to quickly get started creating a presentation.

Starter Theme Assets

It is easiest to use the above starter theme as a base for creating a PowerPoint theme for your course.

Things to Address in a PowerPoint Theme

  • Position text and image boxes in a clean and consistent manner across slide types
  • Pay close attention to alignment, and keeping it consistent across slides types
  • Apply consistent, appropriate and useful alignment, padding and margins to all text boxes
  • Avoid placing content areas where they will appear under the playback controls when viewed in Storybook Player
  • Support all of the layout types described below
  • Make sure decisions about size, weight and alignment are made in the context of the whole presentation and with consistency
  • Create a hierarchy of information by differentiating titles and labels from body copy via size and weight
  • For most course content we are sticking to using our standard brand fonts. Brandon Grotesque for titles and headings. Open Sans for content.
  • Create backgrounds for Title Slides, Section Breaks, normal slides and any other appropriate slide types
  • Backgrounds should not dominate
  • Backgrounds should not have large elements that use up space that could be used for content
Color Palette
  • Configure the available color pallet to have colors that work with the colors selected in your backgrounds
  • Do not set the theme colors to different tints or shades of the same color, provide a variety of colors
  • Note that each accent color picked will get a set of tints and shades generated automatically by PowerPoint

Slide Layouts to Include in a PowerPoint Theme

As many slide layouts can be supported as you deem useful, but be sure to always include layouts for the following slide types when creating your PowerPoint theme:

  • Title Slide
    • Course Title
    • Presentation Title
    • Presentation Subtitle
  • Section Header
    • Section Title
    • Section Subtitle
  • Title and Content
    • Slide Title
    • Slide Content
  • Two Column
    • Slide Title
    • Two Content Boxes
  • Two Column with Headings
    • Slide Title
    • Two Content Boxes with Corresponding Title Boxes
  • Three Column
    • Slide Title
    • Three Content Boxes
  • Three Column with Headings
    • Slide Title
    • Three Content Boxes with Corresponding Title Boxes
  • Title Only
    • Slide Title
  • Blank
    • (No text boxes, just the background treatment)
  • Quiz Slide (for use in the transcript)
    • Question
    • Answers (no indicator of the correct answer)
    • The message “The correct answer can be found at the end of this transcript”

Creating the PowerPoint Theme

All aspects of a PowerPoint theme are designed in the Slide Master and associated Master Slide Types. You can access these by going to View > Master > Slide Master.

The master slide sets the basic look of a default slide for the whole presentation. And multiple different additional slide layouts can be defined alongside it. One layout should be made support each slide layout listed above.

Theme Colors can be set by clicking the Colors button on the Slide Master ribbon and choosing Customise Colors…. These colors should harmonize with the theme colors, but also provide enough variety to be useful. So don’t just set them all to tints or shades of the key theme color. Note that PowerPoint will automatically make tints and shades of each color you pick.

Font Size Considerations

One of the most important aspects of creating content for Storybook Pages is the size at which all text will appear when viewed by students. Yes, this includes text in titles, bullets, tables, diagrams, images, screencasts, and videos. The slideshow cliche of “You can’t read that” or “I’m not sure if you can read this” is not acceptable for our course content. We have the knowledge and skills necessary to avoid such situations.

What is a Good Size?

You might be thinking: “ok that’s easy. Just tell me what size to never go under and I’m all set!” Sadly it’s not quite that simple. Due to the ways different delivery methods, display devices, and content creation tools handle or display text there is no hard and fast rule that is simply communicated. So we will lay out some guidelines and ways to assess if the text in your presentations is too small.

Designing with Storybook in Mind

First of all, take note of how storybook displays the content of a Page in its default state. You will see that it is in a smaller subset of the overall presentation interface. This section is 640 x 360 on a standard screen, and it is ideal to have presentations fully usable at this size for ease of navigation and the use of the notes/widget area below the slide.

This is also analogous to how large the content will be on a small to medium sized phone. It is very important to remember that not all students will be viewing presentations on large desktop monitors or laptops. And that the number of students using smaller mobile screens will only increase as time goes on.

I’m sure you might be thinking “well, you showed me that expand button in the corner of the interface. That fixes things!” Indeed, it does make the content area bigger. But this comes at the expense of hiding other interface elements like the Table of Contents, and more importantly the notes/widget area. Do not design with the Zoom feature in mind, this is a convenience that is there to enhance an already readable slide. And it is available for the times when an instructor and/or instructional designer has deemed the content necessary for inclusion and no other compromise can be made to increase the legibility of the text.

Font Size in PowerPoint

It is best to stick to the font sizes that are specified in the PowerPoint theme. Consistency in font sizes is very important. This means making sure all content appears at the same size across all Storybook Pages and the course where possible. There are times where you will need to scale fonts down to make content fit. For the most part, you should never scale fonts up past their default sizes. Especially if it is just to fulfill the urge to “fill” the empty space on a slide that has a small amount of content. Except for rare exceptions, no text should be larger than the title of the slide, and ideally, it would also never be the same size as the title.

The default font sizes currently being used in PowerPoint theme templates are as follows:

Slide Title: 24 pt
Body Copy: 20 pt
Column Heading: 20 pt
Slide Subtitle: 20 pt
Presentation Title: 28 pt
Section Break Title: 36 pt
Section Break Sub: 24 pt

Never place text on a slide that is smaller than 14pt. Staying above 20pt is preferable. Font sizes between 14pt and 20pt should only be used when absolutely necessary. Try to restructure the content to allow for the text to be as close to the body copy size as possible. In some cases, this may mean breaking the slide into two slides or working with your instructional design partner to change the content of the slide.

Graphical Elements

Graphical elements include all photos, illustrations, diagrams, charts, tables, and graphs used in the presentation. These may be native PowerPoint art/elements or they may be images placed on the pages slide.

There are a few different things to think about when dealing with graphical elements in presentations. These are legibility, aesthetics, purpose, and rights. Each of these should be considered with every graphical element in every presentation. Sometimes you will be forced to go back to your Instructional Design partner or the faculty member to get clarification or an alternative for replacement.


When keeping a student’s point of view in mind, legibility is the highest priority. Along with following the font size guidelines for any text in the graphics, you should make sure any other information communicated is discernible. This means small pertinent details on an illustration should be easy to see. The intended connections made by lines in a diagram are easy to understand. The contrast between colors is enough to see the intended distinction between two objects. Etc.


After legibility, the general appearance of the graphic should be thought about. Some things you can think about when assessing aesthetics are:

  • Is the overall look of the graphic clashing or substantially different than the Course Theme? If so consider finding a replacement or doing work to bring it inline.
  • Can I clean up any rough or extraneous parts?
  • Do the graphics feel like 90s clipart? Consider finding a modern equivalent.
  • Are the graphics low resolution? Request a higher resolution file, consider recreating it or find a replacement.
  • Are there social or cultural aspects of the image that could use updating or change? Consider finding a replacement or requesting that it not be used.
  • Is there a style the graphic should be presented in that is profession or field-specific? Consider updating it to conform to that standard.


Our workflows target the SVG vector image format as our delivery method. This allows the text to be crisp and clear at any size on any screen type. But there are a few considerations that should be kept in mind when placing graphical elements on the slides as you format them in PowerPoint.

First is the fact that the slides being used on the Storybook pages are in a vector format. When creating graphics, tables, charts, and text with the native PowerPoint tools, these will all go through our export process and come out the other end as vectors in the SVG file. Any traditional images brought in as JPEG or PNG will not. The SVG format supports embedding these inside of it, and this works fine in our process. But the images won’t be vectorized, and depending on their resolution they won’t necessarily scale very well.

Whenever possible, it is best to either find a vector alternative, draw a vector alternative, or use the tools inside of PowerPoint to recreate the graphic. For example tables and diagrams can be recreated with the tools in PowerPoint. Replacement graphics can be found in vector format on Fotolia or created in Adobe Illustrator.

Again, our export process to SVG does allow for normal images to be embedded inside the SVG next to all the text and other content. But you will need to make sure you optimize the image before you put it in PowerPoint. For example, if an instructor placed a high-resolution 2mb image inside of a slide, you will need to extract it and resize/compress it when placing it inside of the formatted presentation. This is necessary because the file will retain its size and compression format when inside the SVG. In this example resulting in an SVG over 2mb. View the documentation on image compression if you are not sure how to make a reasonably sized PNG or JPEG. In general, we want our SVG images to be under 250kb, and rarely going over 500kb.

How to Get Vector Graphics into PowerPoint

PowerPoint on the Mac supports importing and preserving vector graphics. To make sure they stay vector and look correct through the whole export process they should be brought into PowerPoint as PDF files. PDF files fit for use in PowerPoint can be created as follows:


  1. Create your graphic in Adobe Illustrator, or import it into a new Adobe Illustrator document
  2. Set up your artboard to frame the graphic appropriately. Avoiding having too much or too little extra room around your graphic. Along with making sure the artboard is not cropping out any parts you need to be visible.


  1. Now that you are done creating and setting up your graphic, save a copy as an Adobe Illustrator document in the images folder of the dev folder of the project. This is so you or others can easily make changes to it in the future if needed.

Export for Use in PowerPoint

  1. Choose Save as… from the File menu
  2. Set the format to Adobe PDF (pdf)
  3. Set the destination to the images folder inside of the project’s dev folder
  4. In the next dialog, set the Adobe PDF Preset to PDF/X-1a:2001 to ensure compatibility with PowerPoint and to keep the file size down
  5. Save the PDF

This newly saved PDF can now be brought into PowerPoint like any other image. Either via drag and drop or from the Insert tab of the ribbon.

Note: This PDF vector process appears to only work in the Mac version of Microsoft’s PowerPoint.


It is important to consider the purpose and usefulness of all included graphical elements. We want all Storybook presentations to contain only graphics that support or illustrate the content being taught. Avoid using what we term “decorative” graphics. A decorative graphic would be one that is included just to fill space, or to try to “pretty up” the presentation. These often end up being stock photos or clipart that only vaguely or tangentially goes with the content. This can get subjective when talking about conceptual or abstract things since an instructor often feels they need some sort of image to go with it.

Illustrative Graphics:

  • Topic: Water Conservation Graphic: A diagram of the water cycle
  • Topic: Project Planning Graphic: A structured diagram of a the parts of project planning technique
  • Topic: Electronic Health Record Graphic: A screenshot of EHR software

Decorative Graphics:

  • Topic: Water Conservation Graphic: An illustration of a raindrop
  • Topic: Leadership Graphic: A man in a suit pointing
  • Topic: Project Planning Graphic: An illustration or photo of some documents
  • Topic: Electronic Health Record Graphic: A stock photo of a patient with a doctor


Our legal right to use graphical elements is also a concern. Often an instructor will use Google image search and just paste in what they find. While you can find images that are ok to use on places like Google image search, the ones provided by faculty are not usually selected with rights in mind.

It’s best to ask where an image came from and if we have permission to use it. If we don’t, you can find a replacement on Fotolia, decide if it is absolutely necessary (is it just decorative?) or recreate the graphic.

Generally, it is safe to assume we have permission to use graphics from a textbook. Though this is not always the case. Also, it is worth noting that even though many times we have permission to use textbook content it is beneficial to recreate the graphic to make sure it fits with the theme and/or it is legible.

If an image is labeled as being licensed under Creative Commons it is important to verify this and find out what version of the Creative Commons license it is using. If it is CC0 we can use this image with no issues. If it is a form of Creative Commons that requires attribution but has no other restrictions we can also use that image as long as we give the proper citation and include the Creative Commons license label. We can not use any images require our resulting work to be also licensed under Creative Commons.

Formatting Quiz Slides

To make generating transcripts easier and faster it is recommended that you format quiz slides in your PowerPoint project. These will not be used in the final Storybook Presentation, but they will be used in the transcript to give a nice formatted layout of the quiz.

For every Storybook Quiz Page do the following:
  1. Select Quiz from the Layout menu.
  2. Enter the question/prompt and the possible answers. If the quiz type does not have possible answers (Short Answer, Fill in the Blank, etc) you only need to enter the question/prompt. Do not enter the feedback or any indicator of the correct answers, this infomration will be placed in the transcript.

Exporting Slide Images

Once you have finished all of the formatting and layout of a PowerPoint project. You will need to export the slides to image files that will be used on the Storybook pages. Storybook supports images that are PNG, JPG or SVG. Our prefered Storybook Page format is SVG.

Exporting Slides to SVG Images


It is important to optimize/compress the images that are inside of the PowerPoint presentation before exporting the slides. This is because large high resolution images will be carried through the export process at full quality. This can lead to very large SVG files.

Only do this step after you are done formatting your presentation as it can trim off cropped areas you might decide to uncrop, and it lowers the resolution of the images. You can not reverse these changes.

  1. From the File menu, choose Compress Pictures… to open the Compress Pictures dialog.
  2. Set Picture Quality to “On Screen (150 ppi).”
  3. Turn on “Delete cropped areas of pictures.”
  4. Click OK

Once you have compressed the images in your presentation, you are ready to export your slides and convert them to SVG.

Exporting PowerPoint slide images to SVG is a multi-step process and involves exporting a PDF and converting it to a set of SVG images with an extra tool. Follow the instructions on the Storybook Production Tools documentation page to install the required tools for this process. If you have trouble or questions, please reach out to Bryan.

  1. From the File menu in PowerPoint, choose Export….
  2. At the bottom of the open/save dialog select PDF as the File Format.
  3. Browse to where you would like to export the PDF to and click Export.
  4. In the Finder, right click the PDF you just exported.
  5. From the Services sub-menu select PDF2SVG.
  6. Notice the rotating gear icon in your menu bar near the clock. Do not do any thing in the Finder until it disappears. Selecting files or moving the PDF or resulting SVG images before it finishes can interrupt the script causing an errors or incomplete SVG files.

Exporting Slides to JPG Images

If you have unique reasons to use JPG images for your slides, this is how to do so. Otherwise please use SVG and follow the instrutions above.

  1. From the File menu, choose Export…
  2. At the bottom of the open/save dialog select JPG as the File Format.
  3. Browse to where you would like to export the images to and click Export.

Project Organization Audio Editing

Published on April 24, 2017 at 12:23:17 pm CDT. Last modified on November 18, 2021 at 12:28:09 pm CST.