Tips for Designing with Prezi

Hi, I really LOVED your Prezi on Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on genius - I found it through the Prezi TED finalist section. I wondered if you would share (via email or on your blog) how you found your own inspiration for Prezi, how you learned to use the tool, anything that would help me conquer my own Prezi presentation that I'm trying to design. I'm finding it awkward to translate PowerPoint slides into a Prezi (but I'm building something for a client from an existing presentation they have). I'm completely new to Prezi and just wanting to find more inspiration about how to build and conceptualize the presentation as a whole. I can use the tools themselves but of course that's only part of the process!

Keep up the great work!

FIRST OFF, THANKS FOR the kind words. It's really cool to be a finalist! I'll try to weave some advice into the story of how I created that presentation.


1. Colors, Fonts, and Tone. Any time I create something, I devote at least 5 hours (sometimes 20) just to creative exploration. In that time, I'm looking through different sites, google images, and doing research on similar projects that were executed well. I'm looking for something beautiful that resonates with the project. Something about designer furniture would have a different color palette, different fonts, and different visual elements than something about punk rock. 

2. Layout. Once I've found visual elements that work, I start to think about layout. The interesting thing about Prezi is that because you're zooming in and out, you have multiple levels of layout, and your layout is more flexible in a lot of ways. My first draft of the presentation was more like an infographic, but I felt like I wanted one unifying visual to tie everything together, so I used the picture of Elizabeth speaking at the TED talk. I was pretty lucky to find that image. I dropped it into Photoshop to add the title of the presentation to the visual.

4. Telling a Story, rather than PowerPointing. Once you have an idea of the visual direction you want to go in, it's time to create the story. For me, this is the part that really separated the top presentations from the rest: the narrative. As a presentation designer, the thing I hate more than anything is something that reminds me of PowerPoint, because it's boring and looks unprofessional. Anything with a title and bullet points reminds me of PowerPoint. Breaking away from that is a challenge, because it means you have to reconceptualize how you're going to explain your idea. The PowerPoint format encourages people to explain ideas in terms of heading and bullet points, or topic and supporting point. 

But that's not really how people talk and convey ideas. Generally speaking, they move from one idea to the next, making sure that each one follows from the previous one. It's kind of like a stone skipping on the water, rather than having 3 huge boulders spread throughout a lake. Eventually, I'll develop a voice for the presentation, and then the narrative just kind of moves itself along. It'll probably be uncomfortable to move away from the PowerPoint slide format, but I think you should try it and see what happens. You may be surprised.


1. Zooming with Intention. Here's where you really can take advantage of Prezi's zooming feature. You can use the zooming feature to help communicate ideas by having thing zoom in when elaborating on a certain idea. For example, if you have a question that you pose, you can answer it by zooming in. Or, if you're talking about the benefits of the product, you can zoom into some aspect of the product. In that case, the viewer associates zooming in with moving deeper into a topic. You can also zoom out to show context or show a new surprising idea. In my presentation, the transition from slide 24 to 25 uses that effect on a small scale. For legibility, it's probably a good idea to zoom in on areas that contain single colors (like a letter or a shape) rather than a picture, but not always.

2. PROTIP: Photoshopping Images. Most people who are using Prezi probably aren't Photoshop savvy, but  Photoshop can make a big difference, especially when it comes to images. Two things come to mind. One is cutting out the backgrounds of images to make them a little more interesting and then saving them as PNGs. The other is colorizing pictures using effects, adjustment layers, and blending layers (e.g., setting the layer style to color, multiply, etc.). You can achieve interesting effects that way, but more importantly, reduce some of the visual noise so (1) you can focus on typography and (2) your presentation is more visually coherent. In my presentation, I experimented with a few adjustment layers (particularly, Threshold) but decided to use a pink layer set to Multiply on top of all my images.


A piece of the original Prezi design
1. Don't be Afraid to Start Over. When I do anything creative, including writing this blog post, I usually go through a few different versions before I find something that feels good. I'll create a draft, then realize something new about the problem or topic, and find a better way to explain it. The same thing happens at least 2-3 more times. Then I throw everything out and just create something that feels personal and natural. That last draft actually comes together very quickly compared to the first few. In this Prezi, I did the original draft in Photoshop, which was just a big infographic (see picture). I didn't like that it didn't have order behind it, so I created another version using some imagery (not a complete version, just a mock up). Then I found that image of Elizabeth and rewrote the entire presentation. It was based on the infographic, but also pretty different, and it didn't have Billy Mays in it. (Yes, Billy frikkin' Mays.)

2. Don't Overdo It. If you're making a Prezi for a client, I think it's important to find a balance between overusing the zooming feature and using it enough to create interest. Like PowerPoint, those animations can be really distracting and take the focus off the message, so be careful. On the other's awesome.


1. Find a few pieces of visual inspiration to start with.
2. Watch some cool Prezis and improve on what they did.
3. Use interesting photography, not just stock photography or, god forbid, clip art.
4. Get to know the software, it's not that tough.
5. Don't import your PowerPoint slides, you cheater. ;)
6. Play with typography.
7. Explore different layouts.
8. Be different.
9. Find your voice.
10. Lose your voice.
11. Find your genius.

Hope this helps. You can leave a comment in the comments section if you'd like!