If you’ve been paying attention in this series on page layout for marketers, you know what the next step is: how to define and use page grids in PowerPoint to layout pages with hierarchy, balance, and emphasis.
Normally, you’d do page layout after your content is created and edited in tools like Word and Excel.
Pages, not slides
PowerPoint lays out more than just slides. It can do pages of all shapes and sizes, up to 4′ x 6′ posters. Many researchers use this poster ability of PowerPoint for presenting their work at research conferences. FedEx Office and many other places can output posters built in PowerPoint.
To change from slides to pages, use the Custom Slide Size setting. There are preset options for 8.5 x 11 inches and 11 x 17 inches. (In PowerPoint 2011, this is found under Slide Size on the Design Ribbon. If you’re lost or have different version of PowerPoint, just search Help for “Custom Slide Size.”) This also lets you set the page orientation between portrait and landscape.
Grids and guides
Once you have your document set up as the page size you want, turn on Gridlines, found on the View ribbon. (Again, if you’re lost or have different version of PowerPoint, just search Help.) You’ll see a grid of dotted lines on your page forming one-inch squares. These won’t appear when you display your page in Slide Show mode or print your page.
With Grid Settings, you can set the spacing between the dots in lines in your grid (to help with more precise layouts), and specify whether or not you want objects like text boxes to automatically snap to (attach to) gridlines.
PowerPoint also includes Guides, which can be turned on and off from the View ribbon. Guides are horizontal and vertical lines that extend beyond the edges of your page and that you can arrange to create custom alignments on your page.
Simply drag the guides where you want them. Holding down the Control key while dragging creates a new guide. To delete a guide, just drag it to the far edge of the window.
Grids and guides remain constant as you move through the pages of your document, helping you to carry your design throughout your pages.
Make your grid
Now you can establish the grid you want to control the structure and look of your document.
Say you want a 8.5 x 11 inch, portrait document, with half-inch margins on all sides and three equal vertical columns. Simply adjust the slide size, turn on gridlines, and drag guides to mark out the margins, the columns, and the space between the columns. Now you’re ready to build pages as structured as any magazine or book.
For your convenience, you can download my templates to use in creating professional two-, three-, and four-column page layouts in portrait (vertical) and landscape (horizontal) orientations.
Use PowerPoint’s built-in graphics and drawing tools, import pictures, copy and paste text from Word and charts from Excel. Once you’re done, you can save your document in PDF format to email, print, or post on your website.
But what about…
…doing all this in Word? Yes, you can do page layout in Word, but I find Word more difficult to do something like a eight-page document with a three column layout throughout, but an eight column side bar that runs across the bottom quarter of the center two-page spread.
…all the extra work beyond just writing my Word document? Yes, this level of design takes extra time and work. You probably don’t want to do this for every document. But for the documents that count–annual report, project summaries, fundraising newsletters–this level of work is well worth it. And once you’ve established a design foundation, say for project summaries, you can reuse it, thereby continuing to help your reader and differentiate your work from competitors.