A Venn Diagram that Engages and Informs Instead of Confuses or Overwhelms: A Slide Design Case Study

Engaging Venn diagram cover.png

One of my slide design clients needed a way to present a Venn diagram in an effective and engaging way. By effective, I mean in a clear and easy-to-follow way, and in a way that looked professional and well-designed.

This is challenging for a lot of people, because of reasons I outlined in another blog post. In short: it’s a LOT of information happening all at once.

So, my task was to set up their slides in a way that would allow them to walk their audience through all of the content. And, of course, it had to look beautiful, too!

I used cupcake ipsum (and made some other changes) to anonymize this slide deck.

The Original

Here is an anonymized version of what the client sent me. I’ve seen Venn diagrams like this before where it’s essentially three circles with no fill, positioned to overlap. Then, there’s some text (with bullet points).


The Request

  1. Show each component so they could state the category.

  2. Show the overlaps (note that the overlaps did not have a unique label in this case).

  3. Show an example of each component and overlap.

What Most People Do When they DIY

The mistake a lot of people make is that they’ll add color and just make the shapes a little transparent. Does this look like the type of Venn diagrams you’ve made before?


First of all, this is basically a SmartArt design and I’ve already written a whole blog post about why you should STOP using SmartArt forever.

The other big problem here is that you can’t walk the audience through each component or overlap in a really engaging or easy-to-follow way. You also don’t have full control over the color/shading of all those overlaps. Look at how the very middle section is hard to see. You don’t want that: it should stand out very clearly.

The Final Slides Designed by Me

So here is what I did for the client. I …

  • created a custom Venn diagram to fit the number of components for their presentation,

  • chose the design (colors and fonts), and

  • created pieces of the Venn diagram, and then

  • set up the slides/animations in the same order as the script. This is how I set up the slide deck for the presenter so they could walk their audience through each step.

  • created a summary slide that showed all parts/components in full color.

For example, here is the very first slide in the series. It shows the first circle in the series with the label, plus the example. Note that the example didn’t show up at first, as it was set to an “appear” animation to show only on click. Again, this was to walk the audience through each point.


Here is a gif of how it looks when actually presented:


Using a combination of custom animations and color choice, I built in ways for my client to help their audience focus on the exact part of the slide they were talking about, in that moment. Information no longer relevant (e.g., the example of a specific part of the diagram) faded away when moving onto the next part. That was designed to prevent information overload for the audience.

What did the client have to say?

Here is what this slide design client said about this slide deck design:

“I had never received any guidance at all on how to make effective Powerpoint slides for presentations. Being on the job market, I had noticed how much of a difference it can make if your slides are clear and professional-looking, but I did not know where to start! My slides contained graphics that looked unprofessional, and too much text. Echo made some radical changes to my material that made everything look much better. I used her improved slides to put together a job talk for an assistant professorship. After my talk, one of the committee members told me my presentation looked very impressive, and several faculty members who were in the audience said the same. And it gets better: I was offered the job that Echo helped me create my presentation for! Aside from this impact, and more importantly perhaps, Echo also gave me some guidelines as to what she counts as effective presentations, which gave me the confidence to improve other presentations as well. Thank you Echo!” - post-doc (and soon to be assistant professor!) in the social sciences

I’d love to design your slides (or show you how to design your own)!

As someone with a PhD and over 13 years of research/evaluation experience, I specialize in helping academics, scientists, researchers, and evaluators with their slide designs. I never place design over the content/data: the content/data always comes first.

I use design to make sure your work is presented in a clear, easy-to-follow, engaging way.

If you’d like to get a quote for what it’d take to design your slides (or get a custom graphic/illustration for them), then send your slide deck to me with a little bit of info on what you’d like me to do.

If you’d rather have training on slide design then you can book a 1:1 session with me at any time through this page.

You can also purchase a customizable Venn diagram template I made here and try to DIY from there.

For comprehensive training, I run an online professional development program, Blast Off to Stellar Slides. You can get started for free through my #StellarSlidesin5 course.

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