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Illustrate Your Ideas with PowerPoint SmartArt

July 24, 2014 / Blog, PowerPoint Tutorial, Tools powerpoint tool, powerpoint tutorial, smartart graphics

We’ve long made a case for why you should use illustrations and graphics in your PowerPoint designs. They’re the best way to help your audience understand and retain complicated concepts. To drive home the point, today we’re showing you an easy way to do it using PowerPoint SmartArt graphics.

Getting Started

PowerPoint SmartArt doesn’t make things complicated for you. You can easily translate data and information into eye-catching visuals in a few steps. Start by heading to the Insert tab and click on SmartArt. This will lead you to a dialogue box where you have plenty of options for layouts.

Choosing a PowerPoint SmartArt layout

PowerPoint SmartArt graphics are categorized into eight types, each serving a different purpose:

powerpoint smartart layouts list

1. List: If you’re presenting information that is non-sequential, choose any layout from this category.

powerpoint smartart layouts process

2. Process: Layouts from this category will help you illustrate a process or timeline by showing individual steps.

powerpoint smartart layouts cycle

3. Cycle: Present a process that is cyclical or continuous with this layout type.

powerpoint smartart layouts relationship

4. Relationship: Show how different concepts are connected using this type of layout.

powerpoint smartart layouts hierarchy

5. Hierarchy: Layouts under this type can help you create an organizational chart or a decision tree.

powerpoint smartart layouts pyramid

6. Pyramid: A pyramid layout is the best way to present concepts or information that proportionally related.

powerpoint smartart layouts matrix

7. Matrix: A matrix layout helps you illustrate how different parts relate to a main idea.

powerpoint smartart layouts picture

8. Picture: Layouts under this type allow you to add pictures that will help emphasize your key points.

Keep in mind: Organize the information or data you have before creating a SmartArt graphic. Try to map out your ideas if you can. Putting them on paper will help you figure out what type of layout is best for your content.

Adding text to your SmartArt graphics

After you’ve chosen the best SmartArt layout for your message, you can begin to plot some text into your illustration. Add and edit text using the Text Pane, which appears on the left side of your chosen layout.

As you can see, you won’t have enough room to explain things in long paragraphs so stick to your key points.

Get creative with color choices

It’s not not enough to plot your data into a SmartArt graphic. The best illustrations are enhanced by colors that were wisely chosen.

Click on the Design tab under SmartArt tools and click the Change Colors option. You can choose from the different presets, some of which are automatically matched to your template’s color scheme. If you’re using a Picture type layout, you have the option to Recolor Pictures in Smart Art Graphic.

powerpoint smartart change color


PowerPoint SmartArt is pretty simple once you get the hang of it. It’s all a matter of plotting information and customizing your illustrations in a way that suits the rest of your PowerPoint design.

What you really need to master is creativity. If you integrate this tutorial with the others we’ve written in the past, it won’t take long for you to become a PowerPoint expert.


Featured Image: Ian#7 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)