Power-Up Newsletter 11

Our brains need icons.

Let me explain…

90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual.

​MIT neuroscientists​ found that the brain can process entire images in as little as 13 milliseconds!!!

Even more impressive, your brain has the power to process images 60,000 times faster than text.

That’s 3 times faster than blinking!

So let’s give your presentations what the brain loves most – images in the form of icons.

It’s Tuesday and time to discover how to make your presentations pop

I know, I know, the last few weeks have been a bit shady. First, we tricked everyone into thinking we were ​expert slide designers​. Then we used persuasive design to ​manipulate audiences​ into following our story how we wanted. Now, I’m suggesting giving your brain crack in the form of icons. I promise we’re really the good guys trying to save the world one slideshow at a time 🦸

“The fact that you can do that (processing images) at these high speeds indicates to us that what vision does is find concepts. That’s what the brain is doing all day long — trying to understand what we’re looking at,”

– Mary C Potter, Professor Emirata – Brain & Cognitive Sciences at MIT

Your boring bullet points could use some iconography.

What the heck is Iconography?

Iconography is a complex topic. For our purposes, I’ll keep it simple.

“Iconography” comes from two Greek words, eikon (“image”) and graphe (“writing”) which forms “image-writing” i.e. how images tell a story or how to use symbols to convey meaning.

These symbols can also be in the form of metaphors. For example, smartphones and webpages have icons of a house which refers to a homepage. A lightbulb can represent a key idea or something important to remember.

We use icons daily in the form of emoji when texting. You’re already doing it, but how can we take your icon game up a level in presentations at work?

Before letting you run wild with icons, there are 2 important principles to using icons in your work:

  1. Make it OBVIOUS


Help the audience to “see” what you’re trying to say. The icons you use should immediately make sense.

If the audience has to think about what the icon means then you’ve just made it that much harder for them to grasp your great idea. Think about common symbols such as the ones from your smartphone or even culturally relevant ones that your audience will immediately understand. Keep it simple, make it easy and the icon will be memorable.


Think of the icons in your presentation as a set. This set should have a consistent look and feel as if they were made specifically for your presentation.

The style, thickness of the lines, colour choices, or whether it’s an outline or a solid icon all impact the cohesiveness of the slide. Have too much variation and the slide will look wrong.

Remember the 60,000 times faster image processing vs. text from above ☝️ Yes, the audience will feel that something is off way before you even speak or the first bullet point appears.

So where do I find good icons?

Did you know that PowerPoint has a built-in icon library?

It’s a great place to start your icon set and can be found on the ribbon under Insert>Icons.

Another one of PowerPoint’s hidden features is the Icon Library

All you need to do is enter a search term for the style of icon that you need and you will find some great options. The nice thing is that these are in svg format which allows you to customise the colour of the fill and its outline to match your presentation.

⚠️ Warning: As with most things, a little goes a long way. Having too many icons in your presentation will end up diluting the impact of the icons that matter. Use icons sparingly and always think about making them memorable. After the 25th new icon, the audience really is not paying attention to them anymore.

Next level icons

Once you’re ready to venture outside of the stock PowerPoint icons, here are some of my favourite icon libraries to add a little flash to your next presentation:

  • ​The Noun Project​: The most diverse icon library you will find online
  • ​Flaticon​: A great selection of icons and one of my personal favourites
  • ​Material Symbols​: Google’s own collection of icons which mirror their material design standard
  • ​Iconoir​: A free icon library with more than 1300 free icons that you can edit on the site before downloading
  • ​Lordicon​: More than 1400 free animated icons. As with animation, use sparingly. There is an option to download a static version of the icon as well

Have fun finding icons that will make your slides unique, and interesting and give your brain that oomph that it craves 😁

⚠️ Warning: You can easily get lost and spend hours hunting for that perfect icon. I love doing this too, but (for most of us) it’s just not practical given the time crunches that come with our jobs. I recommend starting with the built-in icons from PowerPoint since they are most likely to look like a cohesive set rather than a jumble sale on a slide.

Good luck and have fun sharing your work!

I hope you’re having fun applying these presentation secrets to your work.

Is there a particular area that you currently struggle with? Let me know with a reply and I will create a lesson just for you 🏆

That’s all for Edition #11! Hope you have a fantastic week!

✌️ + ppt


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