Tables can be a very useful instrument to display information in a structured way. The problem with tables is, however, that most of them look abysmal. So how do you create a proper, good-looking table? First of all, of course, you need to decide how many columns and rows your table should have. Second, you need a good design. Here are the main principles for designing a good table:
1. It should not have outer borders. As mentioned explicitly in the post “Outlines”, I detest outlines for shapes and text boxes. This also applies to tables. You do not need outer borders, they are not adding any value and are therefore useless
2. The inner borders should be white. This is not an absolute MUST, but I really do recommend it. It just looks nicer, cleaner and not as harsh as black or blue lines.
3. You need a color scheme for your table. You can either select the colors manually or you go for a Powerpoint template. I usually abhor Powerpoint templates, but when it comes to tables, there are a few good table styles. My personal favorite is “medium template 2” (You see? White lines, no outer frame…). Whatever you do, it is vital that different levels of logic or content have different colors. So usually, the top row contains the headers for each column. This row must be in a different (darker, please…) color than the rows below, which look best in a (much) lighter variation of the same color. It makes sense not to apply the same color for all the lower rows, but to pick two similar colors and alternate them. This improves the readability a lot.
4. Line thickness: Just as different levels of content should have different colors, different levels should be separated by a thicker line than the rest of the rows or columns.
5. As a last step, you need to edit the text in your table. When you create a new table, Powerpoint automatically suggests font size 18 for all fields. In 95% of all cases, this is too big, so you should adjust it. Even worse is the same font size for ALL fields. Please, please, promise that you will use a bigger font size in the top row (your headers) than in the rows below (see the post “Font – Type and size” for more details about fonts). Finally, you need to make sure that all text fields look the same in terms of vertical and horizontal text alignment
And one more thing: To create a nice table, you don’t necessarily need the table function in Powerpoint. By playing around with boxes and lines, you can create pretty cool tables “freestyle”. If you do it right, they will look better than the standard ones created with the function. The disadvantage is, however, that it takes much more effort to edit them if you want to change something (e.g. add another column).
Check the following examples: