*If you use Windows, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the Snipping tool to take screen shots. If you have a Mac, you can achieve the same thing by pressing Command+Shift+4. Take a look at the video at the end of the post for more.

Not all of us have Photoshop or In-Design, nor would many of us know how to use it well if we did. While they’re great tools and skills to have – even just at the most basic – you don’t need them in order to be involved in a design process. Using PowerPoint is a really cool alternative that we’ve been using since the start of our application, before we had a professional designer on the team. Even now that we do, we still use it to communicate a vision for how something should be laid out, rather than relying on our less-than-precise drawing skills.


For Ad Creation and Copywriting

Andrew Boucher – Marketing/Advertising

I do have some Photoshop skills, though menial in the grand scheme of things. I still find it helpful to use PowerPoint to create multiple versions of different ads, though, especially for Facebook, where I have the image, the image copy, the header copy, the sub-header copy, and the body copy to worry about. They all have to work together, and without being able to compare different versions side-by-side, it’s really hard to decide which pieces to put together.

Creating these mock-ups is really simple, too. I start with one slide with our ad image, and some simple shapes and small screen shots from Facebook (the ilos Logo at the top, and the Like/Comment/Share piece at the bottom). These are really easy to lay out, and once they’re in place, I can just duplicate the slide to create as many drafts as I want to compare side-by side.

mock it up

As A Site-Design and UI Tool

Nick Stokman; CEO & Product Experience

Disclaimer: if you already have Photoshop and know how to use it well, this method might not always make sense.

Using the Snipping Tool with PowerPoint to create quick UI mock ups is really great. The cool thing is that it allows you to really quickly mock it up what something might look like to see if it’s worth pursuing or not; you don’t need extensive design skills, you just need to know how to arrange shapes onto each other and place text-boxes.

When does it make sense to use PowerPoint?

  1. You’re not a graphic designer and don’t plan on developing that skill set. As one of the cofounders of a startup, I wish I could learn how to use Photoshop, but in reality, I don’t have a lot of free time for it. The awesome thing about this method is there’s zero learning curve.
  2. You need to leave comments for developers. One of the benefits of mocking up things this way is that you can easily add text comments / instructions to your PowerPoint. This is particularly useful, for instance, when communicating info to developers etc.
  3. A group of related mock-ups can be neatly organized in one slide deck (as opposed to having a bunch of separate image files).

Here’s an example of a quick mock-up I did on the left (just takes about 10 minutes if you know what you want) and it’s professional make-over.

mock it up in powerpoint

– With the Snipping Tool, you can draw on your image right after you snip it. You can then copy the image by right clicking on it (it will copy the image and whatever you drew on it)
– If you don’t want to lose any quality in your image, first save the file as a PNG before copying it.

A Professional Designer’s Perspective

Molly Ruoho; Graphic Designer

I had never thought of PowerPoint as anything but presentation software before I worked at ilos, but I could see the advantages right away.  Most of us are visual learners, which means communicating your ideas to coworkers in a visual way is more helpful than a verbal or written explanation.

Sketching is a great way to start that process, but it doesn’t always convey an accurate depiction of what you want the end result to look like.  With Powerpoint, you can create an easy to understand layout without knowing Adobe InDesign or Photoshop.

As a generation who relies heavily on computers, some of us don’t feel comfortable drawing or it takes a lot of time to get it right.   Either way, PowerPoint is a super easy-to-use tool that can help you visually communicate your ideas.  It allows you to experiment with elements and layouts, and explore your concept so that you can develop your idea.

As a designer, receiving a well thought out concept allows me to immediately know which direction to take the design, decide what elements to use, and it saves me time because I don’t have to try and decode mysterious scribbles or ask for them to explain it further. The example Nick used above is a perfect representation of how much clearer this is. Imagine him trying to explain all of the elements he wanted, and where he wanted them; it could have taken a really long time.


 Take a look at a walk-through of our Facebook ad mock-up as an example: