Recently I’ve noticed there are an awful lot of new ways to design presentation slides. It used to be that it was PowerPoint, like it or lump it – but in recent years the option to move away from Microsoft’s behemoth has become more and more viable.

Haiku Deck is one such option, hailing itself as “the simple new way to create stunning presentations”.  So what is it?

Firstly it’s a free iPad app! But more importantly it’s one that allows you create very simple zen-style presentations for your iPad. It lets you place a small amount of text onto an image, in various different layouts with various themes.

It certainly is simple, and that’s the beauty of it – you can put a great looking deck together in minutes and then share this creation with anyone close by on your iPad – whether connected to the internet or not; on a screen/projector if you’ve got the right cables or through Facebook, Twitter & email on any device. You can also export to PowerPoint if you wish (although text is rendered into an image, so it can’t be edited in PowerPoint). It’s so easy to use you’ll be creating delightful decks before you know it.

To help keep things neat and tidy, the app restricts the amount of text you can add to a slide. It keeps text to one line – so to stop you from writing an essay or filling a slide with bullet points. Basically you can have a single title or phrase and then if you like, add a second line of text (in a smaller case) to elaborate on your main point. You can apply various layouts to this text, so the title in the middle of the page, or off to the left or right and so on.

haiku deck for ipad Edit view

There are a few themes to choose from immediately, which change the filter on the images, font types and so on. More can be purchased in-app (£1.49 per new theme) if you can’t find what you are looking for. You can’t just change the font though; the whole theme needs to change. All through the creation process, from amount of text through to colour scheme, Haiku Deck is stopping you from making the slides look like your normal PowerPoint efforts (i.e. terrible).

Another cool feature is the way images are added to your deck. You add the text you want to a slide and the app then suggests images based on your text – so add the phrase ‘Fresh Ideas’ and you’ll get images of food, nature and so on. If you can’t find the one you want in the system, you can quickly upload your own image to the app. This image is then set as the background to the slide, so you can only have one image per slide (unless you create an image made up of multiple pictures yourself and upload it).  If you don’t want an image, no problem, just select the colour (from the theme) for the background instead.

haiku deck for ipad

There are literally millions of free images to choose from, so you’ll be hard pressed not to find a stunning image for your presentation. You don’t need to worry about copyright, Haiku Deck has taken care of it (once again). The image come which any appropriate copyright notices automatically. You can image search in a similar way in PowerPoint (insert -> clipart then find nice photos), but it just feels easier and at your finger tips in Haiku Deck.

So do I recommend Haiku Deck? Well, for quickly and easily creating fantastic looking zen presentations, that force you to keep the text to the minimum, it’s perfect! However, there is a problem. You are still using text to communicate your ideas. Although it’s not slides full of bullet points, it’s essentially a deck full instead – with one bullet point per slide. And although it’s cleaner, using one image to sum up an idea or point of a slide can be very difficult to get right. It’s very easy for audiences to misinterpret your imagery, or even get distracted.

I’ve had a go at creating the opening to our Introducing BrightCarbon presentation in Haiku Deck to compare the Zen approach against our own. Here are the two presentations below (with audio because a presentation has a presenter, and isn’t just a PDF) – Haiku Deck’s first and our PowerPoint created deck second. The big question is: Do slides created with Haiku Deck add enough value for the audience? Let me know your thoughts in the comments:

Haiku Deck is definitely a step in the right direction – it takes no skill whatsoever to create gorgeous presentations, and swiping to navigate through them on your iPad is always a pleasant experience. This technology ought to disrupt the presentation design market – a lot of presentation designers who charge ‘real money’ to make these sort of slides will need to improve, and fast.

If you want a quick and free way to create pretty presentations on your iPad – that can be exported to PowerPoint – you’ll be hard pressed to find a simpler solution than this. But just remember that not every presentation topic lends itself to slides that just show pretty pictures behind short bullet points.

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Karl Parry

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