art for instructions on how to make icons in PowerPoint

by Paul C. Tumey

In today’s world, there is less and less tolerance for bad design. Most business professionals are not trained designers, and yet the world increasingly expects you to create well-designed PowerPoint presentations. Iconic PowerPoint is an approach non-designers can easily master to achieve good design. The approach works because it embraces two key principles of good design: Visual Consistency and Simplicity.

Icons and PowerPoint are a match made in heaven. Learn Iconic PowerPoint and you can easily upgrade your slides without having to be designer.

In this lesson, I show you how you can easily create your own icons using shape tools in PowerPoint. Once you master this, it should take you mere minutes.

Part One and Part Two of this series dealt with using pre-made icon art. This lesson will empower you to create art yourself. Anyone with basic PowerPoint skills can do this.

In this lesson, I will show you how to make three common icons. Icons are basically combinations of simple shapes. You want to work with two colors and simple shapes — icons need to be simple in order to work well. They are meant to convey a bit of visual information at a glance and that’s all. This makes our job easy.

Start by drawing an anchor shape, such as a blue circle (no outline). You can draw it large, and the group and resize it later. It’s best to use a darker color. If you can match it to a branding color, all the better.

art for lesson on how to make icons in PowerPoint

Simple Chart Icon

A chart icon is very useful for supporting financial text about growth and revenue gains. If you examine the art below, you will see the icon is made of two shapes readily available in the shapes palette: a rounded corner rectangle and an arrow. It’s a simple matter to make this – try it!

diagram showing how make a chart icon in PowerPOint

Simple Person Icon

People icons are very common. As you see by the diagram I’ve made for you below, there’s two basic shapes, a rounded rectangle (body), and a circle (head). Note the trick of moving the yellow, diamond-shaped handle in the rounded rectangle to better suggest shoulders. You can modify this basic art by adding little suggestive details. In this one, I used a triangle to suggest a tie, which turns it into a business man icon. Note the tie is the same color as the anchor shape. This shows the principle of simplicity again.

art showing how to make a business man icon in PiowerPoint

Cell Phone Icon

It’s very simple to make a cell phone icon in PowerPoint. As you can see by the illustration below, it’s just two shapes. The trick is to make one of the shapes the same color as the anchor shape you are using for the background.

direction for ho to make a cell phone icon in powerpoint

Try making these three icons. You’ll see it’s ridiculously easy. Hopefully, this will embolden you to make more. Remember, keep it simple. Two or three shapes and no more than two colors (with white being one of those colors!). Here’s some icons I made in about 10 minutes.

examples of icons made in powerpoint

Cartoon Simple

For fun, check out Cartoon Simple, my friend and colleague James Gill’s blog dedicated to cartoons that embrace the Principle of Simplicity.

Watch My Video of this Lesson to Learn More!


Paul C. Tumey is the founder and director of Presentation Tree.