Advance SmartArt Strategies: Select the Right SmartArt Gallery Layout in PowerPoint

About this lesson

SmartArt Decision Tree Tutorial

In this PowerUp Training video, Les McCarter guides viewers through the process of selecting the best SmartArt layouts for their PowerPoint presentations. With over 200 SmartArt options available, the tutorial provides a detailed decision tree to help users navigate through major categories and choose the most effective layouts for their needs. Les explains how to use SmartArt to highlight different types of content, from basic lists to complex hierarchical structures, using live examples and hands-on demonstrations within PowerPoint.

The video dives into various SmartArt categories, such as lists, processes, relationships, and hierarchies, offering practical advice on how to utilize each one. For example, Les demonstrates how to choose appropriate layouts for lists with equal importance, sequences with time-based steps, and relationships between elements. He also covers the limitations and best practices for using these layouts, ensuring that users can create visually appealing and informative slides that effectively convey their messages.

Towards the end, the tutorial explores specialized layouts like cycles and pyramids, as well as picture-enhanced layouts for more visually engaging slides. Les emphasizes the importance of matching the SmartArt layout to the content’s purpose, providing tips on how to maximize the tool’s potential. Viewers are encouraged to download a PDF cheat sheet from the PowerUp Training website for quick reference in future projects.


00:00 Intro
01:00 Tutorial Preview
01:35 The Decision Tree: LISTS
03:10 Lists with and without Bullets
03:54 The Apple Mac Difference
04:14 The Extended More Layout List
05:17 Creating Process Layouts
06:25 Give SmartArt Extra Space
07:45 The Relationship Layouts
08:22 The Matrix Layouts
09:02 The Cycle Layouts
10:30 The Hierarchy Layouts
10:39 The Org Chart
11:00 The Extended Hierarchy Layouts
11:12 Swim Lane Layouts
11:53 The Pyramid Layouts
12:28 The Picture Layouts
13:04 Wrap-Up


Subject Microsoft PowerPoint

Software Compatibility From Office 2013 to latest Office 365, including Windows and Mac. Works well for PowerPoint, Excel and MS Word.

Level Advanced

Course Completed Complete




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SmartArt has over 200 layouts to choose from to illuminate your ideas.  So which is the best one to use? Let me help!

Hi, this is Les McCarter from PowerUp Training, where I turn my decades of experience into your PowerPoint expertise for free.

This is our 3rd of three videos on SmartArt, if you are new to this tool, <click> then check out our two earlier videos to up your skills by getting started <click> and then master the tool.

<click> But if you are comfortable with SmartArt and you just want to make sure you are leveraging the tool to its fullest, this video is all about which layout to choose.

With the help of a decision tree, I will guide you through the major categories with over 20 live SmartArt examples to compare and contrast.

So let’s dive in and explore how to best use SmartArt!

here’s what is going to happen using of course a smart art diagram with powerpoint animation we’ll walk through the decision process of selecting the right smartart object to illuminate your ideas on a specific slide i’ll start off going into details of scenarios and then we’ll explore the proper category to work within going into actual examples including hands-on work inside of powerpoint in the end i’ll provide a link to a pdf cheat sheet for you download to keep handy for your next project one of the most common items to spotlight is lists but even within lists there are subcategories that will help determine which smart art layout grouping to employ we’ll begin with a basic list that may or may not need sorting but basically each item in the list has equal importance here’s our detailed game plan within each category i will display the full thumbnail list of choices and then we’ll explore several variations so on the list we have three different examples as proposed in the previous youtube tutorial a great idea is to put in your text first then explore your list options from almost any ribbon menu tab this will work click on your smart art object and then find smartart design menu from above from there you can browse related layouts just dragging your mouse around and it will do a live preview on the screen and clicking the drop down arrow will expand the list with even more choices to browse to see how they might look not all choices work and we’ll see why in a few moments for the time being i will switch this from the layout called varying with list to targeted list this may be visually different but i like the earlier list as the font was more prominent with a bolder message looking more closely this first list is a single list of items with no sub-bullet topics however our second list does have indented bullet items which lets us explore more options to create a relationship between the topic headings and the supporting item the browse feature is a great way to see which layout supports sub-bullet points and how well they might work this explorative browsing is a big time saver and helps identifying a layout that might work just so we can compare i will select the same targeted list layout as before and you can see how it handles the bullet points in the compare and contrast side by side for our apple mac friends here’s a small side note all the commands work identically except the preview browse does not show up and to access the extended list of layouts you click the down arrow but everything else in mac office 365 will work the same as we see in our slide preview window there are many more list items to choose from but they’re not displayed in the browse window so to get to them you need to click the down arrow and then look for the more layouts at the bottom of the browse list and there you’re presented with the full complement of over 200 layouts note that all these commands work for our windows users going back to powerpoint 2013. over the tutorial we’ll explore the other categories but for now we are looking at lists the good news is there are so many more choices the bad news is that in this mode your mouse hovers do not display a preview of the change still if you do select an item it provides details of the layout capabilities such as the limitations of the number of items or how many layers deep it will work with but what if your list has a sequence within an importance of the order that the list is displayed in that case you want to work with the layout group called process typically processes are time based meaning steps or actions follow one another in a linear fashion smart art process layouts typically employs arrows or objects arranged in a line to represent a process the direction can be vertical or horizontal and i have two examples to show each look more closely at the vertical chevron list not just for the direction or the incorporated graphic arrows but the ability to have bullet points tied to each step or month and i can go even deeper with an additional bullet indentation in this layout the next level bullets is subtle but it is possible and it will look more obvious if the object is displayed larger which i’ll show more of in a few moments in the meantime let’s browse a few choices for the simple step 1 step 2 step 3 layout some work and some not so much now back to size certain layouts need extra canvas space to work to see this i’m going to make all our other objects hide by going to home and arrange show selection pane hiding all the objects and then showing just the chevron list see our youtube link above for our tutorial about managing layers as i browse through the list you see some of them look strange or just way too small to be able to use to best demonstrate this issue let me explore the full process layout list and then select something called phased process in this constrained corner of our slide it is unusable but if i stretch it out the concept becomes more clear with the groupings of indented bullet points as bubbles arranged by month with parentheses separators it’s kind of cool now back to the decision tree and to complete the list category if it’s just a laundry list of items then stick with list but if the items interact there are other choices should the individual items interact to the whole the checkout matrix category and if they have direct interactions with each other then explore relationship relationship layouts typically work best if small number of elements interact with each other such as our counter balance example of just two items that are yin and yang in nature or the basic venn diagram that nicely accommodates three four or sometimes five items or even extending the equation layout on the other hand the gear is stuck at three items so you need to experiment and remember make sure the layout matches your goal don’t pick something just because it’s pretty the matrix is a type of relationship that shows parts making up a whole there are only four choices and they’re typically just four elements in each possibly a fifth for a title and mostly not accepting multiple layers as bullet ideas up to this point we focused on lists which is the most common smartart category but a specialized version of lists are sequential processes which we’ve also already examined a subset of linear processes is a cycle basically a process that repeats itself over and over again this smaller collection of cycle process choices typically uses arrows to indicate the next step and the last step points back again to the first typically you’re limited to the number of items and few have the ability to include bullet points the cycle matrix will allow for items plus bullet points but look how any more than four main topics will not show with red x’s indicating that they won’t display that’s the limitation of this specific one the basic cycle will accommodate many more than four items but there are no capabilities for bullet points and if we browse other variations we see different layouts and different ways to represent the circle arrows some of the cycles look weird when previewing them like with just a single item shown but that’s an indicator that you need to add bullet points such as the radial cluster that uses more of a hub and spoke style look it means that you need to have a leading topic and then multiple sub bullets lastly note that not all cycles flow in one direction and smartart has double arrow layouts for those scenarios another specialized process is a hierarchy what you’re looking at on this slide is exactly that type of smartart to show you our decision tree but there’s more to this category one of the more recognizable hierarchies is the or chart if you want to see how we built this specific one make sure to watch the first youtube video in this series about smartart or charts work great in smartart for medium to small organizations and smartart has several variations to select from including a few that lets you attach people photos for longer lists with many sub bullets the hierarchy list works great and it’s a favorite of mine and then there are the very specialized layouts like the horizontal labeled hierarchy where you need to play around with the headings and the bullet levels to get it to work just right but you can be extremely effective for specific almost swim lane-like process flow diagramming our decision tree shows the relationship as a top choice and within that if the ideas interact or if they’re part of a whole collective we’ve already looked at both of these categories as i stated this can get messy if you have too many ideas to illustrate one special relationship category is the pyramid where you are trying to represent small to big or big to small as you see here we’re attempting to show that people are the most important item and that dollar resources are the least but it can easily be flipped around with a different layout note that there are only four pyramid layout choices for all else that does not fit in our big category decision tree there are the special group items half of these we’ve already explored such as flow and org charts the last two categories are pretty picture slides and cover pages and we’ll take a look at pictures right now the picture layout lets you add individual images to accent your ideas and while there’s an individual category called pictures almost all of the earlier layout categories have pictures layouts sprinkled in if you need help on how to create pictures in smartart see our previous deep dive training video into creating smartart plus an upcoming dedicated video on just how to use smartart for powerpoint title slides

Wrap Up

Your mind should now be racing with all the possibilities of how to leverage SmartArt in your next PowerPoint project.

If you want the handout of this tutorial, including the examples and decision tree, do visit us at Power-Up. Training or use the link in notes below.

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