Contemporary fashion designer, Virgil Abloh, has had his hand in design long before the launch of his popular, luxury fashion brand “Off-White”. In fact, his passion for design extends beyond the fashion industry. Abloh initially trained for a career in architecture, before making the switch to fashion design, and refers to himself as a “maker” instead of a traditional fashion designer. During his time in school studying civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, his mother— a seamstress in her own right— taught him the basics of clothing design. He then went on to complete his master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Little did he know at the time that his mom’s seamstress skills would pave the way for his own career.
Virgil Abloh entered the fashion world as an intern at Fendi. Louis Vuitton CEO, Michael Burke, told The New York Times, “I was really impressed with how [Abloh and West] brought a whole new vibe to the studio and were disruptive in the best way. Virgil could create a metaphor and a new vocabulary to describe something as old-school as Fendi.” Burke isn’t the only one impressed by Abloh’s design career— we are, too.
In 2013, Abloh founded trendy, street-style brand “Off-White”, which now has about 50 stores around the world and is stocked by some of the most prestigious retailers. But he didn’t stop there. In 2018 Abloh was named the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections— no small feat for a DJ from Chicago, Illinois.
Sure, Virgil Abloh’s career boasts many accomplishments— but we know what you’re thinking, what does a fashion designer have to do with presentations? Without Abloh’s disruptive designs, eye for aesthetics, and contemporary style he might not have gotten where he is today. So, what design lessons can we take from one of Time Magazine’s most influential people in the world and apply to presentations?
Keep these 5 design principles, borrowed from Virgil Abloh’s style, in mind when you’re creating your next deck.
Keep it modern
One element of Virgil Abloh’s personal design language is his 3% approach where he strives to edit existing designs only 3-5%. What can we learn from this? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be relevant. You can add your own modern spin to traditional presentation design without staring at a blank canvas for 5 hours. The Chicago native pulls a lot of inspiration from casual street style into his collections, and it’s the influences from “the now” that make his designs so relatable. Don’t be afraid to include environmental, or branded, elements in your presentation for relatability— but keep it modern, always. You’ll notice a lot of Abloh's designs are edgy, but modern, which helps him stand out from the competition. You might consider those design styles when creating your next deck.
Don’t be afraid to use colors to evoke emotion
Your brand colors should be at the forefront of your deck design, but don’t be afraid to use bold and trendy colors, too. Virgil Abloh’s “Off-White” brand name came to life to portray that not everything is black and white, and things can often be “off white”. And while he opted for a simple black a white company logo, the brand is known for incorporating an iconic yellow into designs. Virgil Abloh is all about connecting to the consumer, and you can see that in the bold colors he uses to evoke emotion.
Create a powerful color palette that is both on-brand and on-trend, and easily apply it to each slide by setting a presentation theme. Play around with different colors to see what works best with your story, and what might provoke the best response from your audience.
The power of the visuals
Design is one place where looks actually do matter. Nailing the style, and delivery, of a brand is the difference between a successful fashion company and one that falls short. What we love most about Abloh’s design style is his emphasis on the power of the visuals. Though his designs err on the side of minimalist and modern, they’re never lacking visual appeal. In presentations, rich visuals are what humanize your deck design and engage the audience. After all, a large majority of humans are visual learners. By choosing branded images, videos, icons, and logos, you’re taking your presentation to the next level and allowing for a more favorable outcome.
We understand the power of visual appeal, too. Beautiful.ai has a free library full of high-quality visual assets right within the product so you don’t have to hop around the web looking for the right image or logo.
Let your designs speak for themselves
Virgil Abloh has been known to use his designs to call attention to political or environmental matters, but he lets his designs speak for themselves. One of his most famous designs is using statement words in quotation marks and adding those to shoes, apparel, and accessories. He claims that the quotations are meant to be funny, and a way to really connect with the consumer. Your decks can speak for themselves, too. People should be able to look at your slide and identify the key takeaway with little-to-no effort. Using a slide like Beautiful.ai’s word cloud template allows you to make a statement without actually having to say anything— in true Virgil Abloh style. Use the template to incorporate keywords from survey results, company values, or overarching goals in a more visually appealing way.
Storytelling is key
Storytelling is what propels the majority of Virgil Abloh’s designs forward— whether that story is sneakers or ball gowns. He said, “I have this brand Off-White, only to tell stories. I don’t have it to do traditional fashion, because I don’t know that.” The story behind the product and what engages his audience is what inspires him the most. And we’re especially impressed by how well Abloh connects to his clients, customers, and community. You should take the same approach to your presentations. Lead with your story, and the rest will follow. Who is your audience? What story are you trying to tell them, and how are you going to tell it? That should be your starting point for any presentation design. Afterall, storytelling is what connects us all.
Beautiful.ai’s smart slide templates help you structure your story in new, interesting ways that you may not have thought of otherwise. The strategic guardrails force you to rethink your message and only include the most important tidbits of information so that your story is more thoughtful and effective.