It's the age-old question of presenters everywhere: "Which PowerPoint slide design should I use?"
I know the feeling so well of booting PowerPoint and looking through the same old 15 tired slide designs that everyone uses, knowing full well that I would only consider using three of them.
So when the PowerPoint team set off to create a new graphics engine for Office 2007 along with new features for varying the theme, color scheme, font scheme, and special effects scheme across all of the main Office apps, I was personally elated. Finally, I thought, light at the end of the slide design tunnel!
One of the key concepts to understand about this new world is that each of the slide designs (now called "themes" in Office 2007) is way, way more than just a static design. Each theme is actually an extremely elaborate design that can be totally transformed by applying a different color scheme, font scheme, effects scheme, and background style. What looks on the surface to be a very flashy style can be made very corporate-looking is just a few clicks. On the other hand, more subdued themes can be punched up in the same way.
Because of the way the themes engine was built into each of the objects of Office (charts, tables, diagrams, etc.), as you change each of the aspects of the overall design (color, intensity, fonts), all the content in your slides changes to match your new design. It's hard to explain just with words, but when I play with it, I'm astounded at how well it works.
All of the controls you need to play with the options in PowerPoint are there on the Design tab. Check out the Themes gallery to set the overall style, and then use Colors, Fonts, Effects, and Background Styles galleries to tweak the look.
Why did I mention 96,000 slide designs? Well, that how many variations we're shipping "in the box." The math looks like this:
20 Color sets x 20 Fonts sets x 20 Effects sets x 12 Background Styles = 96,000
The PowerPoint and OfficeArt teams have done a great job at explaining how this all works in great detail (with tons of pictures) on their blog. It's highly recommended reading, and it gives you a good idea of how the more visual components of the new user interface (especially galleries and Live Preview) work together with this new themes and graphics engine to make getting great looking output really easy.