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Tutorial for

Hierarchy 020 – Spiral Stairs

Using Stairs

This staircase can show a progression of steps or levels, but because it pivots around a base, the steps can relate directly to a goal, project, organization, or other. This makes the staircase in this series able to convey different concepts than a stand-alone, straight staircase.

There are two versions of staircases. Each of the two versions has variations of 1 to 10 stairs:

  • Version 1 (v1) contains staircases that pivot on bases of different heights, e.g., the 3-step staircase pivots on a base that is the height of the third step.
  • Version 2 (v2) contains animated staircases that build to as many as 10 stairs and pivot on a base that is the height of the top stair, e.g., if the staircase builds to 5 stairs, the height of the base is as high as the fifth stair.

The text on the stairs in the series example is done in PowerPoint 2007. The text has been rotated to match the surface of the stair. PowerPoint 2003 does not provide this formatting option. Notice that there is a PowerPoint 2007 animated example for this series. If you are working in PowerPoint 2007, you can download this file and you will have the prerotated text to use in your slides with spiral staircases.

The text for the base (cylinder) is WordArt that bends around an object. This is possible in both versions of PowerPoint. You can download the animated example and use the WordArt there as a starting point if you wish.

Customizing the Spiral Stairs

Adjust size

Some of the spiral stair slides consist of many fields and some consist of only a few. You can group all of the series in v1 because there is no animation formatted to these staircases. All of the staircases in v2 are animated, however; so if the staircase elements are grouped and resized, the animation will be lost. Do this instead.

  • Select all and scale down to desired size (hold shift key down as you resize). Make sure you get the correct size at this stage or you'll have to repeat the whole process again.

This is how the fields will look after you rescale them. Pretty messy.

  • This is an example with 10 steps, but the instructions work for all step variations. Select all of the fields with 6 steps or less.

  • Align all fields to right and bottom.

  • Select all stair fields that represent 7 or more stairs in the same manner. Drag your pointer to select all of these fields.
  • Align these fields to the bottom and left. This is how the staircase will look after aligning the top stair fields.

  • Then you need to reposition the three sets of fields on the slide.

And the top stairs are moved and aligned as shown below.

You've successfully resized the spiral stair case and eliminated the need to reanimate and relayer each field. This is the quickest way to resize and keep animation.

Adding text to stairs

I will be impossible to rotate step text in PowerPoint 2003 so that it looks like it is on the stair risers. The example is done in PowerPoint 2007, which has the capability to rotate text. The animated example for PowerPoint 2007 has the text placed and rotated for each stair, making it easy for you to just click on the text field and replace with your own text. The text string must be short, however.

For labeling the steps in PowerPoint 2003, you can download the animate example and use the "Step 1," "Step 2," etc. labels, although you won't be able to modify the labels. You can, however, have a set of steps on the side of the spiral staircase that can identify and describe each step. Otherwise you will need to use leader lines. Try to avoid labeling the steps in PowerPoint 2003 with unrotated text. It will look messy and ruin the visual quality of the slide.

Color variations

Coloring these frameworks takes some thought. You'll want to decide from which direction the light shines. Then select colors that represent "shadows." The colors used in the example and all of the downloads indicate that the light is from the top left. Therefore, the top of the stairs and the top of the cylinders are the lightest color. The other two colors reflect degrees of shadowing. If you change the direction of the light, then you'll need to change the stair colors. For example, if the light comes from the bottom right, then the tops would be the darkest and the stair risers would be the lightest. The cylinder would have a gradient that is lightest in the right and darkest on the left. Keep these in mind when doing you coloring. This is especially important when other elements on the page have a light source. The stairs must match what is already on the slide.

3D variations

Don't use 3D on these staircases. They are already drawn in 3D, so adding that effect would work against you.


Don't use with this type of framework. Shadows won't add interest or depth.

Gradients, patterns, and pictures

The cylinder has a gradient applied in all of the downloads. You can change the gradient depending on your light source (as discussed above). Other gradients should be used to enhance the realism of the stairs, not to add a stylistic flair. The staircases are meant to be recognizable staircases, so avoid any formatting that will detract from their realism.


The staircases are preanimated and prelayered in v2 downloads. The builds are from 1 to the desired number of stairs. The layering has to be correct for the animated reveals to work.

  • Top layer is all stairs with 6 steps or less
  • Middle layer is the cylinder
  • Back layer is all stairs with 7 or more steps

The layering of the steps within each of the above are layers is important as well. When building steps, begin with one step and animate the two-step group to appear directly over the one step. The three-step group should appear directly over the two-step group, and so on. The same applies to steps from seven to 10, although they are in the back layer, behind the cylinder.

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