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Design a Pitch Deck that Sells

by | Dec 6, 2020 | Design, Validation

Design is the single most powerful tool for connecting your message to your audience. This is the exact reason that Under Armour, Nike, and other big-box retailers have incorporated strong design into all of their brands. And pitching your next business venture is no different than selling athletic footwear. Not quite; but an investor is likely to have an emotional response to design, in a similar way that we do to buying well-designed products. 

You had the next great idea. You’ve done research and validated the idea. You started your pitch deck. Maybe you aren’t thrilled with it? Is it having the impact you want it to? The design of the deck is the first impression. Well-designed decks stand out, but the best-designed decks do their job silently, from the back row. 

The best designed decks follow the principles below to make sure every important detail is being communicated effectively.  

What do you need to focus on?

The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. How long it takes a viewer to understand your point ties to how well you can communicate visually.

Communicate Data Visually

Let’s compare two common ways to display data: a graph and a table.

Revenue Projections Table
Revenue Projections Table

Looking at the table, there is an overwhelming amount of information at first. Your viewer must read through each of the headings and then understand the type of data in each column. Then read each row. To understand the importance and conclusions of the table the viewer must read more information than they probably want to. Now let’s look at a graph.

Revenue Projections Graph
Revenue Projections Graph

Looking at this graph, your viewer will see the growth projected for two data sets. They will then work backward to piece together what data is growing and over what period. Your viewer can, at a glance, understand the point you are trying to make.

Engage Your Viewer

Your goal should be to engage the viewer and drive them to see the next slide. Reduce your viewers’ reading time by visually representing your point. This will increase their engagement in your pitch. If your viewer must read table after table, or paragraph after paragraph, you are going to lose their interest. Time is money, so make effective use of your viewers’ time.

Once your viewer knows your story, you can show them how you created your graphs.

Presentation Slide vs Appendix Slide

Tip: Create two sections of your pitch deck.
1. present an engaging, digestible story in the presentation
2. provide the entire statistical story as an appendix.

State the Obvious with Imagery

Every sentence is a chance to lose a viewer, treat written content as a precious commodity. Use visual elements to tell your viewer how they should feel about your pitch. Illustrations, icons, and images do this the best. (I recommend unsplash.com for royalty-free images). If you are pitching a luxury product, use images of dark wood, polished brass, and palm trees to communicate the class and elegance of your product. Do not waste a viewer’s time by telling them “My product is a luxury product”, show them it is. 

Principles of Design to Follow

Your pitch contains vital information that needs to be heard. With these design principles in place, you can emphasize the information your viewer needs to know, even if you don’t get a chance to present your pitch.

Hierarchy

Design hierarchy is how humans rank the importance of visual information based on size and weight. Your viewer perceives text that is larger and bolder as more important than text that is small and thin. When you have information that your viewer NEEDS to know then make sure it is larger and bolder.

Hierarchy Example

Tip: Your headings should be 130-150% larger than your body text. Your titles can be 150% to 300% the size of your body text. Body text should be large enough to read at any distance (16px -> 32px, depending on the software you are designing in).

Consistency

Build patterns for your viewer to follow. Use similar slide layouts, use the same styled title, body text, and icons. This will allow your viewer to move from slide to slide and know where to look each time. Suggest how they should view each slide and their eye will follow the same patterns. 

Standard vs Priority Slide Layout

Tip: Mix up your layout on slides that you want to hold more importance.

Contrast

Like hierarchy, contrast can be used to emphasize or diminish the importance of elements of your pitch deck. White text on a black background will emphasize importance more than light grey text on a dark grey background. Make sure all  text has enough contrast for everyone to read.

Contrast Example

Spacing

Spacing is difficult to master, but applying a few simple rules can go a long way. 

Establish slide margins and place all your content within the margins on every slide. Around 10% of each slide’s exterior should be dedicated to your margins. 

Let each design element breathe. Ensure that different visual information is separated by enough space. This will help guide your viewer’s eye and it will make your design look better. 

Do not be afraid of white space on your slides. Empty space on your slides will direct a viewer to the information that matters.

Spacing example

While design is an absolutely crucial part to crafting your pitch deck, it is not enough to secure funding for your venture. The other major components you need to focus on are validating the concept, authoring the content, presenting your pitch, and creating the important relationships.

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