Creating an engaging and compelling document is a marriage between good content and good design. Maintaining good design across several pitchbooks can be a challenge as edits are common over time. However, it is a necessity if you want to make the best possible impression for your firm.
To help, we have developed a set of design tips, tricks, and recommendations to help you create and maintain visually stunning pitchbooks and highlight your brand to potential clients.
Section Five: Overall Design Tips
From color selection to font, there are a variety of design decisions that need to be made and maintained to ensure your content is easy to consume.
Keep it consistent: No matter the font, colors, or size, ensure that it is consistent across the entire pitchbook. Lack of consistency across the basic elements of style is perhaps the biggest design mistake we see. Pro tip: Use the slide master to set and maintain the basic structure of your slides.
Use fonts appropriately: Use standard PowerPoint fonts whenever possible (your brand guidelines should specify acceptable fonts for use in Microsoft Office applications) and hierarchy of information. Titles, headings, text boxes, and tables should be consistent across the presentation to help readers subconsciously process and categorize information. Pro Tip: We recommend no more than 1-2 fonts and 2-4 type sizes.
Hierarchy matters: Set or use a hierarchy of information. Maintaining a hierarchy of information is like providing a guide for your readers. A hierarchy of information relates to how you treat various types of content. Headlines, subheadings, table headings, text you want to highlight etc…. should always have the same font and size. This lets the reader subconsciously know where to start reading and what is the most important content on the slide.
Alignments matter: Using the Alignment tool will ensure your objects are properly aligned on your slide, giving your presentation a polished and professional look. Pro Tip: The Alignment tool has two key settings, Align to Slide and Align Selected Objects. We recommend Align Selected Objects. Here are some helpful tips from Microsoft.
Turn on Guides and Gridlines: Guides (horizontal and vertical center lines) and Gridlines (a grid of lines across the entire slide) are great features that help you align items on a slide that are not associated with another object. We like to set up our grids and guidelines before we begin the design process, so we have a basic structure that flows throughout every slide in the pitchbook.
Keep it simple. Readers don’t engage with walls of text. It is better to have less content on each slide that is easy to find and consume than lots of content no one pays attention to. Unsure of what simple means? Ask yourself:
- Is the content visually overwhelming? Limit the number of font sizes, typefaces, and colors. Use these only to highlight important messages and features and maintain a strict hierarchy of information. The same is true for animations, slide transitions, and imagery. You don’t want to overwhelm readers with information overload.
Integrate data sources: Hedge fund presentations are data-rich. Using the data integration tools in PowerPoint will help you seamlessly integrate data from Excel and other sources and reduce the likelihood of reporting errors. Pro Tip: Integration can be tricky, when in doubt get expert advice from a creative services partner or IT vendor.
Color inside the lines: Stick to your brand colors. A pitchbook is not the place to get creative with color selections. If you don’t have a brand guide, speak with a designer or creative service agency, and have one created. Keep like elements (headlines, highlights, quotes etc…) the same color across the document.
Size of the slides: Widescreen (16:9) format or standard 8.5”x11”? We get this question frequently. There are several advantages to the widescreen format, but most investors still want the option to print these documents. If you’re presenting in person to a large group, it may make sense to have a widescreen version created, but generally we recommend using standard US Letter format, or A4 for pitchbooks used outside the US.
Section Six: Data Heavy Slides
One of the elements that make a pitchbook so effective is the use of data and in-depth information about your portfolio. While critical, data-heavy slides can also be challenging to display, here are a few tips to help ensure your key points shine through.
Be consistent with tables: Using a consistent design and treating content the same way across all tables in a presentation will make the information easier to consume. You can set up a table style to handle font, size, and colors before building or importing any tables into a presentation. Pro Tip: If you need to resize an entire table in PowerPoint, hit the Shift key and drag the white resizing dot to ensure that everything in the table resizes equally.
Include white space: White space refers to the “empty” parts of a slide where no content or visuals are included. White space is essential in helping readers digest information. Making sure tables have enough white space around them so the data is not cramped is important. When there is “breathing room” everything is more legible.
Alignment and Spacing: Set and maintain consistent margins and cell sizes for tables. Make sure your table is in alignment with other items on the slide as appropriate and within the margins in case of printing. Pro tip: The best way to ensure consistency of alignment within a table is to select “distribute rows and columns evenly.”
Information placement: Ensure that all table elements follow the same basic outline. For example, if totals are included, make sure they are always in the same place. The same is true for headings, titles, and any additional content or disclaimers. The repetition in placement unconsciously trains readers to look for key information.
Section Seven: Navigation
Helping readers navigate the pitchbook can be a great way to ensure that none of your content is overlooked.
Volume of information: Remove any slides that make the presentation heavy or longer to navigate. The biggest offender is typically divider slides – those slides you use to separate the sections of the pitchbook. Skip full image slides as well. Keeping the pitchbook focused on the most important content will help readers engage.
Headlines: Use your headlines or sub-headlines that refer to the Table of Contents or meeting agenda. Consistency of language can help people understand where they are and what’s next.
Navigation Bars: Consider using an unobtrusive navigation bar or “index” at the bottom or top of the slide that highlights the current topic, or the reader’s place in the pitchbook
Page Numbers: While this may sound simple, it is important to always include page numbers on all slides in a pitchbook. We recommend the bottom right corner and font size that is two sizes smaller than your main text. Properly setting up page numbers on your master slide will ensure they update automatically when you add or remove slides.
Section Eight: Image and Graphics Tips
Imagery is a great way to help pitchbooks stand out and break up overused slide layouts. Graphics are great tools to help reinforce ideas and messages and ultimately help readers digest information more effectively.
Quality matters: Grainy, low-resolution images project an unprofessional look for your pitchbooks. Download full-resolution images from the stock photography website of your choice (we prefer iStockPhoto, Unsplash, and Shutterstock) and compress them natively in PowerPoint for optimal downsizing. It is also important to make sure any text placed on an image is legible. High-quality graphics and images help you make a strong overall impression. When in doubt, contact your graphics professional
Variety: Graphics are great to help readers digest information more effectively. They also can help to break up the slide layout if it’s being used repeatedly. We recommend not repeating images in the pitchbook unless it’s your logo. Avoid using different styles of images together -- for example images and clipart. Adding an overlay or gradient/darken or lighten to images is a great way to add more variety to similar images. Pro tip: these gradients are also a great way to ensure you are treating all graphics the same way in a presentation. For example, if you have a variety of headshots, you can easily add a gradient turning them into black and white photos and making them more cohesive.
Sizing and resolution: In general, do not upload any graphics smaller than 150 dpi. Keep the image dimensions in place and use the sizing tool (as opposed to dragging a corner) when resizing. Remember your pitchbook needs to look good on multiple screens and in print and distorted images are a major detractor.
Text in images: Place text in images where it will stand out and not distract from the image. Ensure that the font color is easy to read against the image background. If using an overlay on top of an image, don’t block key parts of the image such as a person’s face.
Slide Backgrounds: Slide backgrounds may be a good idea for your pitchbook. Make sure when selecting the background color or graphic that it does not distract from the content of the slide or make the information harder to read. Bold, saturated colors may be too overwhelming to readers. When in doubt, go with a white background and use colors in other ways.
Our final thoughts:
Before we conclude this series on the pitchbook, we must take a minute to talk about the role of your brand. Your pitchbook is your calling card and it must reflect your brand identity and what you stand for as a firm. How you tell your story visually in a pitchbook says just as much about your firm as the data on the slides.
The overall design/feel of your pitchbook must match and/or augment your mission and vision. If you are a modern firm focused on ESG and innovation, having a traditional look and feel, colors and images won’t work. Think of it like a restaurant, if you were looking for BBQ food for lunch and walked into a restaurant set up as a Victorian tearoom you would think you were in the wrong place. Disconnection between a firm’s identity and how it comes across in a pitchbook will lead to confusion and missed sales opportunities.
As always, if you aren’t sure how to make your brand story and identity come alive visually, its best to reach out a creative services agency or graphics professional.