Pitch DNA Insider 111: Design vs Content — Who Will Win?



Hello Insider!

Stu graciously handed over the reigns to me this month. I'm thrilled, because our topic is something I've studied since elementary school, and has played a major role in my career.
In last month's Insider, you answered the 3 most important questions to consider before opening PowerPoint or Keynote (or in my case, an overhead projector). But should you jump to building your slide deck now? You could, but then you’d miss out on the next essential building block: Design.
Just as design has infused itself across every aspect of our world, from the gorgeous curves of a Fender Mustang guitar to the playful, intuitive interface of the iPad, our culture expects things—and slide decks—to look smart, be easy to understand, and most importantly, to inspire.
Here’s a little secret: most slide decks SUCK.
That’s right. I said it. SUCK. They look like the decoupage lamp my 14-year old nephew, Bonner, made in Woodshop. But I need to confess something that makes Bonner’s nightlight superior to something I “designed” at his age—the logo for my junior high band:


It’s hard to believe that, 15 years later, people started to pay me to design logos, marketing goodies, and websites.
In the years since I first launched my career as a designer (which was the beginning of my journey into marketing, strategy, and public speaking), I’ve come to appreciate the impact that well-thought-out design has on our experiences.
Even now, as I type away on a MacBook Pro—just the way the keys feel, the space between each that provides ample room so I don’t accidentally hit the adjoining key (which happens all the time when I use an IBM or HP), and the audible “click” of the trackpad. Apple’s engineers worked closely with their design team to consider the best possible experience for ME. And that makes me happy.
Plus, with the exception of that funky new multi-touch bar (boo!), Apple’s keyboard has maintained the same layout for the past decade. When I pop open the clamshell, my fingers know intuitively where to go. There’s no, “Aha! We moved the [spacebar] to the upper right corner of Connecticut, nurd!”
Which, if you’ve ever rented a car, you’re immediately struck by “How in the F do I adjust the windshield wiper speed?” Or “Who at Chevrolet decided the dashboard instrument panel should emulate the cockpit of a Boeing 747?”


The complete opposite of poor car interface design is NETFLIX. Oh, how I love thine holy GUI (Graphical User Interface).
Look at the way NETFLIX integrates the new Father Brown banner (He saves souls and solve crimes? IN!). The promo pic is clean and quickly communicates the premise. The giant “Father Brown” font makes it easy to read. And the teaser copy influences my tiny brain to click PLAY.


NETFLIX doesn’t invest only in programming—they’re making a significant investment in their punchy, Technicolor promo graphics. Each NETFLIX Originals’ poster box incorporates a unique typeface to make it distinct from its neighbor, while the photos and illustrations offer an insta-glimpse into the show’s premise.


Unlike the hair-pulling search for a rental car’s vent position knob (“I don’t want the damn heat blasting in my face!"), the only NETFLIX surprise is in their latest offerings: we don’t have to THINK about what to do next. Just LOOK, TOUCH or CLICK, and BECOME ENTRANCED by the moving images, sound, and light that appear before your orbicularis oculi (and now you know the origins of OCULUS).
OK. Clearly, I’m spending WAY too much time watching Lady Dynamite.  
The point: Just as you have come to expect your keyboard to offer both function and form, and NETFLIX to serve up the latest episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee without hassle, the same applies to slide design. They are no different. Your slides must be EASY to understand, follow BASIC design principles, and COMMUNICATE your ideas in an obvious way that connects with your viewer.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t throw in an occasional surprise. Like this killer promo shot my band included with our demo tape submission to record companies in 1985:

Note: I'm the one who looks like the Assistant Manager at Radio Shack.

Note: I'm the one who looks like the Assistant Manager at Radio Shack.

Surprises are wonderful when they re-engage your audience and keep your story moving along (or egg on Stu to share his 90s-era band shot in the next Insider—I know he's got a photo somewhere featuring a mullet).

Your goal is to make every slide count. How they look will have a direct impact on how they communicate your ideas, because design is the gateway to our mind’s eye. And, by the end of your bout, pitch, or presentation, both design AND content must rise up, join hands, and declare with a mighty oomph, "DY-NA-MITE!"

We'll share a host of ugly slide deck-lings and how you can learn from doing the opposite.
Thanks for being part of our growing community!


auGi & Stu

PS. What’s your worst band press photo or slide deck image? Tweet or Instagram it! 

@StuartPitch / @auGiGarred #pitchDNA #augtricity