Pitching a New Design? Show Them How You Got There.

You’ve just finished working on a new design and you are about to pitch it to your team. You’ve been at it for days, obsessing about the tiniest details, getting stuck along the way and wanting to give up on it more often than you’d ever admit. Now that you’ve prevailed, though, you are bursting with excitement. You can’t wait to show it to everyone.

My advice: don’t do it. Not quite yet, anyway.

In my 10 years of experience in product design, I’ve pitched my work to designers and engineers, customers and clients, managers and CEOs, countless times. If there was one lesson that I’ve learnt from all these encounters, it’s that it’s never just about the shiny, new design. Rather, it’s your design process as a whole that counts.

It really is quite simple. Your designs aren’t mere figments of your imagination, but a product of a methodical, iterative process, a tight balancing act between the function that they have to perform and numerous other requirements you have to take into account. Things like business objectives, brand identity guidelines, design conventions and best practices, as well as any technical or organizational limitations.

By walking your audience through your entire design process you show them how you’ve navigated this maze of requirements and constraints before finally arriving at the solution you are recommending. To skip past all these twists and turns, detours and dead-ends directly to the finish line would deprive your team from all that crucial nuance that went into your work.

As such, grounding your audience in the context of the choices you’ve had to make is a vital element of your pitch. Your colleagues are more likely to trust your decisions if they understand the reasoning behind them. It helps you build a better, more convincing case for your proposal.

But being transparent about your design process isn’t just an exercise in salesmanship. It ensures that everyone in the meeting is on the same page, not having to second-guess which alternatives you have or haven’t already considered. That, in turn, helps you get quality, candid feedback, opening up the floor to novel ideas and new perspectives. It is often those discussions that unlock solutions that would not have surfaced otherwise.

Your work is more than just the final design files. It’s everything that went into them, from the way you first approached the job, to what you ultimately landed on. Showcase as much of it in your pitch as you can. Not only will it help you get the buy-in from your team, but will also push you to improve your work further with the feedback that you’ll get. Because let’s face it, when are your designs ever finished anyway?

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Product designer and occasional writer 🇪🇺🇺🇸

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Piotr Bakker

Piotr Bakker

Product designer and occasional writer 🇪🇺🇺🇸

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