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Building Your Pitch Deck

2. Designing Your Deck

Deck Building: Designing Your Deck

Deck design is largely about using your existing brand elements to establish hierarchy.

Almost every design decision you make will be in service of this purpose. The design of the deck can be approached in a number of ways, anywhere from building a completely custom deck, with or without the help of a designer, to working from an existing template.

Let’s first discuss your basic slide template, and later how design will factor in. 

The Basic Slide: 

This may seem a bit remedial, but when working on a deck it’s important that you’re considerate of having these elements on just about every page, and if not, you’re doing so intentionally. 

Once you have this set up, which is pretty much your standard blank template in powerpoint, you can then start to get creative by incorporating your brand and building upon it visually.


By the time you're presenting to investors, it’s important to have solidified your brand. The collection of assets provided to you during that process becomes your toolkit, and you’ll put it to use for all your touch points, especially in your presentation. 

These include:

  • Logo
  • Color palette
  • Typography (fonts)
  • Design elements
  • Brand guideline system

Let’s discuss how these assets can bring your brands personality into your presentation.

Typography (fonts)

One of the first and most important things you need to get right are your fonts. This is where the rubber meets the road for your existing branding, and if you have brand guidelines this should be a breeze. You’ll need fonts for these 3 descending levels of hierarchy which are…

  • Header
  • Subtitle
  • Body copy

You can find an example of what I use below:

Sometimes these will be different fonts, other times they are the same fonts with different weights (or thicknesses) and colors. But what’s most important is to use your fonts to establish a sense of hierarchy. This should tell the viewer, both at a glance and subconsciously, what information is most important. It will also determine how the viewer's eye moves through the slide.

Next is…


Your brand should have at least 3 colors that you can use in the same way as your fonts to establish hierarchy and add personality to your presentation.

Overall, it’s important to have…

  • Primary color – usually for your biggest headlines and text
  • Secondary color – one that contrasts well with the primary and can be overlapped/mixed
  • Accent color – often called a "pop color", that draws attention details and grabs attention where needed
  • Neutrals – used for text, shading, shadows etc.

Overall it’s good to know how you can use your colors strategically, and allow things to pop when and where they need to. It’s also good to remember that colors can help describe and reinforce positive and negative information (think red bad, green good, in the case of something like a bar graph). 

Lastly, you’ll need to make sure your palette is flexible, it contrasts highly with your text, and can be easily mixed and overlapped.

Now you can then begin to dress up your slides with your design elements. 

Design Elements 

While it’s very helpful to have these established during your initial brand development, it’s not always something that’s given the proper time and attention. So this is where your designer can really take things and make your deck interesting. 

Some good suggestions include:

  • Basic shapes – ideal for displaying large blocks of color or cropping photos and text
  • Abstract shapes – serves a similar purpose but allow you more possibilities for guiding the eye and making the presentation feel dynamic
  • Lines –
  • Photography –

Outside of providing an outline for the structure and showing you how to include your branding, it’s difficult to say how you should go about actually designing the slides yourself. Like many creative endeavors, a lot of it is equal parts knowing the standards and conventions for the medium as well as having the space and time to ideate and visually explore. Because of this, it’s extremely common to build from an existing template.


Templates can be an excellent way to jump start the deck building process without design experience. It’s also a great option because there are so many resources now for templates, both free and paid. They can also provide you with visual inspiration if your brand doesn’t provide enough direction. 

However, it's important to know that not all templates are made equal, and in some cases it’s better to bring a designer into the fold at the beginning of the process and avoid designing yourself. When deciding how you’d like to proceed, it’s handy to see the pros and cons of both options. 

Designer vs template 


  1. Can tailor the deck design to your specific content
  2. Provide visual consistency
  3. Save time inputting and styling your content
  4. Provide creativity and professionalism
  5. Provide a file that can be more easily edited by you later on
  6. Establish a relationship for future projects, decks or otherwise
  1. A considerable expense
  2. Difficult to identify good, reliable, time-conscious designers

Templates or other ready-made tools

  1. Cost-efficient
  2. Easy to transfer over existing text copy without worrying about design
  3. Good choice for companies without solidified branding
  4. A good choice for less tech and design savvy editors 
  1. Not necessarily a time saving option
  2. Rarely covers all the bases needed
  3. Often needs significant tweaking to match the needs of your content

If you’re trying to decide between either option, I would recommend doing a half-an-half approach. You can do this by:

  • Using a basic template to place your content and “sketch” out how you’d like to see things developed more generally 
  • Find templates and design examples that have elements that you’d like incorporated in your own deck
  • Then work with a designer to take your initial content and template and flesh out a bespoke, well-designed presentation and work with them further to iterate and edit content as it’s developed

This is commonly how myself and designers I work with approach deck building. However, a good designer should be able to take as little or as much artistic direction from you as you need.

Now, when deciding what program to use, there is a lot more to consider…


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