How To Create The Best Graphic Design Elevator Pitch

How To Create The Best Graphic Design Elevator Pitch

It’s not every day you have a career-winning idea, nor that you have an audience with a decision-maker that can make it happen. 

That’s why you need to maximise the time and power of the first impression as much as possible. 

As a graphic designer, you’ve got huge competition. 

Read on to learn how elevator pitch tactics can get more of your graphic design proposals into happy clients.

What exactly is a graphic design elevator pitch?

Design Elevator Pitch Examples

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An elevator pitch is a type of proposal or speech, which condenses your concept into its smallest ideal part.

It’s thought that elevator pitches originally came from Hollywood in the ’80s and 90’s when studio executives constantly fielded screenplays from writers. 

The idea being that if they weren’t convinced by the end of the elevator ride, the idea wasn’t well thought out enough.

Today, the elevator pitch isn’t literally in an elevator, nor does it apply to screenplays. 

After all, many people work remotely, and no one has to ask for permission to make a movie. 

The rise of YouTube, Vimeo, and numerous other platforms ensures that anyone can put any concept they want online.

An elevator pitch still has meaning, in any case. It’s a brief project proposal, and it must distil the most important and valuable aspects of your project. 

It’s common to structure an elevator pitch to fit 30, 60, or 90 seconds. 

It needs to be a piece of art in and of itself, maximising meaning and value in the smallest space of time.

Graphic design requires deep knowledge and understanding of the customer’s brand and user personas that might interact with the brand. 

Hitting the mark on both requires adept balance.

How to achieve this balance?

Balancing a pitch means you aren’t cramming in as many things as you can into your 90 seconds. 

You’re using whitespace or silence for emphasis. 

The way you dress, the specific words chosen, the type of display, your accent – all make a difference to the performance of a pitch. 

Graphic design is a study about making people feel something specific from the way colours and shapes are presented before them. 

When you pitch, you have an opportunity to communicate with your client. You can ask questions, hear them, and respond.

You should use a common idea framework, references, metaphors, and other shortcuts in communication. 

Discuss your favourite design podcasts or designers. You might have more in common than you think.

You’ll want to know your client and your client’s audience intimately.

Using target audience analysis (TAA), you can learn about your client and their audience as much as you can. Remember, your pitch isn’t just to the users but to the clients too.

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You can think of a client’s brand as a person. Personification allows you to make all kinds of metaphors. 

Start with what the brand wears, what car they drive, and what their hobbies are. 

Such questions might sound ridiculous, but they allow an alternate perspective where you can make discoveries.

Preserve these discoveries as opportunities to exploit. Create your designs around each of these concepts. Each one can be the spark for new evolutions of the brand’s design.

When to use a pitch (it’s not JUST for being in an elevator)

Your graphic design elevator pitch has a lot of time put into it.

In situations where it’s a benefit to get to the point quickly or to hook your audience, use your elevator pitch. 

You’ll need to spend a lot of time distilling ideas into the smallest, most pure form. Use that effort to create ultra-potent forms of each design concept.

A great elevator pitch is helpful for the entire project. It’s similar to a pilot episode of a TV series. 

It can make or break your entire project. It sets the tone, style, and seeds further growth. 

In other words, all of the design elements you build from the pitch-onward need to flow from it. 

The resulting work will look at each decision formed in the pitch and develop everything from these original designs.

How long should your graphic design elevator pitch be?

Effective Elevator Pitch

The pitch description can be long, but the pitch should play out in a matter of 30-90 seconds. Think of your graphic design elevator pitch as a Hollywood screenplay.

The outline of the narrative might take a long time, describing each element in detail. It can be many pages, all to describe each element of the pitch.

Complex is easy; simple is hard. Engineering disciplines know, just like graphic designers, that simplification is the most challenging pursuit.

Engineers have design reviews to enable large teams to work on complex problems. 

At specific stages in the design process, such as every week, all designers sit together.

Problems or questions all need to be resolved, one-by-one. Then, they are closed and considered part of the design. Only specific goals are determined for each week of design. 

During the time between design reviews, designers are free to experiment and try many different things. 

But rather than pitch three ideas at the end of the week, they pick the best one and integrate it into the current design. 

With similar types of systematic design, you can have the best of both worlds. Creativity is required for all designs, but so is structure. 

By giving time for both and setting up a tug-of-war between them, you can gradually settle on the optimal design for your project.

Try designating two different teams for your project: one for creative and brainstorming and another for TAA and client research. 

Each can vote against the other. 

Creating a sense of competition can always be a great way to arrive at the best ideas, even within a small team.

What every graphic design elevator pitch should include

A graphic design elevator pitch is part graphic design proposal and part elevator pitch. Your pitch should include some elements of both. 

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The “to” and “from” components:

Include a small introduction to your firm. Introduce your vision of the brand identity

Spend a few seconds painting the picture of the customer personas your design is tailored to. 

Use examples, metaphors, analogies, and references to well-known people and stories. They’re faster and more memorable. Throw in some graphic design quotes here and there. 

The brand identity might not be a well-defined concept for the client. Many clients start determined to fill out their website and other work but don’t first define their style. 

It’s not obvious. 

There isn’t a “common style.” And, it might not even be possible to emulate a style from another brand. 

There are three parties in “to and from.” 

  1. The graphic design company (that’s you).
  2. The client you’re making the design for
  3. The client’s customers you’re making the design for

Is it possible for you to know group 3 better than the client? Yes, it is. 

By performing target audience analysis (TAA), you can know the ultimate users very well.

One of the formative exercises you’ll want to perform in the design process is user persona generation. Most personas can be designed by asking yourself a set of questions.

You can apply the personas to your graphic design firm and the client as well. Try to get into their minds, and imagine the interaction with you and with their clients.

Imagine the brand as a person too. Ask questions you’d ask a person to get to know them better. You might learn a lot about the brand in the process.

The Executive Summary:

Certainly, script this part last. It should be a lead-in to what you’re going to discuss, a small amount of repetition. 

To be clever, use one perspective or slant when introducing, then use another when explaining in detail. 

For example, you can use a metaphor in this section: “It’s like Coca-Cola meets Tesla.” Then, you’ve got them intrigued. 

Now you have 70 seconds to explain what the heck you’re on about.

It’s not easy to develop metaphors, but they help immensely reduce time to explain an idea. 

It would help if you even considered making mind-maps with your team to develop better, faster ways to explain your concepts.

The Deliverables:

“By x date, we’ll get you…” 

Don’t say “deliverables.” Stay away from words over two syllables. Speak plainly. 

Show examples or teasers. If there isn’t a need to speak, let the designs do the talking.

  • It’s important to consider what device you’ll be presenting on. Presenting on a beautiful iPad Pro or OLED screen can make a tremendous impact. 
  • The room setting and all senses will influence the receptiveness of your client. Make it intentional, and don’t give up control over distractions.

The Needs:

Also called assessment, audit, or strengths/weaknesses. It’s the part where you identify why new changes are needed. 

Give examples of other companies, the client’s current designs, and how they should be made better.

In a more comprehensive proposal, you would show the client your portfolio towards the end of your proposal. Here, show it alongside their needs.

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Show how you’ve addressed these problems in the past, all together: problem and solution at once.

After the Pitch:

Here’s the tricky part. 

You’ll want to put the problem: solution examples last. And carry extras with you. 

If you’ve succeeded at your pitch (really well), your prospective client asks you, “so how does this work,” meaning they want information about the timeline, pricing, and milestones. 

If that happens, be prepared to summarise. Don’t go too far into details. It can become a rabbit hole, creating fixation or distraction from the topic at hand. 

Don’t talk too much. There’s an art to knowing when to stop talking. Your brain may be telling you to continue trying to convince. 

But it’s critical that you don’t.

Part of the pitch is for you to get feedback. After all, 9 times of 10, you’ll probably fail. You need to get some idea of what you did wrong, to improve for next time. 

If you speak 90% of the time during your pitch, you don’t give the client time to raise concerns. They may nod along, but eyes glazed over, thinking of a prior issue you haven’t addressed. 

Know when to allow them to interrupt and when to insist that you finish. 

Don’t worry – a good client will allow you to continue and respect you more if you give a few precious seconds to listen to them at the end. 

Avoid making these mistakes in your graphic design elevator pitch

Design Elevator Pitch Mistakes Avoid

Speaking for the entire pitch. 

We know it was already mentioned, but it’s a biggie. 

Don’t occupy the whole time on the pitch. You’re potentially setting a precedent for the client to sit back passively, refusing to contribute.

It’s not OK for the client to brush off your questions, to smile and nod at everything, or to say, “we just want A or B.” 

It’s essential to give the client some time to speak. 

That way, you’ll be able to judge whether they are good listeners, are engaged, or simply requested your pitch because someone else told them so.

If they don’t speak at all, treat it as a red flag. 

Do yourself a favour and don’t invest too much more time until they show a willingness to come part-way.

Creating new designs for a brand is a two-way street, and it’s a serious investment of time and energy from both sides. 

Don’t allow a client to push you into blind solutions without them clearly defining their perceived issues.

Buttering up. 

Indeed, you’ve had a pitch that highlights main issues and critiques, all ready to present, and a higher-up has requested to clean it of all negative language or anything resembling a critique.

Undoubtedly, they have concerns about offending the client and instead try to please them, otherwise known as buttering up the client.

Your client may be pleased, but it’s your job to appeal to the ultimate customer, not the client only. 

The customer doesn’t care about how much time, cost, and research is sunk into a design. 

Focusing on making the client feel better about their sub-par design sets you on the retreat from the beginning. 

You’ll need to backpedal slowly to reality eventually and explain why you “missed” the issues in the beginning. Is it worth it? 

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Probably not.

Presenting over a call. 

These are becoming more and more common. Remote work is undoubtedly on the rise, but you should still find another way if possible. 

It’s impossible to understate the value of seeing your prospective client’s faces when they first see your design. With a video call, they can have a perfect poker face, even a black screen. 

All of your backup options and extras are useless when you can’t gauge how your first concept is doing.

If you do need to do a video call, there are some things you can do: 

  • Get yourself a great internet connection
  • Assist the client behind the scenes before you meet with decision-makers
  • Test different apps
  • Pre-record your presentation
  • Use professional cameras and audio equipment.
  • Please do all you can to improve the first impression before it comes time for your face-to-face.

Starting with the introduction.

It can help start (internally) with an introduction to help jump-off ideas for building your pitch.

But it can be too tempting to leave it as-is; I recommend that you don’t do it first.

Outline your pitch first, from the end to the beginning. By the time you’re writing the pitch, you probably have some concepts already.

Concept designs are relatively intuitive for good designers to create. They can feel what fits with the brand. 

But putting it into words is much more complicated.

Write the extended version of your graphic design elevator pitch. Then cut it down into a shorter version.

Then cut it down again! Then cut it again. Then cut it yet again.

Only now, you’ve refined it enough to make the introduction. It’s not easy. It’s excruciating sometimes. 

But if you do it this way, it can be a work of art. (Art often gets better when a certain degree of pain is involved).

Graphic design elevator pitch examples

4 Step Elevator Pitch For Designers

This first pitch isn’t well-tailored to graphic design, but it’s super short. 

It’s separated into sections: the first section is 10 seconds, the second extends the length to 60 seconds, and all three compose 90 seconds.

Hi, my name is Luke Seavers with One Nine Pro, and I’m a web and graphic designer.

I/we work with successful small business owners who are struggling to reflect that success in their visual brand. I give their brand a complete overhaul—from their logo to their website—so that their marketing collateral is attractive effective.

I wanted to let you know that right now, I’m offering a free website review, where I’ll sit down with you and tell you what you’re doing well and what needs improvement. If you or someone you know could benefit from this, I would love to talk to you more about that.

Courtesy of –

Each length variant (1, 1+2, and 1+2+3) can stand on its own, but they also lead into one another. It’s best if each section makes you want a little more and teases the pitch to give you just a little more time.

The elevator pitch doesn’t stop there. It’s back-and-forth. When the pitch ends, the client ideally says, “yes, sure. You have 5 minutes.” Then, you can sit down and get a bit more in-depth.

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Q: I’m the vice president of marketing at Yummy Foods Inc. So, what do you do?

A: I do freelance graphic design. Clients hire me to develop high-quality creative assets, particularly for corporate ad campaigns in the food industry. Have you seen the X campaign? I worked on a farm for many years, and the Y company wanted to hire a designer who was intimately familiar with the agriculture industry. I’m always looking to take on new clients and share my love of nature and food with consumers. Please take my card, and let me know the best way to get it on your calendar.

Courtesy of – The Elevator Pitch Example You’ve Always Needed. 

This one has some good and bad qualities. 

First, it answers the question directly, then expands, which is good. Although it’s probably never going to be such an easy question, you’ll win points by being direct.

  • “Have you seen the X campaign?…” is a yes/no question. 

I’d typically avoid those. Why? You’re fact-finding about the customer, too – yes/no questions don’t tell you much.

Especially if the answer is “no,” it might cause the client to shut down, get distracted, or set an off-beat tone to the rest of the pitch.

Another issue with this one is the “I’m always looking to take on new clients” line. Of course, you are (who isn’t). Seconds count. Maybe pose a question to the client instead.

  • “Please take my card…get on the calendar” – another mistake.

It’s polite – and of course, if you know in advance that they won’t give you 5 minutes, try to get an appointment. 

But you’ll get further with the client if you can “steal” 5 minutes, right then and there, and get them interested in something you offer. 

Your services are probably excellent, but the client doesn’t care about 90% of them. 

The more time you spend with them, not talking about their 10% hit-list, the more likely you won’t hook them.

The philosophy here is that you can always make it better. Don’t stop tweaking your graphic design elevator pitch, experimenting, and making it better.

You’re reading this because you want a checklist, a guide, or something to get you started. That’s great. Start with this guide, taking the principles in this article.

But – and it’s a big one – get out there, and cut your teeth with real-world clients. You’ll never improve more than with a difficult client. 

Before long, you’ll be able to write a guide just like this, all from your experience. 

Until then, check out some other resources:

Write a Killer Elevator Pitch with this Easy Template – One Nine Pro

Master your elevator pitch and win more design clients

Can you pitch your design business (well) in 15 seconds?

Author Bio: Darya Jandossova Troncoso is a photographer, artist, and writer working on her first novel and managing a digital marketing blog – MarketSplash. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, creating art, and learning everything there is to know about digital marketing.

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