Pitching Ideas: Overcompensation mode

Jeroen van Geel
Mar 28, 2018 · 3 min read

When pitching ideas it’s important to keep things simple and to reinforce the goal you want to reach. But things can go wrong. In my book Pitching Ideas I describe several examples of what often goes wrong. Here I want to share one of them with you: overcompensation mode.

The story

A design firm is working very hard on a pitch for a new mobile app. They’re really keen on winning this one because it’s an awesome client and opportunity. However, while sketching the concept the team doesn’t have a good enough grip on how to explain their thoughts.

Everything is designed to match the brand identity: from the home screen to the login area, as well as other key aspects. They’ve also concocted some additional features, and prepared some great visual mock-ups of how the app will look on smartphones and tablets.

There’s no way they can lose this pitch, right? They just need to make sure that the client understands the brilliance of their idea.

What’s wrong?

Trouble’s brewing. I’ve been there many times. You enter the room with pride, knowing you’ve solved the toughest puzzle ever. But the problem is that you just shifted the conversation from an abstract concept level to a concrete design level.

The result?

An instant like or dislike. The moment you give people details they’ll start to pick at them.

Typical responses include:

  • “I don’t like the logo that big at the top of the screen.”
  • “Not sure if these are the right titles for the main navigation.”
  • “That is definitely NOT the right color for the buttons! We never use that here.”
  • “The text doesn’t reflect the type of tone we’d use.”

What’s the solution?

When pitching an idea like this, you should always show the overall concept in a way that creates an image in the client’s mind: one that gives him a feeling of what it could become — without making the image concrete.

So, for example you might present a hand drawn storyboard showing how a public transport app would be used during a stressful moment instead of showing an exact design element of the app itself. It’s all about striking a balance: leaving enough space for interpretation, but giving answers to the most obvious concerns.

Overcompensation Mode in short

The reason — You don’t have a good enough understanding of the core idea and are scared others won’t understand.

The reaction — You design and create every single detail. The consequence — Clients start asking the wrong questions.

The solution — Present abstract ideas on an abstract level.

Want to know more about pitching ideas? Go check out my book.

This is an excerpt from the book ‘Pitching Ideas: Make people fall in love with your ideas.’ More information: pitchingideas.com.

Oak & Morrow

Insights and thoughts by the people of Oak & Morrow — a strategic design studio.

Jeroen van Geel

Written by

Designer, strategist, speaker, optimist. Author of Pitching Ideas and co-founder of Oak & Morrow.

Oak & Morrow

Insights and thoughts by the people of Oak & Morrow — a strategic design studio.