n 2013, I took on the design of a One Pager for the first time. It was for Onfan, my personal Master's on entrepreneurship, brand design, product design and being a partner of a company, but it didn't turn out like it was supposed to.
Beginning in 2014, Wayra began to call on me to give a hand with the design of the executive summaries of a site for its startups from Madrid and Barcelona (and a few from London too).
Since then, first as a freelancer and after that with Soluble Studio, I've participated in the design of around 100 documents of this kind. This is a summary of what I've learned along the way.
There are probably errors, there are surely inaccuracies. The goal is to share and help those who are taking on a One Pager for the first time and, of course, to get feedback that will make all this information more thorough and useful.
What is a One Pager and what's it for?
A good first impression.
You've surely heard at some point that there's only one chance to make a good first impression. It is therefore likely that the One Pager will be your startup's one and only chance with certain audiences.
This document is "a summary of the executive summary" of the company which usually fits – which must fit – on a single page. It's the startup's cover letter when it presents itself to audiences in whom it wants to arouse interest regarding the company's major achievements: investors, institutions, programmes…
The One Pager is an extended version of the company's business card or a shortened version of the executive summary.
Look at me. I'm sexy.
The goal of the One Pager is simply to get people to take notice of your company. To arouse interest. To be sexy and make them want to get to know you better and to tell them more.
The One Pager has to include the most significant aspects of your project, the things that make you different or, better yet, significant.
Hey! Look at me! Over here!
It's essential that you are aware of the context in which these documents are received. You might get lucky and be the only one sending your One Pager at a particular time, or it might be the case that your executive summary is just one more in a stack of many.
In any case, it's highly likely that your precious creation, to which you've devoted hours or days, will get just a few seconds of attention (or if you’re lucky, minutes).
Think about how hard it is for us to read a text that we get without our having looked for it: a brochure, a website, a newsletter, a post… We usually skim through it and look for two or three key points to help us decide whether we will read in more detail or not.
Applying this to the One Pager, we have to be able to highlight these crucial points and present them in such a way that we can rest easy knowing we've done all we can to get our message across. Later on we'll try to convince, but first we have to make sure that we get the opportunity to do so.
And this is where design comes into play.
The One pager only has a few seconds to grab attention and say who you are, what you do and why you're important to the person receiving the document.
If you like yourself, others will too.
It's essential that we are aware of our strengths and that we highlight them. The more promising, unique or distinctive aspects of our project we can identify the better.
Once this is done, it's important to rank the information and arrange it in the way we want the person at the other end to discover it.
The One Pager is the place to show belief and confidence in what is being built, without coming across as arrogant.
Construction of a One Pager
There are as many different One Pagers as there are companies, but I'll try to cover the basic aspects here, along with the most common features (or the ones we come across most often) so we can have some useful guidelines to help us get started.
Whether we want to adhere to these standards or break with them in order to set ourselves apart is a decision that should be made carefully.
I would ultimately say that if breaking with convention helps us to better convey what we want to get across, then we should do so. Ultimately, design is a communications device that should be at the service of the reaction we are seeking in the message recipient.
However, we need to be able to assess the risks we are taking if we break with the norm. And the first step in doing this is knowing what the norm is.
There are a number of aspects related to the size and presentation of the document which are key when getting started:
A4 format or equivalent, depending on the country.
This makes it easy to copy, store and transport. Take care to use A4 (or the equivalent format depending on where you are) especially if you're going to deliver it physically: if it's bigger than the others it will wear and tear more quickly, and if it's smaller it can be more easily misplaced.
One side only: it got its name for a reason.
We have to be able to say everything needed for a first contact on one side of a page. By this, I don't mean you should squeeze in all the content in tiny proportions, rather that you have to be able to decide what will be relevant for the person receiving the document. If you don't manage this, important information could easily end up on the back of the page and nobody will ever turn it over to read it.
The One Pager will probably end up being printed even when it's sent in digital format. As such, it's important that when designing it you take into account things like the fact that not all printers print full bleed (without borders), and that all text has to be comfortably readable (keep an eye on size, contrast, layout, etc.).
Imagine you have several pages together that you have to flip through quickly. If the majority are in portrait and then one pops up in landscape it will be, at the least, uncomfortable. If we add to this the fact that short lines are more comfortable to read and that it's the format we're most used to (books, magazines, printed documents), we have to think twice before opting for landscape, as we'll be breaking with standards.
Distribute into two columns.
By organising the content into two columns we give the recipient the chance to take in the key information at a glance and, in addition, to know where to find it the next time they need it: by compartmentalising into rows and columns we help them to locate the information more quickly and memorise it photographically.
What to say and where to put it.
There are also standards regarding what information is included and where it's placed. In other words, information that someone receiving a One Pager expects to find in a certain place in the document.
Along with the design, we should use the content to make the document ours and to highlight the most attractive aspects of our company.
In the list that follows this paragraph, not everything will be equally relevant for your project, so you'll have to omit certain things to make sure people will want to read your document.
To get into a detailed explanation of what makes a good logo would be too much of a detour from the main topic, so we'll just say that you should take care that, above all else, it is legible. In addition, it should be representative, recognisable and memorable.
That little phrase that tends to go along with the logo whenever possible. Finding a good tagline is crucial: a multitude of variables are involved to the point where you should have a different one depending on the brand’s development stage or the evolution of the company's value proposition.
It usually helps to incorporate a brief summary of the company's background, including the key information for an initial contact: sector, product type, start-up date, investment to date, team members, burn rate, etc. A small table or list will suffice.
Being able to sum up who you are, what you do, and why you're important to others in just one phrase a few words long is crucial. Apart from quickly giving whoever reads it the general idea, it should convey that whoever has written it knows the project well and is on top of it, that they understand it and are willing to give honest information.
Along the same lines as the above, but with a little more room to give a bit more information. It can be used to give an idea of what you're seeking or what you've achieved as well as to describe the project. The idea of the 140 characters is to keep the sentence short.
Essential. Don't expect to charm your audience with anything other than numbers. No matter how long you've been on the market, there's surely some details that can arouse the interest of the recipient: market statistics, study conclusions, MVPs ... whatever. The goal is to demonstrate the potential of your project. If these metrics refer to traction or turnover, better still.
If you're looking for investors for a next round of financing, it may be useful to include some general information about this, such as the amount you're looking for and what it will be used for. Remember that this is an initial contact, so if it has not been asked for, it might not be the right time to give too many details.
A key section for the most expert and discerning audiences that might request your One Pager. It's important to be especially concise: names and surnames of the main team members, their positions and relevant past experience. Including mentors or investors whose personal brand can help us get the recipient's attention can be a good idea. To give more information, we can add LinkedIn profiles.
Seems obvious, right? Well, believe me: it bears repeating! Include your contact information. Make it concise and personal. Who should pick up the phone when a potential investor calls? How do you prefer to be contacted? An email address and phone number (and a name), as well as your project's website link, is usually enough.
When it comes to expanding on the information we want to give, we usually start by describing the problem or issue that you're solving or improving with your project, as well as, if appropriate, relating the manner in which it’s currently being done and why it doesn't work or can be improved. If our pitch begins in the same fashion, it will help consolidate our message.
After giving the appropriate context, we should move on to explaining what our proposal, solution or improvement consists of and why it is the best of all the potential options. Don't forget to be very clear about what kind of solution it is: an application, a SaaS, a physical product... It seems obvious, but you’ll find many examples where this hasn’t been included.
If the solution is a product, of whatever kind, and it's more or less defined, it's good to give details concerning the key functionalities: those that help to better understand what the story is about. Don't hesitate to bolster this section with images.
Getting an idea of the team's aspirations is easier when there's data concerning the market. Current size, evolution over the last few years, potential size ... Data that helps to demonstrate how big a slice of the pie we are going after with our project.
Talking openly about the competition, about everybody who's aiming for that same slice of the pie, serves to demonstrate that you're not alone in the race, that others are trying at the same time as you and that the project is viable. If no one else is doing the same thing as you, look harder or be suspicious. Mentioning information related to each company (turnover, company value, sale price ...) will reinforce the message.
Making money, or at least being clear as to how this can be done, will make whoever receives your One Pager look at you differently, for obvious reasons. The business model will evolve and change as many times as necessary, but giving this its space will make it clear that it is something you're pursuing.
Having a plan is key in order to determine whether or not the objectives are being met. If your strategy for reaching the market, for user growth or for exponentially increasing turnover differentiates you and is relevant, don't hesitate to make room for it in your One Pager.
Timeline or roadmap
A good way to outline your progress is to situate your achievements along a timeline. This same format can be used to represent your future goals, the project roadmap.
And finally, if you think any other information about your project is relevant, that including it might help you get the attention of your audience, go ahead. Pay attention to the hierarchy between blocks and the layout so as to give each topic the weighting it deserves and a reading order that will assist comprehension of what it is that you're communicating.
*Content that can't be left out
For your health, and to make the content manageable, I'll keep the rest for another article. Suggestions and requests are welcome and praised, notes and comments are also appreciated.
Also, please share if you found this useful!
🚨 Extension! 🚨
We've posted a second part, where we talk about why it's important to pay careful attention to the design of your One Pager and give some basic tips on how to get started yourself before you even hire a professional designer.
We also include a free template to help you with the earliest versions of your document.