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The “Business Model Canvas” is a powerful way of representing how your business works. It makes sense of what’s needed to convert your value proposition to something customers want to buy. At a glance you can see the activities you need to do, the relationships you need, how you’ll make and spend money.
Usually the Business Model Canvas is a landscape document (that is, the longest edge at the top). That’s fine for when it’s being put together on a wall or worked on with a laptop. Including it as a printed asset in a document is a little tricky.
Adding the canvas to an investment prospectus
The investment prospectus for a small business used a Business Model Canvas as the centrepiece. They’d wrapped everything around a canvas, creating a strong story. Presenting it was more of a challenge. What follows is a brief exploration of some thought processes and decisions I went through to settle on a final design for this one important piece of a much wider document.
An investment prospectus is used by some companies looking to find outside investors. These can be complicated documents as they have to carry a lot of information about financial performance, risks, business plans and many other topics investors might want. I’ve seen some which have been only a dozen pages, others which have run to hundreds.
There were three different “modes” I could see the document being used in. The first was the professionally printed version my client would supply. Then there was the PDF version they would email over and read on a tablet or computer. Finally, there was the version where the PDF would be printed on anything from a grey-scale ink jet to full colour laser.
The question was: how could their Business Model Canvas be in a way that would preserve its integrity across all three modes.
A 2-page spread.
Covering two facing pages gives more space for more detail and seems like the natural choice for a landscape document. This assumes you have control over the way its printed and can guarantee the pages will face one another. You’re relying on your reader having a double-sided printer to make this work.
Another problem is reading on a tablet. The chart is broken in the middle, so the reader will either miss out on half of it each time, or have to find a way to show both pages on their device. Either way, you’re putting extra effort on your reader.
The 90-degree twist.
An alternative is to rotate the chart through ninety degrees, so it sits on a single page. To read the chart, the reader has to turn the document through right angles, which for a paper document is an inconvenience, but rarely a deal breaker. On a device it gets more complicated as turning it could cause the page to spin. They may have to adjust their settings to lock it in portrait to preserve your chart.
Reset the chart from the outset
The approach I take with Business Model Canvases (and most charts and diagrams bound for PDFs and printed documents) is to rework them to sit on a portrait page. Reworking it means it flows comfortably down the page without the reader having to do anything. It also makes it easier to set it inside the entire document as I know what will precede and follow.
There is a compromise to be made as you may find there is less space for some detail and iconography that can accompany a canvas. Concentrating on 3 or 4 bullets per section focuses the mind on what investors will want to read.
Placed into context
With the business model canvas reworked, I could place it in the wider text. For the professionally printed version it sat comfortably on a page facing the start of the business model explanation. On its own it was an interrupt that could be skipped through or paused.
Reusing the canvas
Once I’d established the canvas as an icon in the document, I could use it elsewhere. In the section on how investments would be used, a simple diagram linked parts of the investment strategy to where it would benefit the business model.
We assume tools like the Business Model Canvas are the way they are and can’t change. That could leave you with a design problem when producing documents that are used in several different ways. Rather than try to force the canvas to fit and upset the reader’s experience, I reworked it a little to help it flow.
It’s worth considering the orientation of your documents before you commit yourself to designing complex charts and diagrams. You’ll make your document easier to read and more compelling.