Step-by-step instructions to make a petal diagram in any presentation or design software, including Keynote, PowerPoint, Google Slides, and more.
If you're looking to size up competitors, especially when it comes to visualizing their product alternatives across categories, a petal diagram can be just what the doctor ordered. A petal diagram plots your product or company at the center of the slide and shows petals around your product that represent product alternative categories.
In this guide, you will learn when and why you should use a petal diagram, when not to use petal diagrams, see some examples, and learn how to build a petal diagram, step by step.
Steve Blank is widely known for popularizing the “customer development process” where you work with customers to quickly and iteratively deliver an MVP.
However, Steve’s brilliance doesn’t just end with how to successfully develop a tech product. He is also a communication master and is credited with creating a unique and powerful way to visualize competition: the petal diagram.
A petal diagram, as compared to the typical 2x2 competitive quadrant, enables you to paint a broader picture of the competitive landscape so that readers can better understand how your product fits in when it is creating a new category.
Most products play in a complex ecosystem with different competitors that specialize in different areas. A typical 2x2 quadrant can be limiting, depending on the nature of your market. This is especially true if your product is developing a new category that is at the intersection of many existing solutions.
Some smart thinkers, including leading VC Tomaz Tunguz, think that a petal diagram may not be the most effective way to communicate differentiation. Even though a petal diagram can do a great job of showing the complexity of a market, it doesn’t necessarily show exactly how your product is differentiated compared to the alternatives.
In this case, it can be better to use the “classic” 2x2 quadrant that plots products based on important product attributes, like speed or power. One of the most famous examples of a 2x2 quadrant is from Steve Jobs’ keynote presentation where he first introduced the iPhone.
Slack is an example of an extraordinary product that innovated a space for itself in the crowded communications market by marrying a set of unique capabilities. Slack is more than just a chat app - it has aspects of task management, real-time collaboration, file sharing, and unified communications. This complex market with many different competitors would be difficult to visualize on a 2x2 quadrant but becomes easy to understand in a petal diagram.
Another great example, of course, is the example that Steve Blank used in his post where he introduced the concept of a petal diagram. The company he used, Zana, was building a “lifelong learning network for entrepreneurs,” which was a new category that sat at the intersection of many existing education solutions.
Now that we have described what a petal diagram is and how you may want to use one in a deck, we will explain exactly how to build a petal diagram in your preferred deck or design software. We will assume that you want to create a petal diagram on a white slide background for your deck, but the same principles can be applied for dark mode backgrounds as well (just make sure you use transparent background logos!).
Create a circle centered on your canvas. Set the circle to have a color fill that is the same color as your background and set the border to be on the thicker side, with the border fill color set to one of your brand colors (in both examples above, green was used).
Grab a transparent background version of your logo and drop it in the center of the circle, ensuring that you take the time to actually center the logo both vertically and horizontally in the circle that you created in Step 1.
Add a new circle that will become the template for each “petal” in the petal diagram. Start with a circle, ellipse, or oval shape (depending on the software you are using) and make the color fill transparent and the border the same color as the brand circle, but set to a thinner size. Stretch the shape, ensuring that it is not set on locked proportions, to become a tall, narrow oval.
Next, you need to position the oval on the slide to extend outwards from the logo. This will take a little finesse to get just right as you need to line up one end of the oval to connect with the edge of the logo circle.
Copy the oval to create as many petals as you need for your petal diagram. Typically, petal diagrams will have four to six petals, with five being the most common. Make sure to be mindful of the overlap section for each petal as you may need that space for logos of competitors or alternatives that play in two categories.
Use a bold, 30pt+ font to put in category labels for each petal in the petal diagram. Some example petal diagrams, including the examples listed above for Zana and Slack, put the petal category labels at an angle, but we always recommend aligning text so it is horizontal. This ensures strong readability.
At this point, you have the base petal diagram done - woohoo! Now it is time to begin to fill out the petal diagram with the logos of your product competitors. You can do this with plain text instead of logos, but logos are nice because they are so immediately recognizable. The most important thing to be mindful of is making sure you grab versions of logos with a transparent background.
A petal diagram can be a powerful way to clearly communicate how your product fits in across many categories. Like most visualizations, there are proponents and detractors. Proponents claim that a petal diagram can help show how your product is innovating at the intersection of many different product categories or alternatives. Detractors worry that the diagram doesn’t show exactly how you are different from your competitors.
Either way, there is no doubt that a petal diagram certainly accomplishes its purpose in visualizing a product at the intersection of many alternatives. Using our step-by-step guide, you have now learned how to build a beautiful and engaging petal diagram that will look great in your deck.