« Back to Blog October 15, 2015 | Design Career

One Designer. One Client. One Concept.

I had spent the past several weeks sketching page after page of concepts. Carefully evolving and improving as I went along until I was happy with the result I had achieved. It was time to present my work to the client.

It was only one concept.

The client was ecstatic. I was thrilled. Win-win.

This is a true story. It has happened to me many times in fact. Providing a single concept isn’t just for the greats like Paul Rand or pretentious designers who think they know best. It’s how great work gets done.

The “normal” way is highly inefficient

The process most designers follow when designing a logo is to come up with a handful of concepts and then let the client choose their favorite.

I’m sick and tired of seeing designers post beautiful work in their portfolios labeled as “a concept the client didn’t pick.” Stop doing this to yourself! There’s a better way!

If you went to a doctor and told him what problems you were having, and he gave you five different prescriptions for different medicines and told you to pick the one you liked best, you’d probably start seeing another doctor.

While design isn’t a matter of life or death like taking medicine, design can mean life or death for the business you are designing for. By placing the responsibility of choosing the best concept on the client, you are passing off the most important responsibility of the whole project on to someone who does not design things for a living.

Designing objectively (design based on clear objectives and goals) provides much better results than designing to subjective preference. (choosing a design based on personal whims instead of project goals.)

You are a designer. You know what works best in the same way a doctor knows which medicine will work best. Take responsibility for the work you’re doing and do the heavy lifting for your client. After all, that’s what they hired you for!

Providing one concept means setting clear goals

In order to provide one concept to a client, you need project goals. This is where the client comes in.

Designers are the experts in design and clients are the experts in their business. Stick to your strengths! The project will be much better as a result.

The client is responsible for setting the projects goals and you are responsible for designing something that meets all of those goals. Setting these goals means having a lot of conversation up front and dissecting what problems the client needs solved. You should never start designing before a clear end goal is set. You can’t hit the mark if there is no target.

Setting Expectations

This may seem like an impossible process to set up if you are used to providing multiple concepts for clients.

“But clients want multiple concepts! It’s what they expect!”

This is only true when you tell them you will be providing multiple concepts. When you are honest and straightforward with your client there won’t be any misinterpretation of your process. When you tell the client that you only provide one concept and explain why you work that way, you’ve set their expectation for how the project will proceed.

Clients only expect multiple concepts when you tell them you will provide multiple concepts. Stop letting your best work get overshadowed by poor work you felt the need to show the client for the sake of giving them options. Take your client by the hand and guide them to where they want to go.

Presenting your work

The final and most crucial part of only providing a single concept is in presenting your work. You need to be able to explain how your concept meets every goal that the client outlined in your initial conversations. Use their exact words to explain each and every design decision you’ve come to.

If the design has addressed all of the goals set in the beginning of the project, you have done your job as a designer.

Be happier, do better work

In the end, providing one concept means less stress for the designer, greater peace of mind for the client, and a more successful project. I encourage all of you to do yourself and your clients a favor and start working on your process to provide a single concept. Let your best work shine.

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