It’s Not Just What You Present, But How You Present It

Designers, how you show your clients/bosses a concept has just as much impact over sign off as the concept itself. I am sure that we have all been guilty of saving a PSD to a JPG and e-mailing it off for review… Or maybe you were coming up with a price and the quote was simple enough where you just typed it up in an e-mail and sent away. After all, is it really worth putting it into a branded PDF? Or maybe you came up with some logo concepts and you decided to send them off on a one page PDF for review…

It may seem honest and innocent enough but that really is just shooting yourself in the foot. As designers we should know better. Come on, aren’t we the ones always talking about how design can influence and change perceptions? Well guess what, e-mailing JPG concepts gives the perception that there wasn’t much time and thought put into it.

Consider it like this… You are going to buy some new designer clothes for a large pitch. A friend recommends a local designer who supposedly does amazing work. You decide to check out her work as it sounds like a great place to get a new outfit or two. When you arrive to her store you are surprised to find all of the clothes sitting in piles on the floor.

Now at this point regardless of how well they were designed you would probably be significantly less likely to trust the detail and care put into the clothes. Additionally you would probably expect to pay less as a result. After all you went in expecting to see “high quality and custom” and were presented with something that felt more like “second hand store.”

How is this the Same?

Sending off concepts with out taking the time to DESIGN and PLAN the presentation is more or less like throwing designer clothes on the floor. You don’t care how people see them, they can pick them up off the floor and choose to look at them however they like. High end clothing stores put a lot of care and attention into how items are organized, the lighting, how they are hung, the window displays, the type and placement of mirrors, the type of hangers, etc… How you see, experience and encounter the product is extremely important. Why should this be any different for graphic or web designers?

Actually, it is Worse

As designers we face even larger challenges than most clothing retailers (even designer ones). Since we are doing complete custom work, an ineffective presentation can lead to unnecessary and ineffective revisions. If the presentation doesn’t convey that you have carefully thought about, evaluated and tried many different options and scenarios before arriving at what you feel is the best solution to the design problem, why would the client assume that is the case?

If you are not a designer and you are presented a visual with out being educated into the design process and there is nothing that is communicating such why would you think any different? This can easily lead to design requests. With out the experience and knowledge of a graphic designer it is easy to make assumptions and suggestions with out understanding the consequences. Experienced designers will agree that every single element on the page somehow effects everything else, as a result even minor changes can have significant impact on the overall design.

How to Present Effectively

Ultimately you need to design the presentation experience. When the client looks over your work they should have a clear idea and impression of how much work and thought went into arriving at that situation. Additionally it should be clear that your design isn’t a starting point, rather what you are recommending as the best solution to their problem. Now that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be open to feedback nor that I expect design to be a “one pass process.” I am saying that it should be concrete that everything was done for a reason.

Present in a Contextually Relevant Way

For this reason I always recommend the design is presented in the most relevant way possible. Logos should be printed and matted and shown in several real world situations such as on a letterhead, business card and envelope. I use a specific template that is carefully designed to present all concepts in a way that conveys detail, intent and care.

WebWeb designs should be presented in a browser so that the client can see how it fits with different resolutions, relative sizes and where the fold is (for better or worse). Looking for an easy way to do this, check out the Mock Up Present tool we created. Cameron Moll does an excellent job of this with his mock-ups.

Provide Explanation

Many designers will send over a concept as if everything speaks for itself. However the client can read your mind and doesn’t know that you made the call to action button an odd color because it will draw more attention and convert better. Yes it is a lot of work to type out your entire thought process and not everyone can afford to have an in person meeting for design presentation but it is so critically important.

This also establishes yourself as an expert as you are able to articulate your design decisions, which goes a long way to convey that nothing was done with out reason.

Give it a Try

Next time you have a large project that you need sign off for, try putting these techniques in place. I assure you there will be a noticeable difference compared to your typical process. I have seen design approves go flawlessly that I expected to be a disaster as the concept presented suffered for countless design issues.

Do you have any methods or techniques for improving your design presentation? I would love to hear them.