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10 Ways To Get Design Approval


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All good advice. I’d add that becoming good at “selling” your work is key. To me the best way to gain approval is to gain your clients’ respect and trust (using many of the the things you list here) and then “sell” them your design decisions. I use the word sell pretty lightly. What I do is explain and strongly defend my decisions when I’m presenting my work, kind of like establishing a legal defense. Be sure and take the time to explain and educate why decisions were made, etc. If you’ve done the things you mention above this is usually fairly straightforward.

The advice about having written explanation is also great – I don’t know how many times I’ve had something approved only to find out that it needed to be presented again to someone else without me there to control the feedback.

Another tip: tell your clients that they’re going to approve the design. Don’t ask them. Again, if you’ve done a job you’re willing to stand behind, and you’ve built that trust and respect, this almost always results in very quick approval. :)


Great list! I’ve been designing for years now and I’ve gotta say all of these resonated – I especially like #8: “present your designs”. I’m always shocked to see how a design can be read completely differently than what was intended… which isn’t always the client’s fault when you’re using make-believe content, lorem, and proxy images. Something a little walk-through is all that’s needed to push a client from “it’s alright” to “its Perfect!”. That coupled with #7 are surefire ways to improve your comp-batting average significantly. Thanks for the list :)

Dennison Uy - Graphic Designer

Spending more time to make one really good design is definitely the way to go. I never really did see the point of doing more.

Another pitfall is creating more than one of the same design with very minor variations. Unless they are color variations the client will not notice if one design featured shadows and glows and the other did not, or if one design used a different font set from the other, or if one had leaves as ornaments as opposed to flowers in the other. If anything this will only confuse the client and it only shows that you yourself are just as undecided as they are. So make up your mind and choose the one that you looks best.

Oh and definitely start a design with wireframes. They are a great time saver. This is also one of the reasons why I never needed to do more than 1 design, because the (note: approved) wireframe has already defined its general layout and structure, so the rest of the work is just adding colors, graphics, and whatever bells and whistles you may have to turn it into a beautiful design.

Jonathan Nicol

I pleased to hear I am not the only web designer who favours multiple iterations over multiple concepts (tip #4).

By producing multiple concepts, not only do you hazard the client mixing and matching between several designs, you run the risk of them picking a design in its entirety that is below par. The idea that it is possible to produce multiple concepts that are of equal merit is an optimistic one, and to trust the client to pick the best of the bunch is more optimistic still.

In my experience my first design usually contains my best ideas, and in subsequent concepts I either rehash the good ideas from the first design, strike out in an entirely different direction in an attempt to produce something that looks unique from the first design, or worst of all, knock out a sub-standard design simply to make up the numbers.

Today, if a client requests multiple concepts I steer them towards the “one concept, multiple revisions” approach instead.


Great article! I think clear communication of what is to be done is king in getting a design approval. Keep your client involved and get their approval for each aspect of the work you complete as you go. In that way you’ll never find yourself justifying your design decisions.

Steven Clark

I like your ten tips. I agree not to just email a design – or any work – across to the client because what I’ve found is that they’ll open the email and just reply yes… then some time later you start getting emails – why isn’t this or that right, this needs changing. So email should be avoided for any delivery of project artefacts.

You need them to pay attention to detail and give valid feedback. Great article Paul.

Daniel Burka

Paul, that’s a really solid article.

I was actually debating the value of developing multiple concepts with a couple of designers the other day and I definitely was taking the same position you are — it sounds good to deliver multiple versions but as a designer you should know which is actually the best design and (without being arrogant) it’s counter-productive to provide examples that you ultimately believe are below par.

A number of the other points are really strong as well. Providing written material explaining your thinking, wireframing, understanding users… these are the crux of a solid relationship.

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