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The Great Unveiling


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I couldn’t imagine a better example than presenting logo work when it comes to showing options. I have worked for many studios and showing many options (as many as 20) was standard practice. When I started doing freelance work, I realized that showing many options was a waste of time. Would an umpire in baseball present multiple calls after a play in order to show his thoughtfulness? Never. Studios operate this way because they spend more time generating work rather than spend it up front understanding the client and the project goals. Its ironic how some studio owners feel it is their duty to supply clients with “more” rather than staying true to the “less is more” philosophy and producing quality rather than quantity. I guess it all depends upon the client. I remember doing work for companies that would not hire you if they couldn’t see 20+ options. I say, “Find a new client. There’s plenty of them out there.”


To be fair, I’m just starting off with pro design (I’ve been in-my-spare-time designing for around 10 years), but I think there’s a lot to be said for the role of designer to guide the client toward what they want the design to be—that is to say, to give them as much feedback as they want to have.

This method probably works a lot better with a client that is really just one or two people, though, rather than a whole company or the like… And I think it depends on the client even in that smaller category. Sometimes I think it makes sense to give a client lots of options before starting a design in earnest; other times it’s clear that would be a bad idea.

Maybe it’s because I’m on the beginner side of pro, but I don’t like to have all the design-power in my projects. After all, the ideas for the designs did originate in the clients’ heads—even if I’m the one bringing them to fruition and, hopefully, improving them a great deal. THAT BEING SAID, if someone wants something that is just bad practice (navigation that is too small or obscure to read, for example), I will calmly and with-an-air-of-expertise explain why we should do something else. And then they’ll usually agree…

Alan Moore

“Asking for feedback on multiple designs turns the critique process into a beauty pageant…”

Absolutely agree! I almost always start designing with the intention of presenting multiple design concepts, but find that one grabs me and won’t let go until it’s finished (or finished enough to show), by which point I believe in it so strongly it’s the only one I could bear to present.

It’s been about 8 years since I showed more than one design, and I’ve watched people do it since then, finding one of the following two rules to be true:

If you show three designs, the client will ask you to combine the worst elements of all three; or, if you present a good design, an average design and a poor design (which you believe is the one that will push them to one of the better designs, because who in their right mind would pick that one?), the client will pick the awful one.


<blockquote><strong>“Don’t waste time presenting multiple concepts.”</strong></blockquote>

Wish I could explain this to a couple of my clients. They don;t listen and present like 10 comps &#8211; from the very early junky looking designs to progress #10 that actually works. Of course the client chooses the worst comp…always.


A major challenge I face when presenting designs is that my clients are generally not very web-savvy. I can try to educate them on what works and what doesn’t, and therefore explain why I did things certain ways. But if their view of the web is just “online brochure” they sometimes insist on bad color choices, bad design, and/or bad typography. Other than (sometimes repeatedly) saying things like, “These are web design best practices, and here’s why…” how do you convince your clients that you’re the expert and they should trust your judgment?

Curtis Scott

I love what you said about planning design revisions. A few years back I made the move away from presenting 3 totally different look and feels in design projects. This in turn allowed our team to focus on the design / functionality that we thought would be the best fit for the project. In the end we found these design/functionality decisions were more well thought out and better executed.


I like the concept of testing your design. To many designers make something really beautiful, but it makes it also very hard to read/navigate the website.
Using A/B split testing is a very good tool if you design a website.
It is better to have a website design that is less attractive but that makes the visitor do where the website is created for, then to have a beautiful design where the visitor get confused.

Very good ideas Cennydd. I liked it so much that I’ve just bought your book Undercover User Experience Design on amazon. I hope to find lots of more great ideas.

Cennydd Bowles

Thanks for the comments, all.

Scott – at the risk of an egregious a plug, I talk a bit about how to back up your design decisions and build client trust in my book It’s a complex issue that relies on account management, pricing and solid presentation of rationale in the critique process. The key thing for me is that deep design thought (including having already looked at options your clients may request) always makes it easier to establish expertise. That said, as ID says, there can come a point at which it’s easier to find a new client if things are becoming too difficult.

Henk – great stuff, I hope you enjoy it!

Russell Bishop

I’m glad to see so much talk of justification – I find that an incredibly interesting, and important factor to nail for each client.

Justifying your decisions with logical thinking and being able to articulate that process is an excellent tool for winning clients over.

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