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i stopped offering my clients an option and here's what happened

MARCH 18, 2020

After 8 years at a design studio, fresh out of art school, I’d learned so much about the business side of design. Discovering how to work on a brief for someone else instead of working a brief I’d created myself was a huge and very important learning curve that took time for me to get the hang of. Yet there was always one thing about the design process that I never fully understood. It’s something that appears to be common practice in the industry, amongst studios as well as freelance designers; offering up multiple options when sharing concepts with the client.

Logically it makes sense, of course, that we want to alleviate any sort of negative reaction; we’re hardwired as humans to please (well, the majority of us). Most of us have a deep-rooted fear of failure no matter how confident we appear, so the easiest way to combat that would be to give the client alternative options to the one we would personally recommend, to avoid any backlash that may come if they don’t like the solution we’ve suggested. However, there are flaws with this way of thinking and I could never fully get on board with the concept.

Our job, as designers, isn’t just to create something attractive, but also something with heart behind it, something that emotes feelings and desires in the client’s audience, design that means something. From the very beginning of a project, there’s a natural journey we take ourselves on that leads us to the solution of the client’s problem; we put passion and hard work into getting from A to B and usually we just know when we’ve hit it on the mark. Sometimes the first concept I put together is the one, other times I’ll work tirelessly for hours on a project before getting to the design that works, but we know when we get there.

Then why would we half-heartedly throw together alternative options JUST to ensure the client doesn’t dislike the one that we pored over? We give the client options to alleviate the fear that they won't like it but in turn, we are handing over our power as designers and we’re giving them a control that they didn’t ask for. The client wants us to care, to do our research and to provide the correct solution, the logo design and visual identity that will work for them, and they pay us so they don’t have to do the work themselves.

How many times have you sent over multiple options to the client and they’ve chosen the concept you least favour? The one that didn’t have a story, or the work behind it? The one that was simply thrown together so that they had options? So, why not take those options away from them and simply deliver the one that works?

When I first started working as a freelancer, I continued to offer my client’s options; it was so deep-rooted in my work philosophy that I didn’t even consider changing it, even when my gut warned me against it. I soon tired of putting my all into one solution to then whip together a variety of options afterwards, just to ensure there was a fall-back. One day, I bit the bullet and I threw the other options out of the window. I went with my heart and I sent my client ONE solution, the design I had naturally progressed to and worked tirelssly for and you know what happened?

The client loved it.

There were no revisions, no uncertainty, it was exactly what they’d hoped for. And since that day, I’ve continued to only ever send one option to my clients. I showcase that option well and in a variety of ways, explaining my process and sharing mockups, and it works.

Of course, I still get that small pocket of anxiety when I send over concepts, but I never send anything that I don’t have full confidence in and 95% of projects now require less work and produce happier clients. On the rare occasion a client hasn’t been entirely satisfied, they’ve been able to express why and have been elated once I’ve taken a look back through the process and figured out where communication went wrong. From my experience, the client doesn’t want to choose, they want us to do the choosing for them.

And that’s essentially our job as designers, to offer a solution and not a choice.


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