The Designer’s Guide To

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A guide to help new designers present their work to clients verbally, visually, on and offline. Advice provided by international industry professionals, edited and curated by Richard Baird.

Avoid fillers

When you’re pulling together the first round of concepts for your client, try to avoid fillers, it can be a real heartache when a client chooses an idea you’ve used to bulk up your presentation. If you deliver two concepts rather than the promised three (and a client is really hung up on it), offer to spend additional time on development. I often find that a client impressed by one particular design will often be far less concerned by the absence of further options. Just be passionate and confident about the ideas you have, if it isn’t good enough don’t use it!

Provided by @richbaird

Never assume

Your client is not a designer. Some of them may not even enjoy the creative process. Be patient and always do your best to clearly explain everything. If you can’t be there in person to go over everything, try to do it on the phone when presenting your work. If you can’t do it on a call for whatever reason, make sure that a complete stranger could look at what you are sending and get the end result you are hoping the client will take away.

Provided by @nicolelafave

Presenting one big idea

I’ve found myself presenting only one concept recently. To do this requires a solid understanding of the brief and the right amount of research prior to visualisation. Filling your sketch pad full of quick ideas can often lead to one perfect solution and it’s this idea that I focus on presenting. That said, I only do this when I feel 100% confident that I’ve completely answered a client’s brief. I utilise the time I would’ve otherwise spent executing other concepts, presenting and selling this one big idea.

Presentation example: Benchmark Houston on Behance.

Provided by @VERGadvertising

Mock-ups

Some things need to be physical to present or review. Especially in packaging. Whenever possible try to capture a way to show any 3-d objects digitally or by mockups and photographs for reference.

Provided by @nicolelafave

Presenting only the most appropriate solutions

Only present the solutions that you know answer the brief to the best of your abilities.

Provided by @downwithdesign

Post-presentation criticism

It’s important to remember that you’re designing for client preferences and not your own. Presentations will often lead to some degree of criticism or disagreement. Take this as a positive experience and an opportunity to build on your ideas. I find that a client’s input, following a presentation, does in fact lead to far better solutions regardless of whether I initially disagreed with their opinion. Listen to their concerns and express your thoughts in a polite way, don’t be defensive but plead your case with insight and enthusiasm.

Provided by @richbaird

Make sure your presentation is targeted and relevant

Make sure your presentation is targeted and relevant to that particular client and project. For instance, there’s no need to present a letterpress business card mock-up of a logo that will only be used on-screen. Show how it works in a way that’s appropriate to the project. If you’re designing a logo that will be primarily be used on a website, include an example screenshot of the logo in their site header. If it’s for a mobile application, include a version in the actual target size. At the same time, try not to overload the presentation with information – showing too many variations, colour versions or mock-ups is likely to overwhelm the client and detract from the core element of your proposal.

Provided by Claire Coullon

Limit your concepts

My advice would be to only show your very best designs and keep it to a reasonable number. This I’ve learned from experience. More choice often leads to poor decisions. I find clients almost always choose the one concept I feel is the weakest of them all (and let’s face it there is always one). At the end of the day you’re the designer and the client has come to you for help. Try your best to guide them in the right direction with passion, possibilities and present the work you are truly proud of.

Provided by @sheenaoosten

Confidence

Always have an opinion as the designer. It’s your job. Just be sure your opinion is separate from personal likes & loves and is what works best for the project & client’s main goals. The client can disagree later, all part of the process.

Provided by @nicolelafave

Process and rationalisation

If you’re e-mailing your work make sure that you include plenty of detail, sufficient rationalisation and a description of your process. Check your grammar and spelling are spot on and that your concepts are conveyed in a clear and understandable way. Make sure that your client received the work but remain patient, follow-up your initial e-mail after a couple of days if you haven’t heard from your client.

Provided by @richbaird

Meeting face to face

Aim to present your ideas to your client face to face, passion and enthusiasm can often be far more powerful and compelling than your actual work.

Provided by @RichBaird

Present your ideas in context

A logo is only one part of the identity puzzle, it’s important to present the bigger picture to the client. When you show your ideas in context, you give the client the opportunity to understand and digest what their new identity in real word situations. After all, it’s a very important time for a start-up company and the excitement levels are high, especially when they see what their company will look like – it all of a sudden makes it real for them! Another thing to point out is when presenting just a logo, a client can often try to achieve too much with their logo design. It’s showing the bigger picture that helps a client understand that you don’t have to peg every element of their requirement on “the logo”. Let the logo work as a team with everything else, and the only way to do this, is to present it in context.

Provided by @VERGadvertising

Context can lead to more work

When you’ve been commissioned to design a single asset such as a logo-type, delivering it within the context of stationary, store signage, or part of a mobile screen can often lead to branding opportunities.

Provided by @richbaird

Your presentation should be clear and easy to understand

No matter the format, your presentation should be clear and easy to understand. In a PDF presentation for example, a simple title page with the project name, date, short headline indicating the version number, etc. helps to keep track of the work and makes it easier for you both to reference the right document. Include an explanation of the concept, not only describing your overall approach and idea, but also highlighting specific design elements. This helps to give your client a better understanding of the work and encourages more relevant feedback.

Provided by Claire Coullon

Who’s buying the coffee?

Remember that you are the service provider, whether you choose to host your presentation in a cafe, bar or restaurant it’s you that should be doing the buying.

Provided by @RichBaird

Successful presentation is an art

In this age of global connectivity and digital exchange, it’s easy for designers and clients to unite from worlds apart. So, too, is it easy to slip into laziness when it comes to presenting one’s work. You throw your designs into a PDF, type out a brief writeup, attach to an email, click send, cross fingers, and pray to the heavens that your client will “get it.” But by doing this, you do yourself and your hard work a huge disservice.

Successful presentation is an art, and requires the designer to engage, captivate, inform, and educate with not only powerful visuals, but also persuasive writing. The objective isn’t simply to show your client some pretty images; you need to *sell* your ideas, often times, to very left-brained, analytical people who don’t think as designers do.

Since design services are generally very expensive, many clients get nervous when working with designers for the first time. Also, many clients have no idea what goes on behind the scenes after they’ve made their deposit. If you craft your presentations appropriately, you can assuage this tension and build trust, which will ultimately lead to success, a better working relationship, and hopefully, repeat work.

A perfect way for bringing your clients into your world is to divulge your creative process. Walk them through your inspiration, your research, your thumbnails, your sketches, your electronic development. In doing so, you are revealing to your client that you have given the particular design challenge a tremendous amount of thought; that you have explored it from every possible angle; and that the ideas you’re proposing are the best possible solutions.

Be confident in your work. Own it. Defend it. Be prepared to explain your rationale, and be sure to reference touch points brought forth in the creative brief.

And finally, take as much pride in your presentations as you do in your design work. A successful presentation is not something that can (or should) be whipped up last minute; you need time to craft your words effectively, and to assemble strong visuals that support your ideas. If you put forth enough effort, your presentations will have that “wow” factor that clients love, and not only will you be more successful in your pitches, but you will also attract more clients who value that level of thoughtful consideration, creativity, and effort.

I recently put together one such presentation. Please feel free to check it out. I hope it proves educational, informative, and inspirational

Presentation example: Dozen Flours on Behance

Provided by Jon Stapp

Copyright and contact details

It’s important that you make it clear that all the work presented is the intellectual copyright of the designer until it’s signed over. A simple statement at the bottom of each page is sufficient to make your client aware of distribution limitations. Remember to include your contact details so that anyone outside the project who is privy to the presentation will be able to get in contact should they have any future design requirements.

Provided by @richbaird

Make your presentation well-rounded

If you are not able to present in person, make your presentation digitally well-rounded and whenever possible try to walk them through it on a phone call. I have a lot of clients that either prefer to work remotely or are just physically not in the same city. My initial logo design concepts & PDFs usually begin with an introduction or summary of the brief, contain a page about things that were explored that worked vs. things that do not seem appropriate or do not work. This helps show that you did consider some of the options that may not be present in the actual design work or sketches. I often follow this with some quick snapshots or scans of sketches. At this point I make a judgement call based on the project and the client. Do you think they are the type of client that can imagine and talk about sketches, or will a really great solution get passed by because it would be better explained digitally and on the computer? I try to hold out as long as I can with the computer, but 50% of the time it is necessary to show solutions digitally executed. If a given project requires this, this would follow my sketch pages in my initial presentation. I am very curious to hear more perspective on this process from other designers, there is no set formula that works for everyone.

Provided by @nicolelafave

Presentation order

A presentation is like a performance and the final act should deliver the most surprises, save your best idea for the big finale.

Provided by @richbaird

Get to know your audience

Always make sure you get to know as much as possible about the person you are going to give your presentation to and consider what their specialism or experience is. A lot of clients are looking for a neat visual solution but you may find that their particular interest lies with context, user experience or strategy. Tailor your presentations to fit and spend more time talking up these specific areas.

Suggested by @Bbxweb_jari

Lock your documents

If you’re building your presentation with vector software make sure you lock the document so artwork can’t be appropriated prior to project completion. Ideally  flatten your documents and make sure they are at screen resolution to avoid simple live tracing of ideas if the projects goes sour.

Provided by @RichBaird

Scale later

When I am working on a project such as a website, I start with the look & feel of a single page in the site before I commit to each & every page within a said design concept without the client taking a look. This allows the client to see the idea before committing to it and wasting time if the concept is not going in the right direction. The same applies to say something print-related like a stationary system. Start with an important item on the smaller projects and you have the ability to hone in on what direction you want to go. There are obvious exceptions to this rule when the system being designed relies on showing the differences, or say if the project is larger and the budget is wider you have the ability to show things as completed sets. Some clients may even request this upfront, so be sure your Agreement spells out what you are committed to and you make good on that commitment.

Provided by @nicolelafave

Planning

When presenting in person, be prepared with a rough idea of what you’re going to discuss and walk the client through your proposal slowly. GIve them time to look at the visual you’re showing before you start any explanations. Make sure they’re the ones with the best and most comfortable view of the work, whether it’s on a screen or in print. Talking slowly is an obvious but essential thing to remember too; it’ll give you more time to think as you go along.

Provided by Claire Coullon

Format

Make sure you have a standard format across your presentation, type choice, size, layouts, tone of voice and your personal identity all contribute to a professional looking document, a scruffy presentation is likely to compromise the quality of your concepts. If you’re presenting digitally make sure you include a print out for the client to take home and make notes on.

If you choose to present a design idea in a particular context make sure it’s replicated across each idea so a client can make a fair comparison.

Provided by @richbaird

Signatures and approvals

Make sure you document the process in writing & be sure you have signatures on approved work. If you have presented a sketch that is fairly complex to execute and you know will eat up all of the budget, take the time to explain this to the client and get a commitment to it if you can.

Provided by @nicolelafave

We sell shoes, shouldn’t there be a shoe in the logo?

A simple logo-type can often be the perfect solution for a client, but they may feel underwhelmed unless seen it in a broader and more engaging context. Inspire them with stationery, signage, ad mocks and on-line suggestions alongside material choices and print techniques. Shown them how each component contributes to a wider and more communicative experience beyond a literal and isolated asset.

Suggested by @VERGadvertising

Don’t get disheartened mid-presentation

Clients are business people and as such can be hard to gauge, some will instantly react while others sit quietly. Try not to be put off by a silent client and understand that redesigns and new directions are big decisions for companies that require time and consideration. Remain enthusiastic throughout.

Provided by @richbaird

Edit and balance

Never show anything you do not feel is successful or that you just simply do not find appealing. You are as weak as your weakest link, and if you give a client the option to pick something that you as the professional do not feel is a solid and strong response to their problem, you are giving them the option to choose something less successful and likely you should not be presenting it to begin with.

I’m not sure there really is a magic formula or number for how many concepts you should present or how to do it. It’s all about context, the scope of the project/client & how large your organization may be. It’s impractical for a sole designer to show too much and expand into other collateral and context if the budget is constrained and you just don’t have the time you need. (after all we are in this as a business as well) It’s also easy for a larger agency to present too much and confuse the client, so it’s all about finding the right balance and what works for you. I also find that showing options within a main concept or direction is very helpful, but if you show way too many things that are all different from one another, you’re not doing your job as well as you should be unless you are very clear as to what you recommend as the professional and you feel everything shown is as strong as the next or previous option. You also do not want to show 3 marks that look almost identical to each other without anything else in the mix.

Provided by @nicolelafave

Bring Your Own Equipment

Bring your own equipment to on-site presentations. Sounds simple enough, but it’s your job to be thorough and make sure nothing goes wrong when presenting on location to a client.

In addition to a computer it’s a good idea to have an extra power source, your own projector and a portable hotspot (if your presentation requires the Internet). Some meeting rooms don’t have Internet. Some buildings have slow wireless (or none at all) or a network that guests cannot easily join (my company is like that).

For that reason, it’s also good to have your entire presentation or demo on a local hard drive. Actually, make that TWO hard drives in case one fails.

Provided by @tedgoas

Adjust your style to match the environment and audience

Presentations aren’t always one on one, and they aren’t always in an intimate setting. Being articulate, not stammering, not using “like” or “um,” using proper grammar, and using correct terminology are all going to help people view you as a professional. Also, knowing your audience as a presenter is a lot like knowing the client’s audience when you’re designing. Using a particular tone and vernacular with a client that comes to meetings in a suit and tie may not be the same as the one you’d use with a client that shows up in jeans and a t-shirt.

Provided by Brian Grossman

Know the difference between a slide and a document

One of the fundamental problems many people face with presentations is that they don’t understand the difference between a presentation slide and a document. When you give a presentation, your audience needs to understand each slide’s message in three seconds or less. If your audience can’t quickly understand your message they will shut down and stop paying attention. Many people like to fill their slides with lots and lots of text because they are afraid they will forget what they are going to say. However, when you read your slide word for word you simply end up putting your audience to sleep. People can always read your slide faster than you can say it. If you are simply reading from the slide then there is no reason for you to even be up there giving the presentation. People know how to read themselves.

So the question is, if you’re not supposed to fill your slide full of text and bullet points (like a document), what do you fill it with? The answer is simple. Pictures! It has been scientifically proven that people remember pictures far better than they do text. So consider balancing short text with relevant and communicative imagery and be prepared to add additional commentry beyond what is already present on the slide.

Provided by @PandaPresents

 

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If you are a designer and have any advice you would like to add to this article, please submit your contribution as a comment below and remember to include your Twitter ID so I can credit your tip.

 

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