“Can I see sketches?” A valid question from a client. After all, the expectation is simply to see a greater variety of ideas before choosing one to run with. So that’s good, right? Well, no.
If you’re like me, you’ll sketch anything that comes to mind, from the most obvious to the most abstract. And it’s only after you sketch when you start separating the good from the bad, because the aim of sketching is to record as many directions as possible so you can stand behind the strength and appropriateness of the final choice, i.e., “Tried all those, didn’t work.”
If you’re sat with 100 rough sketches, 10 of those worth further exploration, and three good enough to digitise, what happens when your client, who isn’t a designer, is brought on board to choose from the 100? You can almost guarantee that some or all of the 10 ideas worth developing are ditched. So what chance have those three good options got?
It’s our job to single out the most distinctive directions, and show our clients only those ideas that our training tells us are strong enough to work for their businesses.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t ever show the notepad. In fact with certain projects showing sketches can save you time.
Imagine you’ve picked three different designs to digitise and to present. You’ve spent hours tweaking anchor points and agonising over typefaces and colours. Now, if the presentation is the first time your client learns about these three ideas, and if she is the “average” client with no design strategy background, trust me that your underlying idea will fly out the window at the first sight of a colour your client doesn’t like.
Now picture the same three ideas being initially shown as sketches. You start by telling your client not to worry about typography, colours, or even specific shapes, lines, curves. Tell him to focus solely on the ideas — how they can flex and grow with the brand and how they’ll work for the client’s customers.
It’s faster for you, faster for your client, and it keeps the conversation where it belongs — on the idea.
If you’re going to show sketches, don’t throw-in the kitchen sink.
Sketches from Nancy Wu’s Offsetters identity design