“Can I see sketches?” It’s a perfectly valid client-request. 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 obvious to abstract, ludicrous to excellent. Anything.
Only after you sketch do you start ruling-out ideas, because the whole point of the sketching stage is to record as many potential directions as possible — the benefit of which is to further reinforce the strength and appropriateness of the final choice — i.e., “Tried all those, but found they didn’t work.”
So if you’re sat with 100 very rough sketches, 10 of them worth further exploration, and three containing ideas good enough to digitize, what do think happens when your client, with little-to-no design experience, is brought on board to choose from the 100? You can practically guarantee that most, if not all, of the 10 ideas worth further exploration end-up being neglected, leaving the chance of choosing those three good options no better than finding that old needle in the haystack.
It’s your job as a graphic designer to separate the good from the bad, and to show your clients only those ideas that 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 actually save you time.
Imagine you’ve selected three different designs to digitize and present. You’ve spent hours tweaking anchor points, agonizing over the most appropriate fonts and colours. Now, if the presentation is the first time your client learns about these three ideas, and if he/she is the “average” client with no design strategy background, trust me when I say 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 fonts, colours, or even specific shapes, lines, curves. Tell him/her to focus solely on the ideas, and how they’ll be received by onlookers.
It’s faster for you, faster for your client, and keeps the emphasis of 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