“Can I see sketches?” Design clients might ask, expecting to see a greater variety of ideas before choosing one. Fair enough? Well, no.

Nancy Wu Offsetters sketchesSketches from Nancy Wu's Offsetters identity

If, like me, you’ll sketch anything that comes to mind, from the most obvious to the most abstract, it’s only after sketching when we can separate the good from the bad.

If we’re sat with 100 roughs, with maybe 10 worth further exploration, and three strong enough to digitise, what happens when the client, who isn’t a designer, is brought in to choose from the 100? You can almost guarantee that some or all of the 10 ideas that you know are worth developing are ditched. So what chance for the three strong ones?

It’s our job to choose the most distinctive directions, and show our clients only those ideas that our training tells us are good enough to work for their businesses.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t show the notepad. In fact, with certain projects showing sketches can save time.

Let’s say you’ve picked three sketches to digitise and present. You then spend hours tweaking anchor points and agonising over typefaces and colours. Now, if the presentation is the first time the client learns about these three ideas, and if she is the "average" client with no background in creative strategy, you can bet that your underlying idea will lose impact when your client sees a colour she doesn’t like.

Now imagine the same three ideas first being shown as sketches. You start by telling your client not to worry about typography, colours, or even specific shapes, lines, curves. Say 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.

But remember, if you’re going to show sketches, never throw in the kitchen sink.