September 29, 2010

Showing sketches to clients

"Can I see sketches?" Clients might ask. Their expectation is to simply see a greater variety of ideas before choosing one. Fair enough, right? 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 good 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 worth developing are ditched. So what chance for the three good ones?

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 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 design 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, don't throw in the kitchen sink.

David Airey
Brand identity design

Independent since 2005
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