In my early years of design work for clients I had a rule in my head that said to provide 2-3 design options to my clients for them to choose from. Whether it was a piece of graphic design or website, I worked hard to meet this expectation within myself. I thought it was what designers were supposed to do. I often caught myself making any little change to a design just for the sake of having a second design option. I always liked my first design, and nearly each time my clients would choose my least favored design (have you been there?). This process always frustrated me, but I continued this rule until I finally discovered something about myself:
I started to value my time and expertise.
While each project scenario is unique and with different scope factors, my general rule of thumb these days is to present one design to a client, and let the revision process run efficiently from there.
In simplistic terms, a basic design phase of a project runs like this:
- Present a design to the client.
- Revise the design as needed and based on feedback.
- Finalize the design in sign off.
This basic phase process is quite straightforward, and if just one design is developed it makes for a more simple understanding and revision process.
Now if you can imagine this same design phase process used with two designs developed. Suddenly the once single pipeline gets branched out into three at the revision phase. With multiple designs presented you may find yourself revising design #1, design #2, or combining both designs to create a new design #3. More pieces involved can lead to more complexities, misunderstandings and slow downs.
Top Reasons to Present Just One Design Direction
It Saves Development Time
Most people on the outside of doing creative work may not understand, but it does take great time to create a design of anything. It requires strategic thought, creativity on demand, and technical skills. It’s challenging enough to create one design that meets project requirements and goals. Creating two or more designs is extremely time consuming. A client is paying you to come up with one design solution, the best design solution. Deliver that one.
It Improves Quality
When you’re working on creating multiple designs at one time, you’re splitting your focus and time. Put your energy and work hours into developing one great design solution, and use the revision phase of the design process to make improvements as needed. That’s what the revision phase is for after all, and you can have as many revision phases as required. This in of itself replaces the need for multiple designs.
It Streamlines Feedback
Presenting multiple design options can cause cognitive overload to clients. There can be too much information to absorb, and therefore decision-making can be difficult. Feedback will be split across multiple designs which can cause confusion when it comes to communicating changes, making actual revisions, and finalizing a design.
Create one pipeline of the design process, so there is one pipeline for the feedback loop. It’s easier to revise one design than try to talk about many at once.
You’re the Expert
If you create more than one design, you know internally which design is best. You’ll have a favorite. So go with that. You’re the expert who knows what design is best for the project goals. Sell it to your client with confidence.
I recognize that each project scenario is different, and there are a few cases in which having multiple design options may be beneficial. For example, I would show 2-3 logo designs to a client if there are great variations in approach. However, for most web and graphic design projects, I navigate through the design process with the client and utilize the revision phase for design changes. It saves me time, provides more design clarity, and makes for a more simple design process.
Still not convinced? Give it a try on your next project, and present your one design direction with both confidence and openness to the revision process.