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Pitching design work to clients

Pitching design work to clients | Spruce Rd. | Pitching design work to your clients isn’t always easy. There’s an art to presentation that results in minimal revisions, and fist bumps from your client.

Pitching design work to your clients isn’t always easy. There’s an art to presentation that results in minimal revisions, and fist bumps from your client. 

After years of working directly with clients, I’ve experienced both the good and bad of presenting my design work. The bad consisting of the awkward “… um I think we want to go a completely different direction,” “this is a good start, but we need to change (insert laundry list of endless revisions)” to the worst which is crickets from the client and a project that unexpectedly ends. 

I’ve definitely grown over the years, and finessed how to best present my (and my team’s) design work to clients. Pitching it in a way that builds excitement for their next steps as a brand, and one that often leads to minimal (if any) refinements. I’ll be honest, I attribute most of this success to our confident one logo solution approach. Don’t worry, I’ll share more about that process in a few weeks, so hang tight!

For now, we’re diving into a few tried and true tips to get your client on board while pitching your design presentation.

Share the purpose

As designers, we craft concepts that have a purpose behind it. If you don’t create with purpose, now is the time to move away from pretty aesthetics and design with rationale. Though we spend the hours sketching and crafting a completely unique and perfectly fitting design, we often fall short in sharing this purpose with the client. Even when working as a senior designer in an esteemed marketing department in-house, we would utilize the “drop and run” method. Meaning, we would spend hours of design and refinement behind the scenes, only to deliver a proof to the client and wait for their feedback. 

The crucial component that is missing is revealing how and why you developed the design solution, and letting your client in on the purpose. Through sharing your design rationale, the client is much more likely to come on board knowing that there is purpose and intention behind the design work. Acknowledging your hard work, and excited by the focus on their specific project. People love stories, so share your process with the client when presenting the design.

Frame everything in light of their target audience

I’m going to let you in on a little tip that has revolutionized our client relationships. When presenting our logo designs, we always frame how the design is successful in reaching our client’s target market. Through presenting the work with the ideal audience in mind, our client learns to remove their own personal preferences aside from what is best for their brand. No longer should a slight color change or minuscule tweaks enter the conversation. If the client mentions these adjustments, we simply ask how the current design doesn’t appeal to their audience. Often there isn’t an objective answer, and realize that they are swayed by trends or common themes within their industry.

In order to present with the target audience in mind, you actually need to fully understand the ins and outs of your client’s market. Do thorough research prior to even sketching concepts, so you can confidently present a design that appeals to that market.

Avoid revealing your inner design geek

Learned this one the hard way! Though we have rationale for the type choices, color palette and grids, our clients aren’t as familiar with designer language as we are. Terms such as serif, composition and hamburger menu can make our clients feel insecure and out of the loop. Or worse, their eyes might glaze over and you’ll lose their interest in the presentation. 

Avoid using these terms in your presentation, and instead provide rationale using common language that is easy to follow.

Allow time for them to review

When presenting a brand identity design over Skype/phone, I inform my client ahead of time that the purpose of the presentation is not for feedback. I prefer they avoid gut reactions and rash revisions, and instead allow some time to marinate with the design to make sure it fits their brand. Of course, if a client responds immediately with approval, I’m not going to discourage that in favor of developing arbitrary revisions! However, occasionally I’ll run into a client who dissects the design at first glance, which is what we want to avoid. Allow time for your presentation and purpose behind the design to sink in with them. Some clients need more time to digest than others, so accommodate for that. Never end a presentation with a classic “… so what do you think? Do you like it?” Instead, confidently present the brand and inform them of next steps when their approval or feedback is needed.

Client presentations are an art, that when overlooked can be a costly mistake to your relationship. You’ve done the hard work, now take the time to court your client and do your design justice through a quality presentation.


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