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Your Brain on Design: A Graphic Design Blog

The third design

April 4, 2009

It is standard practice in design to offer three initial design ideas to a client. It doesn’t happen every time or on every project, but it happens enough that if you are a designer, you should know this rule:

If you do three designs, and there’s one you love, one you like, and one you think is crap, nine times out of ten your client will go with the one you think is crap.

Does this mean your client is stupid? Absolutely not. Does this mean that you need to love your third design as much as your other two? Absolutely.

Filed under: Know How

18 Excellent Comments

  1. Great concluding paragraph, Leslie. Couldn’t agree more, even though it’s a tough battle to fight.

    Comment by David Airey — April 4, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  2. Or does this meanyou should not offer three design options? Why provide a design service in a way that does not lead to the best possible result?

    Comment by frankha — April 4, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

  3. Thanks for the comments, David, and for being so willing to spread the link love!

    Krankha, I guess if you can’t come up with a third design that you like, you shouldn’t submit it at all, but most contracts that I write specify the number of initial designs that are presented. My point is that sometimes I’m tempted to just call it in for the third design, figuring that I’ve provided two strong options, but that nearly always backfires on me. When I have a third design that I don’t think is strong, I need to spend more time and thought on it to make sure all three designs are of the same quality.

    Comment by Leslie Tane Design — April 4, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  4. I agree. Never show something to a client that you wouldn’t be happy with if they picked. I’ve made that mistake before.

    Comment by James Kurtz III — April 4, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  5. It’s my pleasure, Leslie. I only link to those posts I feel are worthy of a mention, so keep it up!

    Comment by David Airey — April 4, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  6. You should never, ever present a concept that you wouldn’t be able to live with developing to the final stage. Why present something that you think is crap?

    Comment by Kenny Eicher — April 4, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

  7. I’ve learned (but not always practiced!) that you have to absolutely LOVE all designs you show. They will always pick your least favorite.

    Comment by Rob Russo — April 4, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  8. Thanks for your comments James, Kenny and Rob. Sometimes you have to learn your lesson the hard way, other times you’re lucky to have never made that mistake.

    Comment by Leslie Tane Design — April 4, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  9. Wow, put so simply and concisely yet says it all Leslie. When I started out designing logos I began by providing 6 ideas…often this left me struggling to create 2 or even 3 concepts that I liked enough to feel proud of. Of course, most times the client chose thoe 2 or 3 that I did not like. Now, I provide less concepts but put the same amount of effort into the last idea as I do the first. Delighted to have found your site, thanks David. :)

    Comment by Brian Yerkes — April 4, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  10. Glad to have you here, Brian!

    Comment by Leslie Tane Design — April 4, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  11. First I wrote these words in my blog yesterday: “One is not enough — I always follow the practice of giving more than one option for the clients. This means more hard work, but in the end, I have more chances of winning an account. The safest bet is to do a conventional one, a rebellious one and a creative one.”
    After 24 hours, happened to see this post through David Airey’s tweet.
    Moral of the story: A client picking up a crap design is a global phenomenon, whether it is in US or in India.

    Comment by Anaska — April 4, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

  12. Amused that I was just that client. Presented the designer what I wanted, he gave me three options. I picked the one he didn’t like and then he didn’t stopped revising until it was something he thought looked great.

    The outcome was way better than I could have imagined.

    Comment by The Happy Rock — April 4, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  13. I’m not a full time designer, but I would think part of the problem is simply letting a design go, not re-working it and knowing when to stop and be satisfied, let alone absolutely loving it.

    Comment by Tina Cornell — April 5, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

  14. I don’t think I’ve ever had the luxury of time – either in my corporate career or freelance – to be able to tweak the design to a point of absolute satisfaction. Not sure it’s even possible.

    Comment by Kenny — April 5, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

  15. Anaska – Thanks for your perspective. It does seem to be worldwide!

    The Happy Rock – That’s an excellent point. The best designs are almost always a collaboration between the designer and the client. Especially if the client has an open mind, which it sounds like you did.

    Tina – It can be hard to know when to let go of a design, but I think that’s one of the first lessons you learn as a professional designer. Time management is so key, since there are always more tweaks that could be made. (See Kenny’s comment, too, about this.)

    Kenny – I totally agree. Even on projects when I think I’ve done everything I can, if I let it sit for a day or two, I always find more to do when I come back to it.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Comment by Leslie Tane Design — April 6, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  16. […] Or so it says here. […]

    Pingback by » First rule of design? — April 20, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  17. This happens to me all the time. Thanks for adding a little understand to this phenomenon. gotta remember not to overwork things.

    Comment by Mort — June 19, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

  18. Just amazing … nice blog thank you mates

    Comment by business website templates — November 18, 2009 @ 6:26 am

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