Five on Design  |  Episode 31  |  April 20, 2018

Why you always need to present your work

As a designer, it’s inevitable at some point in your working career that you will create something and have to present it to someone. That someone will need to review it and judge whether or not the project is on the right track.

Email is the easiest way to go about this. You can attach a logo file and send it over with a message asking“what do you think?” while crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

But that isn’t a good way to present your work.

I’ve been guilty of doing this on a few projects — and I really need to take my own advice here.

One of the biggest benefits of presenting your work is the ability to control the narrative.

Getting ahead of the narrative lets you stay ahead of your client’s concerns. You can shape the story and control how your client is introduced to the work.

As designers, we can easily think five steps ahead of where we’re at. We can envision things clients can’t — and we need to remember that. Clients will spend more time focusing on what they’re seeing instead of the possibilities of where a design can go.

As a result, we get feedback that isn’t always helpful.

Instead, we get the classic make the logo bigger.” Or make it a circle, but not a circle. But I hate squares.”

So how do you present your work?

Storytelling is a great strategy!

Being able to talk a client through where things are and where you’re seeing the design go can really help. I picked on this trick not too long ago. I had the opportunity to do a fun side project alongside other creatives for a non-profit recently. What I noticed during our presentations, was that the projects that had the best story were often the projects that were favored the most.

Getting the emotional buy-in from the client matters. Big time.

I struggled with my story when I presented my work and as a result, I think it hurt the perception of my project. It was reinforced when the project that I thought looked the best didn’t get much attention because the story that accompanied it didn’t carry it.

If you present your work right, the feedback can be great. You can direct people to pay attention to certain things — or away from other things. Clients can focus on what matters instead of trivial things like logo size or color.

It even helps to include what a client can expect next in the process during your presentation. Doing this might help a client offer feedback on future work, which can be an advantage as you progres through a project.

Let’s say you do get terrible feedback though.

When you present your work live, you get the opportunity to have a conversation. Email doesn’t allow for that. If its face to face, it reduces the chance that something gets lost in translation. You can talk a client into or out of a significant design decision.

No matter what, don’t send your work and hope for the best. Crossing your fingers and closing your eyes almost never ends well. More often than not, a client is going to choose something you weren’t expecting them to. They’ll probably focus on something you hoped they wouldn’t.

By presenting your work, you control the process — and that almost always provides a better outcome to the project.