Presenting Design Concepts to Clients

Business + Studio
Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

With the design process, we often think of sketching out and refining concepts as the most important part. You know, the actual designing part. But how you present things to your client can often be just as important as what you’re presenting. Here’s why:

The design process can be somewhat of a mystery to some people and not every client is going to understand it. As the designer, it’s our job to give our clients the best design solutions for their business. But it’s also our job to make the process of finding that solution make sense to them. They need to understand the meaning of each concept that we present, why we made certain design decisions and how each concept will connect with their business and audience. If we aren’t putting in the extra effort to address these things, our clients might feel confused and end up choosing a solution based on trends or personal preferences that aren’t really the right fit for them. This miscommunication might also lead to extra revisions, costing more money and time which nobody wants. So how do we avoid all of this? I’ve found that it doesn’t take much, just a couple minor tweaks to our presenting style can make all the difference. Here are a few things that have helped me:

Tip No. 1 –– In each presentation, always explain the purpose behind that step in your process.

Whenever I put together a presentation for a client, the first page is always an explanation of why that step in the process matters. Most presentations are pretty self explanatory, but I find that it’s still important to put the purpose of each one into words to remind the client and make sure they’re in the right mindset before looking at concepts. It’s typically just a short paragraph, but I try to cover these key things:

  • Why the presentation is important
  • What I worked on/researched to put it together
  • What they’ll find on each page in the presentation
  • What they should be thinking about as they look through it

Without addressing these, your client might feel a little overwhelmed opening the presentation, immediately seeing the concepts and thinking, “Woah, wait, what am I looking at here?” It’s far better to know that before they look at anything, they have a full understanding of what they’re looking at, why it matters, and what they should be thinking about in terms of making decisions to move forward.

Tip No. 2 –– Remind the client of their project goals.

At the beginning of every project, my clients and I come up with a mission statement for their business, along with a list of adjectives that they want to describe their brand/website. This mission statement is usually just one sentence and focuses on how they want their audience to feel. If you’re stuck on how to write that out, here’s the general template that I follow for every client: “A branding experience that makes customers/clients feel ( insert how they should feel here ) as they ( insert how they interact with the business here ) –– an identity that is ( insert adjectives ).

I always have them approve this mission statement and list of adjectives to make sure that they feel right. After that, I show them at the beginning of every single presentation. Those goals and words are important and we picked them so they they could guide our design choices. By including them at the beginning of every presentation, I’m constantly reminding both the client and myself of our goals and making sure that whatever concepts I show are aligning with them. I also explain to the client in the first presentation that I’m going to do this so they understand why they’re going to see those written words over and over again.

Tip No. 3 –– Always explain your thought process and meaning behind each concept.

Sometimes, I think that designers can get so into their own heads that they start to assume everyone can see and understand the design choices that they make. I’m totally guilty of this, especially when I first started freelancing. I would present concepts without much explanation, just assuming that my clients could see the meaning behind them and why they were so great. But I quickly realized that they weren’t always getting it and instead, were just choosing concepts based on what they thought looked the prettiest, not what had the most connection to their values and audience. So now, I make sure to explain the deeper meaning behind every single concept that I show so that my client understands it and sees it as more than just another logo. I usually write a little description that covers these key things:

  • The meaning behind the concept
  • How it connects to their business
  • How their audience is going to perceive it (pulling from that list of adjectives we created in the beginning)

I’ve found that when I take this extra step, the concepts instantly have more value in their eyes. It allows them to see themselves in the designs more clearly and makes feel more confident in them.

Tip No. 4 –– Create a video walkthrough of the presentation.

This is something that I only started doing recently, but I’ve had such great responses from my clients that I had to include it as a tip! Normally, I would just write out descriptions for everything and hope that my client reads them. But I started to wonder how annoying it was for my clients to read all of that extra information. People can have very different preferences for taking in information – some like reading books while others would rather listen to the audiobook. I wanted my presentations to cater to both, so I started making screen recordings of myself walking the client through the presentation along with the written descriptions that I was already doing. I create the screen recording with an app called Screencastify, then share it and the pdf presentation with my client. That way they can watch the video first and listen to me explain the concepts, but they also have the pdf file to go through on their own afterwards to look over it more and read any of those little descriptions that I might not have covered in the video. It can seem a little repetitive, but like I said, it’s catering to people who learn in both ways and I can pretty much guarantee that my client is going to fully understand everything. And so far, my clients have LOVED the videos and have went out of their way to let me know how helpful they were. It’s also a great alternative for people that don’t like to have meetings over the phone. 😃

Tip No. 5 –– Always give your client guided feedback questions.

This is probably the biggest tip of all and here’s why –– clients usually just don’t know what to say. Critiquing design concepts as a non-designer can be tough! It’s also a big decision for them, so sometimes they need a little help on finding how to put their feedback and thoughts into words. When I first started, I would usually just say, “Here are 3 concepts! I hope you like them, let me know what you think,” and that was it. It caused so many problems and I would often get feedback that left me confused. They might say, “Ok, I like this one, but it’s not there yet,” and then not tell me why they liked it or what was still missing. Situations like that could lead to major miscommunication and me refining things the wrong way, so it’s really important to avoid them!

Now, I have set questions that I ask after each presentation to get exactly what I need from my clients and my goodness, they are lifesavers! Here are a few examples:

  • What do you like/dislike about each concept?
  • Do you feel like one concept will resonate with your target audience more than the others? If so, why?
  • Are there any aspects of the concepts that you feel are on the right track, but you’d like to see explored further?
  • Do you feel confident enough in one of these directions to keep moving forward? If not, what do you think we still need to refine?
  • Do you feel like your business goals and values are being conveyed well through these concepts? If not, how do you think they could be more clear?

I also try to ask questions that make them think about not only which concept they like best personally, but which one their audience would connect with. And most importantly, I’m always asking WHY and HOW. Why do you like this? Why don’t you like this? How is this not working? How do you think we can make it better? That feedback is crucial to the you being able to make the right adjustments and you can’t assume that your client is going to explain those things, so you have to ask really specific questions to get it out of them.


And there you have it! Presenting to clients well is a constant learning process – I’m always finding new things that I should be including and I’m sure that I’ll be able to rewrite this post a year from now with so many new tips. But that’s the beauty of doing this! We’re able to keep refining our process and making it better and better. I hope that some of these tips will help you create more targeted, meaningful presentations for your clients and a smoother process overall. If you have questions or your own tips, I’d love to hear them!

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