One Design Is All You Really Need
Last week I took my son to the doctor for a rash he had developed. After our pediatrician examined him he turned to me and said, "Well it looks like a possible ringworm. Or it could be an allergic reaction. Possibly a dermatology issue. Here are a few topical creams we can try, you pick one and let's give it a couple weeks to see what happens."
Needless to say, my confidence in our pediatrician was shaken and I felt overwhelmed with the plethora of options. Now, I am in search of a new doctor.
I learned what it could possibly have been in the babycenter.com forums. All I wanted was his professional expertise and to tell me exactly what we needed to do.
Contrary to popular belief, multiple options don't build confidence, they actually end up confusing people.
When you are in search of a solution to implement, do you honestly care about multiple options or do you want the solution that is going to work best? I'll take the latter.
When I started freelancing as a graphic designer I had no clue what I was doing from a business perspective. I had Google hacked contracts, was definitely not charging enough, and used to offer my clients seven options. Yes, you read that right...seven. I also offered just as many revisions.
Why would it take me seven times to get a concept right? I had no idea except I wanted to make sure my clients were happy. Any and every little tweak, modification, or want of my clients I would naively cater to.
Quickly I learned seven options and revisions, without charging additional fee's, was too much. I reduced it down to five options and revisions as if that made things better.
Over time I discovered a pattern. Clients would usually exhaust all revisions to get their creative prowess on through me, yet more often than not, they would resolve back to my original delivered concept and use that as their final design. I also noticed that it would take them a long time to choose which designs would be amongst their top, let alone the final design. So the overall process would drag on...and on...and on...at least five to seven times.
Today I only deliver one concept and if a revision or additional options are requested, they are billed.
I know this breaks many customs that clients expect from their designer. I know some designers may even feel like this isn't fair to the client. But let's be real, the only reason clients want options is because they have been conditioned to having them.
Professionals deliver based on their expertise and what will work best for their clients. When it comes to designing brand identity, it is not about what your client likes, but more importantly what their customers or end users will like. The fact that the business owner likes sea-foam green over hunter green is irrelevant when their customers may have a better connection to a Hulk-ish green.
If you give a person a couple options, they will eventually choose, but if you provide too many options they will freeze up. If you provide a person a single solution to their pain, they will be relieved and at ease.
Now, there is a potential pitfall to only presenting one design concept and that is the concept doesn't work; however, this is rare. From my experience, the only reason a concept does not work is that not enough time was spent in the beginning phases working together. If you put in the work early on, the whole process will run smoothly.
How you can do it too...
Positioning yourself as an expert takes much more than having a fancy website, portfolio, and cool business cards. You have to operate as one in all facets. Your clients are hiring you for your expertise and they are seeking your guidance.
I believe that if designers and their clients work closely together in the beginning of the process, focus on ironing out all the design specifications and business details upfront, then there is no need to deliver multiple design choices.
As a professional designer, a huge part of your job is to guide your clients to the pixel mecca---not be the proverbial camel they ride.
The only way to accomplish this is by positioning yourself as the expert in the beginning. Be clear about everyone's role and responsibilities. Whenever possible, spend as much time with the client writing the design brief versus excepting a brief from the client. A matter of fact, make that a part of your freelance or agency policy---that is what I do. The reality is most client delivered design briefs suck and will lead you down the wrong path of execution!
If you are coming to me for multiple options, just know that I am not that guy. The one design option allows me as the designer to focus on the attention and detail needed to present something great. My goal is to present the best solution at the time of delivery, not a bunch mediocre-at-best options to select from. I know this is not the conventional client and designer method, but I assure you it leads to the most unconventional and best results. Try it!