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March 08, 2008


David Conrad

Interesting post! For what it's worth, our approach at Design Commission has been that one comp is the best approach, but not out of "sheer arrogance" but rather the notion that iteration in design is a necessity and that it makes more sense to spend time iterating on a single concept more times, than burning time and cycles on work that won't get used.

I know that the approach of presentation is very much a philosophical one for most studios, but the times that we have been asked by the client to provide multiple directions at the first meeting have not yielded either a better product or a happier client and, inevitably, you end up with "a little of this one, a little of that one" which dilutes the intention behind each of the unique directions.

I'd encourage everyone to at least try this approach on a project by telling the client that instead of presenting 3 concepts with 3 rounds of review you'll present 1 concept with 9 rounds of review. It will be the same (or, ideally, less) work for you and the concept will be more thought-out at the end of the process.


David Sherwin

That's a great strategy...

I'd also like to know if the 1 concept, 9 iterations approach works well with very, very big tech clients, like a certain one I saw in your agency's book. They're usually the ones that clamor for options, while smaller clients can be persuaded more easily.

Your post also reminded me that I forgot to mention that when you're under the gun on schedule, you should only show one concept. There just isn't time for more than your first best idea. :)



I'm a big fan of one tight, two roughs. If the homework's been done properly I'd rather show just the "right" one but I agree, my-way-or-the-highway can seem arrogant. So showing the best idea fully formed and two alternate directions roughed out usually works well. The "pretty" presentation gets the heads nodding, while the alternates are there to show thought process and value, and flexibility in case we did miss the mark.

The roughs can also show you've been listening, as in "you said your husband thought acid green and purple would be good for your cheese shop, so we explored that in this alternate design..."



David Conrad

It's an interesting question to me because I don't think I've ever stopped to really consider what qualifies a project as a one-idea versus a multiple-idea one. It's always just been a "known" where we made the call before the work started.

Our approach hasn't changed much based on the size of the client, but it most certainly has based on the type of project. In particular, if dealing with less tangible deliverables like branding and/or naming work (of which, we've only done a very small amount) I completely agree that 3 - 5 concepts is a requirement. It's all too likely that you'll get a response like "I just don't like blue..." from the client which is a really difficult one to debate.

However, for most of the work we do at Design Commission–basically putting together the way a Web site or Web application looks and behaves–we try to stick with our one-gun approach.

I guess, if I had to write some sort of policy doc about it, I'd stick to the notion that work tied to more subjective input from clients warrants more concepts to choose from. But, for work that relies on any sort of functionality or is tied to specific requirements, our ability to analyize and provide recommendations based on our perspective should guide the work and discussion, not a multiple-choice exam.

And, yes, of course, if time is a factor, then, as Henry Ford put it, "you can have any color you want, as long as it's black." :)

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