Showing sketches to clients

“Can I see sketches?” A perfectly valid client-request. After all, the expectation is simply to see a greater variety of ideas before choosing one to run with. So that’s good, right? Well, no.

Nancy Wu Offsetters sketches

If you’re like me, you’ll sketch anything that comes to mind — obvious to abstract, rubbish to excellent. Anything.

It’s only after you sketch when you start ruling-out ideas, because the whole point of sketching is to record as many directions as possible, so you can then stand behind the strength and appropriateness of the final choice, i.e., “Tried all those, didn’t work.”

If you’re sat with 100 rough sketches, 10 worth further exploration, and three good enough to digitize, what happens when your client, with little-to-no design experience, is brought on board to choose from the 100? You can almost guarantee that the majority, if not all, of the 10 ideas worth developing are ditched, leaving the chance of choosing any of those three good options no better than that old needle in the hay.

As designers we need to separate the good from the bad, and show our clients only those ideas that are strong enough to work for their businesses.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t ever show the notepad.

In fact with certain projects showing sketches can save you time.

Imagine you’ve selected three different designs to digitize and present. You’ve spent hours tweaking anchor points, agonizing over typefaces and colours. Now, if the presentation is the first time your client learns about these three ideas, and if he/she is the “average” client with no design strategy background, trust me that your underlying idea will fly out the window at the first sight of a colour your client doesn’t like.

Now picture the same three ideas being initially shown as sketches. You start by telling your client not to worry about typography, colours, or even specific shapes, lines, curves. Tell him/her to focus solely on the ideas — how they can flex and grow with the brand and how they’ll work for the client’s customers.

It’s faster for you, faster for your client, and keeps the conversation where it belongs — on the idea.

Sketches from Nancy Wu’s Offsetters identity design


Vedanshu says:

It does helps when showing the entire Design research.