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The Most Effective Way to Present Your Designs

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Everyone has an opinion about the way things look. Even the most trusting clients will have revisions and change requests waiting for you after you present your work. But why? After all, they hired you because you are the expert, right? Well, not always.

Unfortunately, many clients hire designers to execute beautiful work, not to solve problems. Those clients feel like they are paying you for the work, so they should be able to tell you what to do.

The problem is that those are the clients who don’t really understand why the project is happening in the first place. They forgot that somewhere along the way, there was a problem. A real business problem. They decided that a new design could solve that problem and they found a designer who could “improve their design” for them.

So when you finally get around to showing the client your work, everything you’ve done is now subject to their opinion. The client sees it as art. You’ve brought their vision to life. Now that they can see it, their minds are flooded with ways to “improve it”.

But that shouldn’t be the case.

So how do you present your design work in such a way that the client trusts your decisions and focuses their feedback on items that will help them reach their goals?

You might be surprised to know that presenting your work actually has very little to do with the presentation. In my experience, there are two important things you can do to effectively sell your work and receive very few change requests, if any at all.

Set the Right Expectations

The design process is a collaborative effort. The client knows their business and you know design. When their influence meets your expertise, great things happen. Business problems are solved. But unless you tell that to your client, they may not know what to expect or how to give the right feedback.

It is part of your job as the designer to educate and guide the client toward providing the information you need. If you are spending 3 weeks on a design and then sending it off to your client in an email, you aren’t fulfilling your duties as a designer.

I like to start setting the right expectations long before the client ever contacts me. This can be on whatever platform people use to find you online. For me, it’s this website.

The language I use aims to educate my clients. I let them know what they can expect of me, but also what their responsibilities will be if we work together.

Present a Solution, Not a Design

Here’s the thing… your client will give you feedback based on what you tell them. If you spend an hour justifying all of your design choices, you can bet the client will have something to say about them.

But if you spend an hour explaining how this particular design will help them reach their goals, it will be much harder for them to dispute your decisions and they will appreciate your work so much more.

If you want to go a step further (and I recommend you do), ask them to give feedback on a few specific decisions you made.

For example, “I designed the navigation this way because I think it will be easier for your target audience to use. Do you agree?”. This helps keep the conversation focused and the feedback concise.

Lastly, present your work in person, if possible. That will give you more control over the clients perception of your work.

If you can’t do it in person, spend a few hours packaging up your designs and send them a companion document that explains how your design will help them reach their goals. It’s worth the extra time and effort to get the feedback you want!

Design is not about opinions, it is about solving real problems. Problems that are causing the clients business to suffer. That makes design factual, measurable, and indisputable.

So, when you present your work, talk like that and write like that. This will ensure you are presenting your design work in the most effective and professional way possible.

Last updated on April 15th, 2020

About Matt Olpinski
I've been freelancing since 2009 and have worked with over 100+ clients including some of the biggest brands in the world. I later started my own company Matthew’s Design Co. and now teaches 50,000+ freelancers each year how to succeed through his personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers.