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What if designers only provided one concept? I recently saw this question tweeted, though it certainly isn’t the first time I’ve read such a sentiment. It’s a thought that is usually dismissed immediately as wishful thinking or a glorified day dream.

But what if I told you there was a way to never again encounter such a thing as a “rejected concept”? What if I told you that never again should you present multiple concepts?


This podcast episode is an audio counterpart to the identically-titled article, The One Concept Approach. Herein we dive deeper into the topic that is presented in the article and answer questions sourced from live listeners.

Show Notes
  • 04:30 Explaining The One Concept Approach.
  • 05:41 “What is the purpose of multiple concepts? On what merit are revisions based?”
  • 06:10 Many designers default to something that seems like common practice without realizing that it has become so for the wrong reasons.
  • 07:02 If you are a designer, and you have arrived at two concepts, then your work is not done. The designer’s job is to provide the most effective concept.
  • 07:20 If you as a designer cannot determine the more effective of the two concepts, that doesn’t mean you send it to the client for them to pick their favorite—that means you are not ready to be taking on clients.
  • 07:45 The Problem With Multiple Concepts
  • 07:49 Establishing who you design for.
  • 07:52 A professional does not design for the client. A professional designs for their client’s customers. Your client’s personal preferences are of no concern of yours. Similarly your own personal preferences. They have no place in an objective design process.
  • 08:30 When you make this a subjective game of preference, where the client picks the one they like the most, you render the whole process moot.
  • 08:39 It does no good for a client to get a logo that they love when it does not effectively serve their project goals or reach their audience.
  • 09:09 Options are a disservice to the client.
  • 10:37 Why Do Clients Want Options?
  • 10:53 Clients want options because they’ve been told to expect options. They want multiple concepts because that’s what designers provide. Designers are constantly projecting this. They have concept packages on their website, they post Dribbble shots with multiple concepts and ask people to comment their favorite, or they tweet an image of 10 concepts and ask everyone which one they like. This is not how you design.
  • 11:25 It’s NO WONDER clients have these unprofessional expectations. Look at what designers are projecting!
  • 11:32 Let me show you how the situation changes when you establish your service as one of providing a valuable solution.
  • 12:34 The only reason subjective preferences enters the equation is because you allowed it.
  • 12:48 Whenever a question is presented, the other party feels obligated to provide an answer regardless of whether they are equipped or qualified to respond. It’s your responsibility to make sure you are not asking the wrong questions.
  • 13:27 The Difference Between a Technician and a Professional:
    • Technicians perform tasks.
      • When you deliver multiple options, you are acting as a technician. The focus is on your time and your output. You are an expense, and you are a commodity.
    • Professionals provide a solution.
      • When you provide a solution, you are acting as a professional. The focus is on your results and the value you create. You are an investment, and you are worth paying relative to the value you create.
  • 14:48 Establish Trust
  • 15:12 Define Roles
    • What is the client responsible for?
    • What is the designer responsible for?
      • The designer is responsible for design. This means all of the design decisions. Remember, selecting the most effective concept is a design decision. You don’t subject your client to a design decision. That’s your job.
  • 21:40 Set Expectations
  • 21:52 Two kinds of processes you need to present to Establish Creditability (Related: e024: Finding Clients While Maintaining Professionalism):
    1. General Process
      • Your general process is an overview of how you work. It should contain all stages and steps that are common in every type of project you do.
      • A general process can and should be placed on your website where it is publicly viewable by potential clients.
    2. Project-Specific Process
      • This process is something you create on a client-by-client basis.
      • You provide this specific overview to the client at the onset of the project.
  • 24:41 Displaying process established knowledgeability.
  • 26:45 Begin Designing
  • 26:58 The only time there are multiple concepts is within your own, internal process.
  • 27:25 “What about revisions?”
  • 28:07 The importance of taking breaks during your revising process and why that rules out hourly-based pricing (Related: e008: Unlocking the Power of Value-Based Pricing (Hint: It’s More Than Flat Rates).
  • 30:59 Present Strongly
  • 32:07 You never simply send over a design and say “What do you think?” Ever. That is the mark of a novice. A professional walks the client through the objective design decisions that were made and shows the client how they work to serve their project goals.
  • 32:40 Show every design decision. you should explain everything so there is no room for interpretation. All of this should be in your presentation.
  • 33:40 This is where you get to show the client the value that they receive in return for their investment.
  • 34:02 Because you are putting so much work into documenting your process and explaining your design decisions, the presentation that you send to your client is actually exactly what you can then use as a Case Study to display on your website!
  • 35:00 “For the presentation itself, should you send your client a PDF or point them to a web page?”
  • 35:57 My 3-point design presentation structure:
    1. State the project goals as provided by the client in the questionnaire, and reiterated in the signed contract.
    2. Show your work and how you focused on those goals while demonstrating mindfulness of the constraints.
    3. Frame the final concept in light of those goals and explain its effectiveness.
  • 36:28 Call To Action
  • 36:38 You as the designer should be designing the call to action. It should be abundantly clear what is needed from the client.
  • 36:46 Once again, let’s restate what you DO NOT do:
    You do not conclude a design presentation with “What do you think?” Never, ever. Again, that is the mark of a novice. You as the professional have thoroughly explained your process and shown the value of the result. This is the service you provide.
  • 37:06 There are no arbitrary revisions, there are no subjective requests for changes, so you never conclude by soliciting them.
  • Final Payment
  • 37:27 The final step is payment. This is the call to action. The presentation only contains raster process images. After the presentation, you inform the client that the vector deliverables will be sent upon receipt of the final payment.
  • Answered Questions & After Thoughts:
    • 38:04 You don’t end with a question.
    • 39:35 There is no “acceptance” of the design solution.
    • 40:52 I’m not teaching you how to design logos, I’m teaching you how to approach a client relationship and present your solution as a design professional. I have to assume you have the experience and competence to back all of this up.
    • 43:30 “What happens if your client doesn’t pay?”
    • 46:42 “Have you ever carried out this process and still had a client turn around and not be happy with the design. If so, how did you resolve it?”
    • 50:03 The movement of design professionalism.
    • 56:06 Both the designer and the client should handle things that fall within the realm of specialization that they are qualified.
    • 58:09 “Does it matter if multiple designers create a logo if they all get paid?”