Graphic Design Success Strategy: Explain your work

Alex Bigman

“How to present a new idea is, perhaps, one of the designer’s most difficult tasks.” This is from graphic design luminary Paul Rand, who knew that, although never easy, explaining your work to a client is an absolutely key part of the design process. Skip it, and you’ll likely be out of step with the client from the get-go.

We see a lot of designers enjoying abundant success on 99designs and, sure enough, the best of them have all internalized this basic trick: present your work with at least a brief explanation of your decisions and intentions, and the client is infinitely more likely to appreciate what you have done.

Indeed, in this visually hectic world sometimes we don’t even see things until they are pointed out to us. Do you remember the first time someone revealed that sneaky arrow in the negative space of the FedEx logo? At least for us, the magic of the design quintupled with this one brief remark.

In presenting the FedEx logo to a client, it would of course be important to point out that clever negative space arrow.

Don’t believe us? To illustrate this point we’ve gathered the winning work (or sometimes an early iteration that would eventually become a winning work) of ten great 99designers, along with the crucial explanations that they gave the CH. As you’ll see, there’s no need to write a novel — just a bit of insight will greatly increase your success rate.

Nobody appreciates a contest holder who doesn’t give feedback, but remember it is a two-way street: clients themselves are surely hoping for an explanation more robust than just “Feedback please.”

Oh, and one more pro tip from us to you: ALL CAPS? Never a good idea.

Without further adieu, our exemplars:

“A simple yet modern mark for the band. The thunder is representing loud sound that awakens conciousness. The small “scar” in the bottom of square is “a contact” with the earth — in this case it means the natives. Cheers”

fattah setiawan

 

“Hi, here come 3 designs. I tried to bring a different touch with something more modern: first idea is a white & black with the 2 mice – something that catches the eyes with inverted text; second idea is a label eaten by the 2 blind mice to suggest their presence in the cave; and third is a label written clearly in Braille alphabet (“Two Blind Mice” official Braille on the label posted) – something that makes talk and catches the eyes too…

Thanks for comments and rating! All of this can be modified or improved! Dizziness Design // France”

Dizzinessdesign

“Hello Chris, Please find my proposal attached here. I tried to do an abstract mark representing payroll services, workers’ compensation, back office support, and staffing solutions w.r.t. jackhammer (abstract). I tried to represent it as more iconic so that it could stand-out alone.

“One more point is that I have worked on the icon in three different styles which can also be used (if required – please see the sketches portion for reference). Do let me know if you need further modifications to it. Thanking you, Debashis.”

Serene

“Here is my first proposal, hope you like it. It’s simple and modern with more accent on seriousness than hippie marijuana style. Font is also clearly readable but neat as well. Let me know what you think 😉 thanx”

ludibes™

“Hi! After reading your brief this is the logo I have come up with for you. For the graphics I worked from the image you provided as inspiration and created the image of a mother teaching its chicks to fly. I gave each of the baby birds separate personalities with a shy one looking up at it’s mum for reassurance as it is being held underneath its mothers wing, the curious one watching to go next as its braver sibling is the first one to try flying.

I tried to give the birds that slight handmade craft feel with stitching on their wings and a sewn on button as well and gave the branches a sketchy yet whimsical look. For the name I placed it slightly larger underneath the graphic and used a sketchy/thread look for it to bring in that ‘craft’ handmade feel again.

Lastly for the colours I went with brighter colours of brown, blue, green, purple and pink for a colourful look but I can also show softer colours as well if you like. So let me know if this is heading in the right direction and if there is anything you would like me to tweak in the logo, i.e. fonts, colours, image etc. Please feel free to let me know and I’ll see what I can do 🙂 Thanks!”

E-Designs

“Hi Matt, Sending logo proposal. The “O” is a stylized cookie. I have drawn it bitten to make it more alive. I have tried to convey the warm and kind atmosphere of the business. Please feel free to make corrections. Thanks, Dmitry”

D!

“First of all thanks for the invitations, it’s always good to participate in different things! I’d like to explain why I choose the padlock: I was inspired by your comments about mixing 007 + Harry Potter. The key hole reminds me the bullet hole from Bond movies, and the Harry Potter’s inspiration was from the “Chamber of Secrets” — a door locked, something to discover and explore.

The padlock is open because the girls have many chances to have fun and learn something — hearts and strong pink colors balancing with a dark one, ’cause I guess it’s a mixing between adventures and girly stuff and laughs. Hope you like it. I use 3 colors so it could be printed or positioned in any other colors from darker to lighter, as you need. Best Regards, Giulio”

Giulio Rossi

“Wanted to get that chalky feel in the design. Plus when reading your brief I kept getting a sense of ‘bright lights, big city'”

steve hai

“Hi Thor, Here is my first attempt at your identity. This is a mix of Nouveau and the harder edge of a propaganda poster. Some of the nouveau elements are the flourish and font treatment. The poster treatment is more evident in the ribbon form and “proper gentleman”, especially with the line work.

I also wanted to concentrate more on the black and blue hues that you mentioned that you liked so well. This image could easily work in several different palettes as well. I hope I’m heading in a direction that you like. Feedback is always welcome. Thanks for a cool contest. Paul”

pmo

“Hello Nicky – So I did a little research on Applecross Scotland, and came across an image of a communion token. I thought it was such a simple yet rich image of the AC and X that I made my own version in Illustrator, so it is totally my own work, and incorporated that into the label.

I have been playing around a lot with the fonts etc. and thought that a mix of modern with old worked best with the image of the token. Let me know what you think. Thanks,Katie”

kto

How do you present your work to clients? Tell us in the comments!

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