Presenting Design

The design process can be gruelling and clients, particularly internal clients rarely take responsibility for mistakes. Colour, pretty pictures, fancy fonts, all get in the way of proofing the actual content. Test the content, verify the feedback and hopefully reduce the risk and angst of the design process. Here are my six steps to the design process.

I was chatting to a friend recently. She works in house as a marketer and is also responsible for the production of graphic materials — ads, posters, business cards, brochures and the like. What has happened, rarely, but disastrously, is incorrect phone numbers appearing on print material that was proofed and approved by the internal client.

I don’t know about you but I know the client rarely takes responsibility for their part, and I think this is much worse when you are an internal supplier. So what to do?

Step 1. Don’t start with the design
Take a leaf out of the web development process and instead present a “wireframe”, a black and white blue print of the information only. The client, in this step need only focus on proofing the copy.

Step 2. Prepare a design presentation
Show and explain your creative process. This is something I learned from Pete Ottery (of News Digital) who gave a presentation called “So You Think You Can Design” at webDU 2008. Pete’s talk was on the principles of good web design, but he also made the point of how important the presentation of a design is. Pete’s design presentations include the process by which he comes to the final design. In the margin of each page important aspects of the design are explained in friendly, plain language. He shows the rejects from the design process; and how he justifies and changes creative decisions based on the success or failure of designs in user testing.

Showing how you arrived at your final design will help justify your design decisions, and in my experience can shorten the iteration process. It wil lessen the internal client micro-managing the design — make the logo bigger, move that over to the  left sorta thing. Importantly, it will also show the effort you have put in to your client’s project.

Step 3. Avoid email
It’s a necessary evil but inboxes are time sinks. Your internal client will view your email with that all important design or design presentation attached, give it a quick once over and say “looks fab” and then go on to the next item in the inbox.

Send your designs in an email but also arrange a time for a quick meeting about the design — so you can present it!

If you can’t be face to face with your client, as is the case with my friend, I would recommend online presentations of some sort and a good ol’ conference call. There are cool online conferencing tools like Adobe Connect but you can just as easily use Google Docs, Slideshare or the prettier Slide Rocket to show off your wares, or simply, walk through each page of a PDF.

Step 4. Proof the feedback
If you are lucky your client may be an Acrobat pro and annotate your PDF so you know exactly what text to change and what to move where. But usually people are lazy and will spill out their feedback on the phone or in an email. I always scored highly in comprehension tasks at school but I would need the added skill of mental telepathy to understand the intent of some of the feedback I have received.

Collate all the feedback and annotate your design with the comments. Get the client to verify that your notes are what they intended by their comments and represent what they want changed.

Step 5. Incorporate feedback

Step 6. Rinse and repeat.

Of course these steps may be overkill if your client is in the next room, or if you are presenting a business card based on a set template, but you get the point. Colour, pretty pictures, fancy fonts, all get in the way of proofing the actual content. Test the content, verify the feedback and hopefully reduce the risk and angst of the design process.

4 replies on “Presenting Design”

Great post Erietta! Agree with your Step 3 – it’s so easy (read lazy 😉 to send an email and expect people to go through content thoroughly, but it’s v. rare, so talking it through is essential.
(maybe see you at next IA peers? we met way back at OZIA conf in August!)

Hello Marie-Laure
Thank you for your kind words, yours is my first legitimate blog comment (Garth is a funny friend of mine who commented on my first post);-) I certainly do remember you from OZ/IA last year and yes I will definately be at the next IA Peers meetup, see you there.

— eri

Another option for proofing pdfs in step #4 is our very own site – you can upload a pdf, and several people can annotate and reply to each others comments on the same copy (no software installation, free version avail)

I find ‘gotomeeting’ + telephone works quite well too.

Hi Fred
I will definately check out this tool myself, thanks for the reference. Yes, even when feeling shy and/or bothered we must keep talking to the client.
— eri

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