Presenting design work to your clients

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So you’ve landed that great client you’ve been talking to for weeks, and you want to make sure to keep them happy. Aside from giving them a stellar product, how do you do that? One way is by being ridiculously professional in how you present your work.

The way proofs are presented to clients had never really occurred to me until I did some in-house work for a design agency awhile back. This particular agency was very particular about presentation, wording of descriptions, explaining in detail how the proposed design fits into the overall product, and much more, and it had a positive impact on their clients

How you present your works in progress can say a great deal about your professionalism and the care that you put into your work. While you may have already landed the client, great presentations can make them even more happy about choosing you.

A letter-sized PDF presentation is usually a good idea for presentation of most projects. Chances are the client is going to print out whatever you send to look at more closely or share with coworkers. Make sure all your explanations are included in the presentation, and you don’t rely on body of the email you send it with to convey important info, as this may get lost in the excitement of checking out your proofs.

The presentation should reflect the media

Maybe you’re designing a street banner or vehicle wrap. If this is the case, or if the final product won’t be printed on flat paper, try to include mock-ups of what the object will look like with your design applied. Time to make use of those awesome Photoshop skills!

If you’re designing a website, include an example of what your mockup would look like in a browser. Either Photoshop it into a blank browser window, or if you have space on a server, set up a mock page with your mockup as it would appear when the site is complete. Not everyone can make the visual transition from what a design looks like on a printed page to how it will look in a browser. Plus, sometimes colors will look different on paper than on screen, so make sure you’re representing your design effectively.

What to include

Title of project, client’s name & contact info. This is always good to include, even if it’s just for organization on your part. You could even try to fancy up the cover page with the client’s logo (as long as you know how to use it correctly).

Your website and contact information. I recommend putting your info and branding on every email and document you send to the client. You never know what might be printed out and passed around once in the client’s hands so make sure everyone knows it’s from you.

Intro paragraph/description of project. State your goals and intentions for the work you are presenting. If this is just re-stating the client’s goals, that’s fine, and can even help to ensure you’re both on the same page.

The work itself should be presented in a clean manner and numbered for reference. Or if the examples are all on separate pages, page numbers. Explain your ideas and how each one works to make the design a success.

Next steps. I’ll usually include a brief paragraph at the end explaining what happens next, and if there are any specific comments and decisions I need from the client. This helps the client understand what to expect, and may get you better feedback.

Be Consistent. Do it the same every time. Make a template and use it throughout the project and in other projects as well. Not only will it save you time, it will help the client know what to expect.

Calling all freelance designers!

What methods do you have for sending proofs to clients? Have you had any positive or negative reaction to the way you’ve presented work?

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About Dan Sweet

Comments

  1. Really interesting post – while I do agree that just giving the proof to the client with the comment “well, what do you think?” invites a headache and 15 million revisions, I’m torn at the practicality of a formal proof presentation.

    Much of my client work is a series of emails back and forth, starting with a general idea/theme that I sent to them before I get too into it to make sure I’m on the right path. Perhaps my projects are small in comparison to the work discussed here, but it seems like a lot for a client to wade through on a daily/twice weekly basis.

    Maybe it’s my process that’s different…being in closer, more constant contact with my clientele as the project progresses. Or maybe my clients are just small fries and therefore would find the formal presentation every time cumbersome.

    Overall, I’m not sold, but I think it can be a very useful tool and I think you make some excellent points on selling your design as answers to specific questions, problems, and emphasis your client has intimated.

  2. I agree with April. I think this all depends on the client. Some of the clients I work with prefer to have this nice display, but most are very laid back and would prefer to just see what needs to be seen and then discuss with me directly. I don’t do a lot of work with large companies and corporations, though, so maybe that’s why.

    I do have a template that I use for comp and proof presentations that includes a header with the client name, project name, what step of the process I’m presenting and then my logo. I don’t generally add any extra text to this document, though, and I use it more as a means of organization for both myself and the client. I don’t include any text unless a project is really complex and there are components that need to be clarified.

  3. I think the point about consistent branding is very valuable to any company or business.
    Creating efficient number of impressions may help in the long run and this is an area companies often forget.

    a very useful article for everyone in the industry.

  4. Thanks for the responses, folks, you make some very valid points. I suppose lining up a presentation isn’t something that needs to be done every time you present work to a client. I’m primarily talking about showing design concepts for a website, or logos, things that need explanation of concept or next steps, and can often be first impressions of your professionalism.

    It really depends on the client. If it’s just one person and they prefer a lot of back and forth, then sending JPGs is fine, I do this frequently with some of my clients.

    Some, however, will workshop each round of your mockups with a team, and then it’s nice to have all your explanation as part of the proof package so nothing gets lost in translation.

    So yes, it does all come down to the client, but for new clients I like to stay on the thorough side.

  5. Lorelle says:

    I find Notism.io is amazing for web design. You can upload all your screenshots, and the client can highlight and leave comments right on them. Also you can link one layer to another for pseudo links

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