How many of your clients absolutely must make a change, no matter how minor (or just to decide that they like yours better) on EVERY project?
Most of them, right?
Give ‘Em What They Want…
People, including your clients, like having options.
They like making decisions, giving input, and feeling like they’ve contributed to a project.
So present multiple proofs and reap these benefits:
- Take the project in several directions simultaneously
- Get past the obvious (and often mediocre) ideas
- Explore multiple color schemes
- Mix and match elements between proofs in revisions
- Shows your client you explored various creative avenues
- Provides a sense of contribution for your client
- Gives your client the feeling of “getting what they paid for”
Presenting multiple proofs provides our clients an avenue to make choices they are so eager to make. You might even stumble upon
…But Not TOO Much!
Most of you are familiar with “The Jam Experiment,” in which shoppers were significantly more likely to purchase jam when fewer jam types were presented.
In very simplistic and generalized terms, people become paralyzed by too many options and choose nothing.
The jam group conducted a subsequent experiment involving choices of chocolate and perceived satisfaction. While the participants were overall happier to have more options, those that were offered more options were more dissatisfied and regretful of their choice.
In summary, multitudes of options may create the sense of happiness but leads people to second-guess their choices.
The lesson we as designers need to learn is that there is such a thing as too many proofs.
We certainly don’t want to overwhelm our clients. We also don’t want to leave our clients wondering if they’ve made the best selection, throwing us into an unproductive loop of revisiting past proofs as we progress through the project.
So what’s the Magic Number?
My magic number is three (3).
The number three is often associated with visually pleasing arrangements (the Rule of Odds and the Rule of Thirds) and symbolically stands for unity, balance, and completeness (Decoding Design, by Maggie Macnab).
Three gives me the opportunity to show fundamentally different approaches to the project while avoiding the dreaded “well, I’m just not sure. I’m going to email them to my grandmother for her opinion.”
Three gives my clients the opportunity to choose (and mix and match) without hampering their ability to commit.
But what about those clients who want to see 15 minor changes over the course of 3 days?
Incredibly frustrating, I know – but I’m about to share a secret with you that will save you time and energy as well as curtail this type of behavior.
Make backup proofs, but don’t present them unless you need them.
True story: I used to work in-house at a vitamin manufacturing plant with an in-house print shop. Our CEO was notorious for wanting to see no less than 20 proofs – one in green, one with a different font, one with the text right aligned…you get the idea.
Because proofing on an offset press is a lot more work than on a computer, our press operator started making backup proofs. He’d make 15 slightly different versions (for you print nerds – by adjusting the ink values) and present the three he liked best.
When our CEO “wondered aloud” what it might look like slightly different, he’d pull out his backup proof to “prove” that adding more magenta made the lady in the proof look sunburned.
Why backup proofs work:
- Improve your efficiency – from the best proofs, you can quickly make a number of small changes instead of eating up 15 minutes of your time every 2 hours to make yet another tweak
- Look prepared and thorough in your clients’ eyes
- Earn your clients’ trust by “thinking of everything”
The Case for a Single Proof
Multiple proofs just don’t make sense for some projects or some phases of projects. Why?
- The project doesn’t lend itself to multiple proofs
- You’ve narrowed down the direction of the project
- You’re putting the finishing touches on a project
- You have a long-term relationship with your client and have an excellent understanding of what they like/need
- The project is very similar to another project you’ve worked on with your client
- Your client is very “hands-off” (and has a history of such behavior)
Examples: You might present three sketches or wireframes of a website, but you’re probably not going to build each home page.
You might sketch out one idea for an infographic.
You might develop a few slides of a PowerPoint presentation in a single theme.
You’re creating a monthly direct mail piece with a new theme…for the seventh consecutive month.
You’ve worked with your client for years and know their style.
How many proofs do you provide? What is YOUR magic number? Have you ever provided backup proofs on request? Leave a comment on this post!