If you have read my last week’s post about business relationships with designers, you know that in my experience, it is of the utmost importance that you lead your client to the most significant design you have come up with. Why? Because when it comes to design, you surpass your client’s qualification. So it is up to you to pick the best design for her needs. Because as a professional, you know which design will lead to the expected results – in contrast to your client, who is much more likely to be biased by personal taste.

Small business owners and first-time design buyers usually fall into this category. When you are dealing with experienced clients or even marketing managers, you will encounter more qualified counterparts. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the company is, the more they understand the matter and your responsibility shifts towards delivering exactly what they ask for.

Now let’s focus on small businesses who are rather inexperienced in design matters. Here, your role is not only to deliver what they want but also to coach them and give them what they really need. Ask yourself what is in it for you: quick money for something you know will not contribute to your client’s growth – or helping him grow and eventually come back for more?

The tactics of presentation

So you have been asked to come up with a couple of designs. Let’s say you created 6 designs for a logo that you are about to present, and you have a killer logo that is absolutely fantastic. You want your client to choose that one (the top pick) over the other five (the fillers). In the scenario of initially presenting your work to your client, try this approach.


Before you set up a meeting, prep the task.

  • Make high-quality printouts of every single design
    • One per page
    • Don’t brand the pages with your own logo
    • Keep the printouts practical. Don’t give them fancy backgrounds or mirror effects (unless a part of the design)
    • Don’t enlarge logos to fit the legal paper. Be generous with white space
    • Print out a cover sheet. Write the client’s name/company in small, un-fancy type in the middle
    • Print out a closing sheet. Place your name/logo small in the middle
  • Organize your presentation
    • Take the top pick and put it aside
    • Take the fillers and order them from left to right, worst to best
    • Order your printouts in the following order:
      1. cover sheet
      2. best filler
      3. second best filler
      4. third best filler
      5. top pick
      6. worst filler
      7. second worst filler
      8. closing sheet
    • Place the loose printouts in a folder with blank sheets between every single draft.


You are in the meeting. This is the part before you even take out your drafts.

  • Be confident and look in your client’s eyes
  • Create a friendly atmosphere with some small talk
  • Pick a quiet room and make sure not to get disturbed by phone calls
  • Take seats, preferably with the table corner between yourself and your client
  • Don’t take your drafts out too quickly after sitting down. Leave them in your closed case on the floor
  • Introduce the job by referring to the brief. Use we instead of you or I
  • Lead in by saying something like Ok, now let’s take a look at what we have.
  • Open your case, leaving it on the floor. Take out the folder and lay it on the table in front of you. Take your hands off of it and leave it there
  • While you do that, look at your client and talk about the intended results of the design. An example: What were looking for is to make [the brand] stick out from the rest and communicate simplicity, friendliness and reliability. We want to go up, differentiate ourselves and be in the consumer’s mind as the only choice.


  • Create awareness
    • Put your hands on the folder again, and push it a few inches away from you
    • Open the folder, showing the cover sheet
    • Say This is what we have for you. There are six versions. Let’s look at them one by one.
    • Pull the cover sheet over to the left side of the folder
    • Take the first design and place it on the table in front of the client. Remember the blank sheet covering the following one
    • Say This would be a [colorful/playful/straight/etc.] version. Take your time to look at it before I show you the next design. – and do just that. Leave your hands on the table and watch the client for a few seconds
    • Then look down at your folder and gently start playing with one of its corners. Say nothing until your client is through with the design and looks at you or at the folder
    • When that happens, calmly remove the blank sheet from the second filler. Push the first filler away from the client, then lay the second one next to it
    • Again, give her time to capture the design. Say a few words about this approach as well
    • Repeat the above with the third filler
  • Consolidate her wishes
    • After your client has captured that as well, point at each one while saying [Colorful], [plain and simple], [extravagant]. These would be three different ways to communicate your brand. But what about making it really remarkable?
    • Gather the three and put them next to your folder
    • Slightly pull the blank page halfway from the top pick, but only for a second. Lay it back down, put your hands flat on top of it and say [The brand] needs a remarkable appearance.
    • Now pull off the blank sheet. Use it to cover up the three fillers. Place the top pick in front of the client
  • Close the gap
    • Let your client have time to study the design. Lean back and watch her carefully, but not intrusively
    • Before she moves to see the rest, lean forward and say Imagine Mrs. Smith walking down the street. She sees Gap. Apple. Starbucks. Pause. [Clients Brand]. Pause. How do you like that.
    • Your client will respond in one of two ways: a) I like it, or b) I am not sure, what else do you have? Either way, you go on like this:
    • We have two more versions to show you, but please keep this one in mind. We want a professional and significant design for our brand.
    • Show the remaining two fillers in the same way you presented the first three. Leave the top pick above of them, not in the same row
    • Now add the first three fillers to the filler row. Leave the top pick in the top row (from your client’s point of view). Ask her what she thinks.

All going well, she should be drawn towards the top pick.

Many roads

Remember this is only one of quite a few possible ways to point your client into the right direction. It strongly depends on your personality and on your client’s character and experience. The quotes above are also not to be cited exactly how I wrote them; they are meant as a guide to point you in the right direction.

Maybe you know even better ways to do this, or maybe you’ve experienced a way how not to do it ? Share your thoughts!

2 thoughts on “A Guide to Design Presentation: How to Sell your Work

  1. Hi, my name is Ben. Your article is very useful for me. I am a designer too and I have to prepare presentations for my clients.

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