Designing options for a client isn’t design

It’s quit simple, imagine going to the doctor and getting three different diagnoses or treatment options. NO. Just tell me what’s wrong and tell me how to fix it to the best of your ability.

credits :

There is story is quite old, though still relevant, Steve Jobs describing Paul Rand while working on the NeXT logo

I asked him if he would come up with a few options. And he said, “No. I will solve your problem for you. And you will pay me. And you don’t have to use the solution. If you want options, go talk to other people. But I’ll solve your problem for you the best way I know how. And you use it or not. That’s up to you. You’re the client. But you pay me.
Next-generation design for a computer company: Rand’s demonstration of flexibility of NeXT logo to Steve Jobs.

I used to provide two options/concepts to my clients, concept one “1” is the one you put your heart into (the one you like best usually), concept two “2” is the conservative one (the one the client will most likely be comfortable with).

Generally, the idea was to show the conservative one to let them know that I’m listening to them, and have heard everything, and have paid attention to the brief, the way out one is to show how creative I can be if budget wasn’t a concern, or the brief, or anything else.

The one you put your heart into is what they hopefully will pick, once they’ve seen the other option, it has it’s feet in both the conservative idea, but has it’s heart in the way out version, so the client can feel I’ve listened to the brief, but also are forward thinking .

But it didn’t work most of the time that way, because this options wasn’t the solution, It was the process to the one solution that really work for them, users and built with my heart also.

by George Bokhua

So now I think options are good during research and when you want to define a design direction for the project. This phase should involve the client somehow and showing rough concepts for each direction can avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.


  • If you’re showing three different directions of high-fidelity finalized work, you’ve wasted time going off-brief on two of them. If your client is asking for three finalized versions, you’re doing three projects and being paid for one.
  • If you’re showing three slightly different versions of the same work, you’re handing execution decisions to your client (who generally has no clue on how to execute design details).

If you provide options and make them pick, then you aren’t designer and you are just a tool and they are the designers, So the way to the best one solution depend on this three actions,

  1. Understand your client, listen carefully to their goals and their problems, it’s our job to transfer their problems into solutions and their ideas into products even if they didn’t know what they want.
  2. Research and take your time to figure what and how can you come up with the best solution for them.
  3. Show them one final design and explain why it is the best for them and why it will work.

They obviously shouldn’t be very surprised with what you have come up with. Without the early steps in the process, you are taking a shot in the dark and you will likely miss your target. You also have ground to stand on as to why your “Final option” is actually the best solution for them.

Often times there will be tweaks, sometimes they may even like a different visual direction but if you are confident in speaking to why your option is the best you shouldn’t have many issues.

PS. Don’t keep them in the dark and pull the “reveal” tactic. Make everyone is aligned on expectations.