Why One Direction Wins

Part of what designers are really good at, what makes them valuable, is their proficiency with examining many options. By understanding a range of possibilities, one is better equipped to choose the best option available. So, it seems counter-intuitive to say that we’re just going to show you one conceptual direction for the thing you’re paying us to design. Of all the choices out there – you’ll only see one. And it will address the goals for the project. Or not. A highly iterative process wins

Extract the most value from your design partner

Let me explain… The key distinction to this approach comes in the understanding about who’s doing the choosing. You hire a designer to help you give shape to something. Maybe it’s your website, or your logo. Maybe it’s your entire product. But you hire that person based on their ability to explore options to curate that exploration. You assume they know best about why one typeface is better than another. Or why you’d choose blue instead of orange. If your designer is not making those decisions, then you probably are. Which means you’re doing the work that they are being paid to do. But let’s assume that you’ve got some design chops. You’ve been around the block and know a good-looking font when you see one. Or, hey, maybe you’re just the kind of person who likes choices. We all like choices, right? So, if I show you two designs and ask you to pick one, your first response is almost always, “a little of one, and a little of the other.” which is not the point of having two options. What we present should be strong enough from a conceptual point-of-view that you can’t mix-n-match without the quality suffering. Furthermore, if, at the start of the visual design process, the direction is so ill defined that multiple visual directions are needed, then I would argue we have started visual design too early.

What if I don‘t love it?

But what if that one direction you see isn’t right? There are, of course, situations where we show one direction and it’s completely wrong. The beauty of this approach is that we now have some very specific, concrete feedback to improve from. We can ask questions like, “so, you don’t like it – tell me more about how the font affects the way you feel? What about the color? If we made it green (something we’d considered) would that help?” This is better than us showing you the blue version and the green version. It’s better to take that risk and use the client’s budget to refine the concept than to burn resources on a direction that won’t get used. By limiting the number of directions to one, and using the project budget to provide more iteration, coupled closely with conversation, we can build a shared understanding about what we’re trying to accomplish and make better decisions in the future.

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