One issue I face personally is how can I, as a designer, effectively explain my work to potential clients or people that do not have a creative side. I know how to explain what software or process was used but what is a way that a designer can explain the mind-set to someone that has no clue? I’ve thought about implementing a bullet list when I’m going through the project and jotting down key phrases, similar to how some people come up with a logo design. Is there a study or metric that can be used to say x, y and z should be included, like:
- form factor
- target audience
The closest solution I’ve found via Google was an article by Design Tuts titled “Preparing and Talking About Your Graphic Design Portfolio“
It’s not easy
The art of talking about your work is not something that comes
naturally to designers – I know I didn’t find it easy in the
beginning. But it’s a good skill to learn, and learn as early as you
can. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and look upon each meeting as
an opportunity to develop this skill. Not only will this make it
easier to talk about your portfolio, it will also make you better at
presenting concepts and design work, both to your colleagues and to
The simple rule here is engagement. Your aim should be to arouse
interest in your work, not give a speech or lecture. Remember, showing
your portfolio to people is also about them, not just you.
When you come to each project, talk about it briefly to introduce it
but don’t talk at length. See how they react, let them ask questions
or let them simply look. If they are looking at you rather than the
work, talk some more about the project – tell them what interested you
about it. Look for signs that it’s time to move on to the next
To help you get used to talking about your work, try it on other
people whenever you get a chance. If they are non-designers it will
help even more, as you will practice not using designer lingo to
describe each project.
So my question is how can a creative designer explain a portfolio project to a non creative person?
I will start by saying I have negative social skills with a seasoning of Aspie on them. So, taking that into account, here I go.
Based on my Spock-like field work, I have learnt that my non-creative clients (I have creative clients as well) tend to be problem solving oriented. They tend to focus on the problems they have and are very interested on how you can help them solve them. They are also fascinated by metrics. In particular: time, number of clients, and money.
I have also learnt that they have the simplified idea that they need my assistance because I will make their products, business or software “look nice”. They have the prejudice that I am obsessed with beauty just for the sake of it and that I am incapable of any objective reasoning whatsoever.
So, instead of getting angry at the stereotype (I tried that for a while, it did not work) I try to present myself as their “creative allied”. Since they have assumed already that I create “pretty things” I use that to my benefit. Admiring the “look of it” is almost taken for granted so I try to educate them, with a smile, just as a comment, on how my “pretty creations” were also great business tools for my previous clients.
When I explain my projects to them I try to focus on what problem I was trying to solve and if I did solve it. Sure it looks fabulous, but I try to explain how the design decisions I made helped improve a specific business to achieve a specific goal. I still talk about the design decisions but I try to emphasize their objective and functional side.
If I failed on achieving a specific goal I explain that as well. It makes me sound objective and destroys the other stereotype they usually have in mind, that I am a diva. It also makes them realize I have been around the block several times so they don’t fear they are hiring a beginner.
When I present packaging design, for example, I might explain:
- How the design improved product recognition by the distinctive use of
- How my choices of Pantone colours over CMYK, even when they are slightly more expensive, will ensure a stable image for the brand
- How the copy size is easy on the eye so the client does not have to strain to read it reducing product rejection
- How the colours will make it stand out from the competitor boxes sitting on the same shelf
- How the small footprint of the box will allow them to boast about eco-friendliness and to easily squeeze themselves on tight retailer niches; how I managed to make it “look attractive and different” but still follow all the industry standards even with a wink.
I try to keep in mind, though, that they are talking to me because they have decided they need a creative person, so even when I try to sound as objective and goal oriented as possible, I try to flaunt, in a friendly way, my creative side which usually I translate for them as “beauty inclined, detail oriented and market savy”.
It is a performance, like any other business transaction, that I try to tailor for every client. As in any other cases, I try to be their allied, to be on their side, to nod at their sorrows, to grief their griefs and to show them how I might have expertise (and experience) that might help them with their problems.