How Giving Clients Options Can Make You a Happier Designer

Decisive_HeathWe know that clients like to choose from a lot of options, but I was surprised to learn that providing a range of options to a client can also make for a happier designer. Chip and Dan Heath are two of my favorite authors–their books Made to Stick and Switch are required reading for anyone trying to persuade an audience to embrace a new idea, and that’s most of us.

In their most recent book, Decisive, the authors offer advice on making better decisions. The Heaths cite one study that tasked graphic designers with creating a banner ad for a web magazine. Half of them were asked to design one ad, and then given feedback after each new design was presented, for a total of six rounds. The other group designed three ads and received feedback on all three; the options were then narrowed to two, then one, with critique and review at each stage. In both cases, designers created six ads.

The result? The ads that were designed simultaneously earned better ratings from the magazine’s editors and independent ad execs, and garnered more click-throughs. But here’s the kicker: When asked if the feedback they’d received at each stage was helpful, 80% of those crafting simultaneous designs said yes, compared to only 35% of the one-at-a-time designers. Why the difference? The investigators believe that people who work on a single track view the work more personally, and see criticism as “a rebuke of their only option.” Those who presented multiple options weren’t committed to any of them–they liked aspects of each, so they weren’t upset if one idea was embraced more than another.

So the next time you’re in a rush, or you think there’s only one solution to a design challenge, take the time to find a few more options. Your client will appreciate it, and you will, too.


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