The 1 of 3 concept problem

There has to better way, right? 3 concepts, 2 are garbage?

You get to be the decider and not the customer?

Dana Carvey Snl GIF by Saturday Night Live

@iab huh?

Uh I love this topic. Have relatable kind of love/hate relationship with it and in the past was also sad about “good ideas of mine which will never see the light”.
Grinding is good. Minimalistic approach is also good. The understanding of why exact amount of variants and most importantly - how different they need to be is the key. The context, the market, the freshness of the product niche, competitors, the way client want to decide and what is the budget - important too. I think sneakers require a lot of distinctive variants to be explored in many cases. The market is rich and always evolve.

One time I made 50 backpacks, another 3-4 days 100-ish inflatable sup’s or 60 luggage outer shells designs - still there would be one or maybe two designs chosen. And non-designers IMO usually don’t see all of the nuances and context of design in the sketch, they usually go with the feeling from it. (first impressions, emotions, silhouette, etc) But yeah if they insist - well maybe they should pay a bit more for ideation stage.

There are clients and famous designers who work completely differently. They agree to work with one but totally manufacturable and unique design right from the beginning. The presentation then is pre-production level of physical product where earlier on is tooling and costs are much more refined. I think maybe a lot of brands is more interested in this aspect, then in finding “the best line”.

p.s. Scientists say that most popular numbers in humanity are 3 and 7. The classical proportions in architecture is divide-by-3 too. Is it really coded in our nature that we seek this? Or maybe it is a psychological phenomenon of expected correlation “money vs design”? (I know it is common when someone pay 5-6 digits for logo and experienced designer work for 2-4 hours, client will feel himself robbed)

You think you can decide for them. Again, isn’t that special.

@intervallum totally agree. It’s on us to put in all that detail and thought while the clients may not see it which is the hard part.

I personally find I’m always hardest on myself trying to get a breadth of exploration and second guessing what the client may not like or hoping I can explore all the options.

@iab I never said I’m deciding for them. You might want to re-read that article. What I did say is that choice is not always what’s needed and trust is important. If you don’t have the trust it doesn’t matter if you present 1000 concepts, they won’t feel comfortable picking any.

With longtime clients I often find I build trust to the point where I don’t need to present options. “Design for approval”. Instead of presenting 3 concepts, I put my effort into the one thing I think that is the right answer based on knowing the problem and may experience and then we can discuss and adjust as needed. It’s often a lot more efficient and gets a better solution that having more variety just for the sake of variety. Every designer knows there’s one concept you hope they pick, one you hope they don’t pick and something maybe safe in the middle. Why not just skip to the good one?

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I have read the article. I quoted the article. You reiterated yet again you make one thing, you are the decider. That’s special, especially for someone who refuses to have skin in the game.

And if you are making variety for the sake of variety, maybe you are just a shitty designer.

I think the only shitty thing is your reading comprehension skills @iab

Or perhaps your writing skills are shitty. The idea there is only 1 solution to any problem is ridiculous at best, fraudulent is a better description. On the other hand, we have determined you are special, so there’s that.

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In designing a product, ultimately there is 1 final choice. Thats the decision. That’s the one thing that goes to market. The alternatives presented to get there are just that, options.

No matter if you present 3 or 100 concepts a designer always makes a choice from the infinite possibilities of what could be. That’s our job.

Creation and curation.

A good designer-client relationship can enable/empower the designer to make more choices upfront to make the process more efficient. A client choosing or a designer choosing is still choices. I think since we are the ones creating the options in the first place we are often in a better place to select.

And yes. I am special.

Thanks for recognizing that.

Is this related to the Monty Hall problem?

Indeed. Always change doors if you don’t want the goat.

Then quit whining about presenting 3 choices.

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Flip side of this discussion apparently is the unfulfilled designers who are slave to corporate/client interests making boring things without the ability to exercise any thought or decision making power.

That must be frustrating for you @iab

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You are going with I’m rubber you’re glue …?

How sad. Even sadder is it is not surprising.

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Anyhow, back to the adult conversation.

One aspect of this problem of choice I’ve been thinking of is the idea of fidelity as a way to control/offer choice.

Typical in the process, earlier concepts are more loose (sketch, etc.) and more final concepts are tighter (rendering, CAD). Inherit in the more loose concepts I think is also more choice by way of interpretation.

The more loose a sketch is the more “things it could be”. A line in a sharpie sketch could be a parting line, paint detail, another component, or just a gestural indication of form.

Can perhaps adjusting fidelity instead of quantity of concepts provide the same choice given a set input/resources?

The fidelity of concepts vs. the number of concepts is a different conversation.

No matter what fidelity you bring you’ll still have the same conversations around your 3 concepts. The difference will be discussing stitch line placement vs. what that smudged line is supposed to be.

Ultimately, your original post is about working relationships with your clients. Does your client want you to tell them what to do (1 concept) or do they want you to collaborate & guide them through varying options that you develop using your unique expertise (3 concepts)?

Similar to the axiom “a rendering is a statement and a sketch is an idea”. Does your client want statements or ideas?

The language you use in your post sounds very “I know better & if they’d just listen to me I could work less and the process would be faster, etc.”

You’re the hired consultant… You should know better than them… That’s why they hired you…

My experience has shown that most clients don’t want to be told what to do, they want collaboration and to at least feel that they are a part of the creation process. It’s their product with their name on it. They usually want to be involved.

Your point about trust at the end is the real “problem.”

How do you foster trust with your client quickly to help establish a more efficient, faster working relationship?

Good summary @ntrolz1 … definitely helps clarify the problem and on reflection I think you are right.

I/we do/should tell clients the right answer based on our professional experience (why they hire us) but we need them to WANT us to tell them by trusting us.

Any thoughts on how we best build trust?

In my experience as mentioned it’s often through a long term relationship. And as per my other post about equity ensuring cost/value is upfront. But the challenge is always in those new relationships right?


Of course they do, it is their company. They are vested in its success. They do well, they get a reward. Do poorly, they get canned.

A consultant is a hired gun. They do a job. They get paid for the job. They are long gone after any meaningful measurement of success or failure of their work. There is zero stake in success or failure.

Want trust? Do what the customer wants. They want collaboration? Then give them collaboration. While there are some that disagree, success and failure can only be determined by the customer. The consultant gets no say. Give your customer success by their definition, you will get trust.

But why this isn’t entirely obvious and needs to be discussed is beyond me.

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“the customer is always right” and “do whatever they pay you for” isn’t the job of a professional consultant. It’s the job of a prostitute.

Good luck doing any meaningful work with that attitude.

Companies hire consultants because we know better and are experts.

If we weren’t, they would get the “yes” people (employees) to do it.