5 tips on how to prepare a design presentation

You lost.

The work was on brief, you spent hours getting it ready and the client generally loved it. So what happened?

All things being equal, I’d say someone else had a better presentation. Your work was good but the way you tried selling it wasn’t. The client simply went for something more convincing, tangible and believable. So how do you prepare a good design presentation?

1. Design with questions in mind


Why is this border yellow? Is there a reason you used that font? Why triangles, not squares?

If you ever stared at a client with a blank face after hearing questions like these, you made 1 tiny mistake in your workflow — you forgot there was a client involved with your project.

Every design decision you make has to be driven by rationale — and reasons to support it. Did you use that yellow to drive attention to an important message, or is it there for no reason? Have you picked that particular handwritten typeface because it looks cool to you, or because it accentuates the hand-made quality of your client’s product?

When you approach design projects this way, you solve 2 important problems: first, your designs become functional, not just eye pleasing and second, you have an answer ready when your client pops the question.

Be ruthless while designing — keep asking yourself questions and finding good answers for everything you do. Believe me, it’s a game-changer for the quality of your work and your presentations.

2. Show your story

When client hires someone to build a house, he knows that it’s not an easy task to do. There is a foundation to be casted, bricks to be laid, pipes to be plumbed and a roof to be tiled. Everyone knows that building a house is hard work.

Sadly, not everyone knows how hard it is to come up with a good design solution. You work in isolation for days on end, but unlike building a house or a car, your final product usually fits on one sheet of paper. To someone unfamiliar with the process, it might seem like you doodled it up in 5 minutes.

Video: The New York Public Library (via Youtube)

That’s why it’s important to show your effort by presenting snapshots of your work in various stages, from initial sketches to final designs, before showing the final design solution. By telling your story, clients will understand how much time you invested and how hard you worked. All this will make them appreciate your design far more than they initially would.

Tip: When preparing your design submissions on 99designs, create a small collage of images across the top or the bottom of your composition, and show your progress that leads to your final design.

3. Create realistic 3D mockups

There is something powerful about 3D — Hollywood spends millions on 3D movies and effects, people go wild about 3D icons, and clients get a kick out of 3D mockups showing their designs in action.

3-dimensional graphics help us believe something is live, tangible, already there, even when we know it’s only an image on our screen.


Mockup templates: Pixeden, PlaceIt

That’s why the closer you get to showing how your design looks in the real world, the higher your chances of getting the job. If you’re working on a logo design, show how it looks on different materials and in different executions. If you’re creating a web page, show it on a computer monitor or a smartphone. The same goes for just about any other type of project.

There are really no more excuses not to do it — all you need is Photoshop and some image manipulation skills. And with resources such as Pixeden.com and Graphicriver.net, you can purchase ready-made templates for few bucks and create professional mockups in minutes.

4. Explain your designs


This should go without saying but you wouldn’t believe how many designers submit their work without a sentence of explanation to go with it.

While I firmly believe a design either works or doesn’t work for a client, I also know that client’s love to hear designer’s thought process, or why things were made a certain way (remember those design decisions I mentioned at the beginning?).

Your explanation doesn’t have to be long and elaborate — just list the most important thoughts and end there.

Here’s a example from 1 of my projects:

Hi Pascal, attached is the proposal for the website. Here are some notes:

  • I decided to go with a dark background and white central area to help the user focus on the site content
  • The images on the home page and inside pages are a bit playful and atypical for your industry, but you are a new player and I figured you should be different. They also work great with headlines.
  • I used a nice combination of Google fonts to bring a further elegance to the overall appearance of the site. There are other options that work, so we can try them too if for any reason you don’t like what you see.

Keep it short, to the point and avoid stating the obvious.

5. Listen carefully


Print: Stefan Imbesi

Your presentation isn’t about you — it’s about your client and your project.

Be attentive and consider all questions, comments and concerns carefully and with an open mind. If you disagree with something, say why but do not push it — there is nothing worse than working with a defensive designer who refuses to hear something isn’t right.

If you know how to listen, you’ll know how to improve so your next presentation becomes a winning 1.

Why presentations are important

Your presentation is the story of your work. It’s an opportunity to get the client standing on his feet (or bore him to death… let’s hope it’s the former).

If you spend hours working on a logo project, you can spend an hour making a quality 3D mockup to impress the client. If you spend a day creating a website proposal, you can spare 10 minutes to write an explanation of your design decisions.

Some designers even go as far as to create a video presentation of their story, process and ideas — simply because they know how essential it is. For your next project, make sure to invest some time preparing a good presentation. You’ll be glad you did.

Do you have any presentation tips or questions?

The author

Peter Vukovic
Peter Vukovic

Peter Vukovic is a seasoned designer & creative director with 10 years of experience in worldwide advertising agency. He is a proud member of the 99designs community. You can view his 99designs profile here.

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