Chapter 3. Sketch Many, Show One

Like many designers, when doing a logo design for a client, I’ll often sketch many different options, and then refine the 3–4 most effective options to show the client. This works because the client feels that they have a choice among several good options, but they aren’t overwhelmed with decisions. It also works because they know I’ve carefully vetted each option, and decided that any of them can work equally well.

Given this approach to branding work, it would make sense that we would want to give the client a few different options for their website’s layout or information architecture, and work with the client to choose the best option. In my experience, this approach fails for some very important reasons:

  • It keeps conversation focused on visuals, not content or organization of information. I cannot emphasize this enough: the early stages of creating a website should be focused on content and communication priorities, not on visual ones. While visual communication is also an important part of the web design process, those conversations are best had after you’ve already established your content hierarchies, and seen how real content flows through your site.

  • There’s a lot more to decide in a web layout than there is in a logo design. A logo, while essential to an effective brand, is a relatively small part of the overall identity of an organization. As such, the decision of which logo to choose is often a relatively quick one, and the client’s focus ...

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