How to use the one concept method
If you’re a brand designer, you might have heard of this thing called The One Concept Method. I’m not surprised! This quality over quantity approach to design has become more and more popular within the industry – and for good reason! If you’re wondering what the hype is all about and if it’s something that could work for you, you’re in the right place.
Like many of you, I was taught the standard three concept approach to design. It’s a standard that has been set in stone for years and unfortunately, what many clients come to expect.
While I absolutely see the benefits of showing clients multiple options, I’ve always found that it led to a lot of subjectivity that rarely resulted in the strongest solution. Tell me if this sounds familiar: “I love them all! Especially the font from #1 and the layout from #2. Can we combine them?” Now, as a designer you know the issues here so I won’t relay them. Chances are you probably already know which one is the strongest of the three. Sometimes you’d even force other concepts just “because.” Along the way the needs and goals of the business and target market get lost… basically you just become a workhorse for your client. It’s scenarios like these that made me think, there HAD to be a better way!
Then I discovered The One Concept Method and never looked back. Making the switch has significantly improved my process – resulting in little revisions and even happier clients! The trick to its success is all in the set up, execution, and delivery. Reconfiguring my workflow to make this method work is something I’ve worked hard on. And it was SO worth it! While my process continues to evolve, I’ve tried to outline the major parts that have been working well for me. I hope that this outline can be a helpful tool as you begin to understand how it might work for you too!
In its simplest form: The One Concept Method presents clients with a strong strategic-led identity that aligns one solution with the needs of their business goals.
A common misconception about this approach is that one concept equals less work. Some might even think it’s less inclusive and a bigger risk. In reality, the amount of work stays about the same. It’s just redirected into more strategy that requires a different level of heavy lifting on the front-end, but provides so much more clarity and little to no revisions on the back-end.
Instead of showing only three logo designs in their simplest form, you’ll take the strongest one and blow it out into a lengthy presentation that includes lots of strategy, brand collateral, and mockups. You’re basically creating an unwavering case as to why it works on every level on screen and in real life. More than “just a logo,” you’ll give them everything a brand needs. From a logo suite to color pallets, typography to business cards, brand mission to brand purpose and so on. It’s a very inclusive and holistic experience that your clients will feel blown away from. Pinky promise!
When done correctly, this approach will allow your clients to be the expert in their business and you to be the expert in your creative direction. The job they hired you to do! Which is why the first step involves attracting and educating the right client.
Getting your clients on board shouldn’t be too difficult if you’re attracting the right ones. They say if you try to attract everyone, you’ll end up reaching no one. So be selective and qualify who you work with. It sets the tone in three ways: 1. Your work is in demand 2. You have high standards for yourself and your work 3. You’re leading the process.
This isn’t to say that it’s going to be “your way or the highway.” You should still be genuine and upfront that you always have their best interest in mind. However, in order for a collaborative partnership to work successfully, they need to trust you as the creative expert. Respecting them as the expert in their business is how you can politely draw the line.
In my discovery call I’ll ask a few qualifying questions to make sure they are a good fit. I’m listening to hear if my values, process, and design aesthetic align with their wants and needs. If they do, I follow up with a custom proposal that outlines and reiterates my process in depth. I breakdown their deliverables, project cost, timeline, and more.
Clients will come to you because they are looking for guidance in a need they can’t do on their own. So make sure you’re setting the stage by giving them clear expectations every step of the way.
The One Concept Method is an approach that allows my clients to be the expert in their business and me to be the expert in my creative direction. Rather than the traditional route of showing a handful of average concepts that can lead to subjectivity, I channel all of my creative energy into presenting one solution that truly answers your business needs and goals. Using your questionnaire, visual inspiration, brand messaging, and market alignment, we’ll begin by developing a brand strategy that will act as a solid foundation for your project.
I still explore many concepts early on, but I narrow those down to the strongest solution for your target audience and build it out into a 15+ page identity presentation. By no means is this the end of the process. We’ll continue to refine the concept with rounds of revisions as I welcome and encourage your thoughts and perspective. Through this holistic approach we will establish a collaborative experience where we can both utilize each of our strengths and from it, create a brand full of purpose.
Now, how do you actually make this work? My success has come from using a process that includes a discovery, strategy, creation, presentation, revision, and delivery phase. That’s a lot to talk about! So for now, I’ll briefly outline them below.
Before any concept explorations begin, I have my clients complete an online questionnaire.* These answers along with baseline market research (aka google) are my starting point into the creative phase. I like to use reputable publications and businesses for this research like Forbes, Business Insider, etc. Insights are the backbone to creating a solid strategy. They validate what you are providing for your audience and whether or not you’re heading in the right direction.
Next, I create a strategy presentation for my client to approve before moving into the creative phase. Let me say this loud and clear: strategy is MORE than a moodboard. It involves a business overview, purpose, brand pillars, statement, and target audience just to name a few.* Getting their approval on this creative direction will ensure that you’re putting your creative juices into the right places. It also helps them get a clear vision on their business as a whole and your project moving forward.
I use this approved strategy as my foundation while exploring different logo options. After lots of explorations, testing different applications and making sure it aligns with the needs of the business, I narrow in on the strongest one and build that solution out into an identity presentation.* I always recommend that you send your clients PDF presentations first while simultaneously scheduling a LIVE web call. Yes, I said live! If you want to serve your clients and serve them well, you need to connect with them on a personal level. I know it can be scary, but I’m telling you, adding face-to-face touch points will make all the difference in creating lasting relationships! More on this later.
Following our live discussion, I’ll prompt them with guided questions in a short online questionnaire to make sure the creative executions are meeting the needs of their business goals. On average, I get one to two minor revision requests if not zero before final approval. I still hold my breath waiting for feedback, but each time I’m reminded that this process really works! I wrap up by sending their final files and walking them through their Brand Guidebook. And last but not least, I like to send a thoughtful care package in the mail to make sure I’m over delivering, every time.
I’ll end by saying that this method isn’t for every designer and client out there. If showing multiple concepts works for you and your niche of clients then keep at it! But for those of you that have started to pick up what I’m putting down, I’ll be sharing an even closer look at some of the steps mentioned above in the coming weeks. If you have any specific questions about anything above, shoot me an email or hop on over to my website where I layout my process and FAQs for my clients.
*Next up is my Brand Strategy & Identity Presentation Must Haves, followed by my Brand Questionnaire Checklist and even more juicy nuggets. Maybe even some templates 😉 Connect with me on the ‘gram to make sure you don’t miss out!