Now that we've come up with several creative ideas, what do we show the client? That's a good question. Glad you asked. Anyway, I don't believe it's a good idea to show the client ideas we come up with during the brainstorming stage. The reason is that the client is not equipped to make a good judgment based on our sketches and creative flights of fancy. They hired us to solve visual communication problems — and we use our creative skills to come up with solutions not just cool ideas. An idea may be clever but not answer the objectives of the creative brief or strategy.
For example, a talking cigarette may be a cool idea, but not be appropriate for selling toys to kids. Or it might be cool to depict an illustration that's a little off-brand. But this approach might create a disconnect with the target audience. So, it's up to the designer to vet the ideas and present the best concepts to the client which answer the objectives and are visually appealing.
What to present?
It's a good idea to present no more than 3 good ideas. These ideas must all be refined to be presentable, but maintain a rough look. What I mean is that the concepts are clean enough for the client to be able to understand what is being presented, but rough-looking enough to signal to the client that these are just rough concepts, not finished design solutions.
It is in my opinion that it's better to present one or two ideas if all the others are pretty weak in comparison. I can almost guarantee that if you present a weak solution, the client will pick it. (It's some sort of law of nature.)
Last, I tend to present ideas as either PDFs or JPEGs depending on what the client can handle. I try to control the experience as much as I can, so the client gets a good idea of what's happening without being distracted. That's why whether it's a wireframe, sketch, or mockup I present ideas in black and white. In this way, color will not influence the decision.
So what decision am I after?
I inform the client that what they are looking at are concepts only. These are not finished designs, but only visual directions the project can take. I don't want them to go into critique mode but select a conceptual approach, which I will refine and design later in the next stage. I try to stress that the goal is to come away with a strong concept and be in agreement on the direction this project can take.
In the next step we present design solutions. These solutions will be based on the conceptual direction the client has chosen in this step.
Photo courtesy imelenchon of morgueFile.com