How much should you tell a client?

A common complaint from designers is the ‘just do it’ mentality of clients. They just want to see the final design — it seems they’re just not interested in the sausage-making.

They’re just interested in the sausage.

Is that because our websites show beautifully-finished designs when in reality, designing takes time and can get messy?

How much should we tell a client?


Projects take time, we know that, but many clients don’t.
We know it takes time to make a great movie but our websites just show the final frame.

Why is that?

If you want to sell research – show research and the insights from the research.
If you want to sell strategy, show strategy and how that informed the brief
If you want to sell animation but get pushback on the costings, show the framework and build of an animation.

None of these things have to be shown in great detail, but showing the steps and processes will stop clients thinking there are no messy bits, just a bright light that goes off above a designer’s head.

The so-what?

A quote I heard from former President Obama on his Australian tour: the process of transformation is messy.

We don’t tell clients that.

Instead we show perfection.

And then we get frustrated when they don’t understand there’s a process.


Want to continue the discussion? Email Carol.

Carol Mackay

Design Business Council : business advice for creatives.
We help designers build better, stronger, more sustainable, businesses.

 The Design Business Review is Australia’s only online design management magazine. It’s professional development information written specifically for Australian designers by Australian designers. Best of all, it’s free.


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About Carol

After 30+ years running a design studio, I accumulated a pretty special network of fellow designers. One thing most have in common: a dislike for the ‘business’ side of design. Most are impatient with any task competing for time spent doing what they love – designing.

Not me. I love that intersection between design and business. I built a career working with Ombudsman schemes, the Emergency Services sector and the Courts. My special power has always been an ability to use design to translate the difficult to understand or the unpalatable message.

I now use exactly the same skills with creative business owners. I translate the indigestible into bite-sized chunks of information. I share insights, introduce tools and embed processes to help others build confidence business decision-making skills. More confidence makes it easier to grasp opportunities. More confidence makes it easier to recognise a good client from the bad.

Outside DBC I have mentored with Womentor, AGDA and most recently with The Aunties.
And I’m a proud board member of Never Not Creative. Ask me about internships 😉

Always happy to chat, I can be contacted here.


For a short while, an archive of my design work at
My current work can be viewed at and

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