Presentations That Speak for Themselves The most successful designers know how to present work in a way that is not only clear, that not only “sells,” but that begins and continues a dialogue with the client. Ed Gold has identified what he calls “the ten common characteristics of great designers.” After “talent” (“their work flat-out looks good”), Ed ranks “advocacy” as the number-two necessary characteristic. “A designer who can’t sell an idea is probably not going to be very successful,” he says, adding, “I’ll go a step further. A designer who can’t sell an idea will never be a great designer.” He advises all designers to take courses in persuasion and presentation. As you’ve probably experienced, there is nothing less inspiring than a portfolio presentation in which a job candidate recites in a monotone: “This is a piece I did for so-and-so; this is a piece I did for so-and-so.” It’s equally depressing to clients when designers start explaining how they used type or images. The results are there right in front of their eyes. As Hillman Curtis cautions in MTIV, “Never, never, never sell your design. You should be able to lay out your comps in front of clients, and if you have heard them, stayed true to their desires, and included them in your creative process, the designs will speak for themselves. You can stay quiet, answer their questions if necessary, and listen to their feedback. Take notes and bring it closer on the next rev[ise].” Curtis writes that he always tells his designers that if they find themselves saying things like, “We used Helvetica because it’s simple yet strong,” then they haven’t done their jobs. I have been preaching the same thing for years to students and to the designers who’ve worked for me. You, the designer, won’t be there when the reader opens the brochure, turns the page, clicks on the home page, or sees the logo or ad for the first time. Like the student portfolio, if it needs an explanation, something’s wrong. Verbal pyrotechnics and even reams of support documentation can’t transform an unsuccessful design into one that works.