The Ethics on Hinting your Client

A dilemma on ethics. Wether or not you should hint your client which of the options you’re proposing is better

No matter how much you work on the first options you prepare for your client, there’s always one you like the most, or being more objective, there’s always an option you believe is the most valuable, both visually and practically. This, naturally brings a dilemma of ethics. David Airey says something like:

At the end of the day, your client is not the expert, you are, and you should know how to respectfully let him/her know that.

– David Airey



The Ethics

While you could disregard the ethics involved, and explicitly tell your client which option you believe is going to have a larger impact, you’re –after all– charging for multiple choices, and when you give a choice, the right thing to do is to be as transparent as you can be. There is, however, the other side of the coin; the grater good.

Considering what David Airey says, It’d be more than reasonable to highlight the one you want to be chosen. I have to admit, I once did this. Fortunately (from a moral standpoint), the client chose the one I didn’t want him to choose. I did it having in mind the success of the product and the benefits it’d bring to my portfolio.

Today, the logo and website I made for this project, are not on my portfolio, but at least I’m at peace with myself.


The Middle Ground

To avoid the ethics dilemma I’ve been talking about, I came up with three simple policies I follow on every project.


1. Always Present TWO choices

Not one, not three. That way, there’s always a 50% “chance” (you’re not leaving it to chance) the client is going to choose the one you want. Also, I’ve found out you can dedicate more time to each one, adding quality to the results.

Ethics - Policy 1


2. Try Fooling Yourself

Really give the less desired options a spin, until you believe (or almost) each has the chance of being the best choice. If you wouldn’t choose one of the options you’re presenting, don’t send the brief.

Ethics - Policy 1


3. Present With Colors

I think most graphic designers would disagree on this. Color should be one of the last steps of the process. Nevertheless, I’ve found that presenting with colors, has it’s benefits when it comes to selling an idea, even though you don’t present the colors your client is “looking for”; you just need to specify that the colors you’re using are not final. What I find valuable from this, is that some artworks benefit from color, that way you help yourself go through the second policy.

Ethics - Policy 3



Have you had this same dilemma on ethics? I’d like to learn your experience and thoughts on this.

Thank you for reading.


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