Concept Graveyard – when great concepts aren’t

By February 28, 2013General

I’ve been a designer for 14 years now (yikes!). During that time I’ve come up with some really good designs, some designs that weren’t my favorite but got the job done, and some concepts that I really, truly, loved. We typically show two to three concepts for each project (way more if it’s for logo design) and only one is usually chosen to move on to completion (unless there’s some Frankensteining of concepts). Which means that roughly 2/3 of all the work I do, good or not, amazing or not, perfect or not, goes… well, to the Concept Graveyard. It’s impossible to say how many concepts are in my personal Concept Graveyard but even with simplified math, it looks something like this:

14 years
2 new projects requiring concepts per month
2 concepts not chosen per project
672 concepts Graveyarded

And then let’s just assume that I’ve had two logo development projects a year, for which I likely show 12-15 concepts, the population of my Concept Graveyard is something more like 1,024.

Most of the time it’s just par for the course, I like all the concepts I show or I wouldn’t show them, so I’m usually pretty happy to have one of them chosen. But then there are those projects that really speak to me, where the creative brief is fun and inspiring and I have really, really good ideas. Sometimes these work out great, and sometimes the client decides to go another direction, or the budget dries up, or somebody’s boss kills the idea by insisting the dominant color be purple. Whatever happens, every once in a while really great work gets left behind where no one will ever see it. Sad? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. Optimistically to be looked at as inspiration to do really fantastic work every time? … Ok, fine.

Here’s an example
The creative brief was something like this:
“We’re launching a new software tool and want to announce it with posters around the office. We want these to be cool and edgy and like movie posters, go ahead and really push the brand standards. Couple of themes you have to explore – a crystal ball and the idea of coming soon.”

Awesome (despite the crystal ball theme). I still had to keep in mind that this was for a major financial services company and they tend to be a bit conservative, but the gloves were off. I loved everything I came up with, and so did my direct client. But somebody’s boss’s boss wanted something else. And they got it. I got to see the finished project and it was nice. But I liked mine better. Which is what got me thinking about the idea of the Concept Graveyard and doing the math above in my head. Then I thought, well, why not let them see the light of day, even if it is only on the blog? So here they are, and I’ve started a Pinterest board called Concept Graveyard, feel free to contribute. I’ve removed logos and names to protect the innocent, do the same if you want to share.

Author Beth Seitzberg

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