top 5 ideas for rejected designs

Rejected designs should never vanish to the dark corners of a designer's computer. In fact, designs I prefer are typically the ones who get the boot. My ongoing theory is in beta but here it is; on average, client rejections occur because "for a work to be truly creative, it has to depart from the status quo at some point. That departure makes many people uncomfortable." Usually multiple concepts are presented to a client, meaning every project should have at least 2 rejected concepts. This is 2 strong concepts that a designer spent time on. Why waste them? That's why I've created the top 5 ideas for rejected designs for creatives to start practicing.


1. The Circle Of Life

Repurpose & resell. Although a concept is derived around a creative brief, elements of the design can carry over to a new project containing familiar parameters. Reusing the color palette, layout, font combinations, etc on projects with similar messaging is resourceful, not lazy. Also, if you charge by the hour, reworking a rejected design will probably require less time, increasing your profit margin & maximizing projects per hour.

2. Portfolio

Clients feel pressure to pick the "sure thing" that will be impactful for the brand & their customer base will understand. Rejected designs skew towards subtleties of your personal style & may not communicate the project's brief as effectively. Why not include these in your portfolio?! Yes, the holy grail portfolio candidate is a big client you gelled with & together, produced magic. But, second place should be the artsy rejects reflecting your style as an artist.

3. Give Back

I love this one not only because it helps start ups, charities & non-profits but is a tax write-off. Round up those faithful rejects & give to a start-up with no money. You never know, they could turn out to be the next Uber. Investors do it with capital, why can't designers do it with rejected concepts? Donate your services (ahem, one reject design) to a charity or non-profit. Whatever you would charge a client, write-off that amount as a donation.

4. Run A Contest

Stop and think about how many designs of yours have never been seen? Maybe it's not portfolio material because it differs from your style but the concept is still strong. Run a contest for best rejected design. Get creative with it. This gets a handful of your work in front of many in a fun platform.

5. Create Content

When all else fails, blog about it. Here are several ideas:

  • Deconstruct the concept and write why it was not chosen
  • Deconstruct the concept and explain why you love it
  • Center an entire post around why the messaging was off and which design elements were the perpetrators
  • Review what you would have done differently with the color palette, layout, font, content hierarchy, etc.
  • Design a second version and post a Before And After detailing what you changed and why
  • Use the reject as a how-to tutorial post

Here's some rejects of mine that I proudly claim and am happy to share. What do you do with rejected designs? If you don't have a system in place, start one now or if you have any good ideas, please share with me!


spring swing event poster design
heirblooms start up company name rejected concept and design
uptown columbus food truck festival event poster rejected design
yalla pr microphone logo rejected design
knack and jill crab logo rejected design
knack and jill gift tag logo rejected design
blues brew and q event poster rejected design
ezells food truck rejected design
yalla pr megaphone logo rejected design

2 Comments