The Design Graveyard
Careful! This post is looking a little old and could be inaccurate in many, many ways
At least once in a designers life they will work tirelessly on a design that will never see the light of day. For whatever reason the final website will not use the design you have lovingly crafted over many hours. It may be that you have to create a new design, the client provides the design or the client leaves due a breakdown in the client/designer partnership. For whatever reason the design doesn’t get used you will feel bad that you now have what you might feel to be a gorgeous design lying unused whilst precious time was wasted creating something no one will be able to enjoy.
So what to do?
Add it to your Portfolio
You could put the design on your portfolio or blog as an example of your work. What is great about this is it shows a piece of work designed for a real client with the normal constraints but without any client changes that dilute your influence on the design. The danger here is that a client might not be best pleased in seeing this leading you to justify your actions or having to remove it.
If you have an invite for Dribbble you could take elements of the design you feel really show off your skills and put them on Dribbble. Although it doesn’t allow you to reclaim the time lost it does provide a way of showcasing your work to others that not only engages with the community but could also attract future work.
Elements of the design might be so wonderful you just can’t let them go and luckily they may just suit another website. A wealth of little elements in a design are generic enough that they could suit just about any website with the smallest amount of tweaking. If when designing the next website you think ‘hey I can use that element here’ then why not, at least you’re reclaiming some of that time lost.
Re-use it all
This is a little dangerous in truth. Although you may find with some small tweaks a design will perfectly suit another client the old client might have something to say when they see their rejected design somewhere else, and most certainly be angry to see it on a competitors website.
Simply accepting this as part of the job is maybe the most constructive thing you can do in order to keep your sanity. I myself haven’t mastered it yet, even the smallest changes can put me in a bad mood, but these tend to be aesthetic changes where no suitable reason other than personal preference has been given for the changes.
For some designers, mostly those presenting multiple designs, this ability to accept work won’t be used is something they learn very quickly, as they know that some work will have to go unused. For myself I’ve always presented a single design and iterated, so the idea of wasted time and work isn’t common, in fact I can only think of 3 times a full design has gone unused.
Whatever you choose to do just remember everyone else has to deal with designs being consigned to the design graveyard and whatever you try to do to bring it back to life it’ll only be like a zombie; it may look alive but it’s never as good as when it was alive.