It’s an unfortunate truth of creative industries that some really good design work never sees the light of day. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the project naturally takes a turn, causing the end result to be different than the initial plan, or maybe you have a “client from hell.”
Other times, I’ve had to let go of my favorite versions of a logo project in the very first round, not by any fault of the client or myself. Sometimes a design is good, but not perfect for the project, so we move on. But what happens to the designs that aren’t chosen, and do they really need to be scrapped for good?
There are a few uses for good designs that hit the cutting room floor too soon.
Put them in your portfolio:
You definitely won’t do this with every runner-up design. Save it for the work you are most proud of. You don’t want your portfolio to imply that none of your designs ever make it out into real world applications. Having a couple of these projects mixed into your portfolio can be a good thing, you’ll just want to label them as such. Usually something as simple as “Concept for [company name]” works fine.
Sell the editable files:
Depending on the type of project, sometimes the vector art itself can be sold on sites like Creative Market and iStock. Generally this only works if you’ve created icons or other versatile design elements. If you’ve created a set of something it increases the chance your work will be downloaded.
I’ve gone back to check out early revisions of some of my favorite logos from time to time for inspiration. Obviously you don’t want to re-use that exact style, but if you know you tossed a past logo that included a really cool type treatment which would be perfect for a current client, go for it.
Make it a habit to keep your files organized, so it’s easier to go back through the many USB and/or external hard drives most designers have.
Learn and teach a lesson:
Seeing your old work can be a really useful exercise, and can inspire new work as well. Just as most artists have a collection of earlier work that can be compared and contrasted with current pieces, designers can do the same.
It can also be of value to other people if you’re willing to share your work on social media. If your followers are interested in your design work, they would probably appreciate seeing some of the behind the scenes work. This is especially nice while you’re in between projects, to keep your followers interested in your work and also add a human aspect to your practice.
Win a prize:
Sure this isn’t always an option, but there just so happens to be a contest here for recycling your old designs for some decent prizes. Couldn’t hurt right?