Rejected Designs and What We Should Do With Them

by Tom Kenny (@tkenny)


When it comes to web design, a standard practice in the industry is to create multiple mock-ups of a design and have the client choose which one they think is most suitable like the most. What usually happens is that rejected designs get thrown away or stored deep down in the murky depths of a hard drive somewhere to never be seen again.

Why We Should Show-off Rejected Designs

Something I want to do on a personal level is bring the rejected designs back and maybe even show them as part of my portfolio. A lot of time is spent creating multiple designs for clients and some rejected work turns out to be some of our favourite pieces so why wouldn’t we want to show them off? Often, these designs aren’t actually ‘rejected’ but another is preferred and even when they are flat out rejected, it doesn’t mean that it is a result of poor design. Remember that visual design is subjective.

Showing off rejected designs also give an opportunity to demonstrate what happens behind the scenes as the process of web design for a project gets underway. Generally different approaches are taken for different designs so it give others a chance to explore the different thought processes and a variety of creatives aiming to achieve the same goal.

Why We Shouldn’t Show-off Rejected Designs

Of course, there is the other side of the coin and only display the work that gets accepted. After all, what is the point of showing something that will never be used? Will anyone care about the work that didn’t make it? Perhaps that the work that gets tossed to one side should remain there until we stumble upon it in the future, consigned to only a gleeful smile as memories of the work come flooding back.

Some designs that don’t make the grade, at least according to the clients, have some great ideas and rather than present them in a ‘rejected’ design, it can be a good idea to take any ideas and use them in future projects. This way, it is presented as a final piece of work that is live and in use and maybe has more credibility.

Case Study

For the redesign of Meon Villas I created two strong designs that I felt met the brief very well but both had very different approaches.

Rejected Design

Below is the rejected homepage design for Meon. I remember that this version was almost rejected immediately without an explanation of why and with almost no chance for me to explain my reasoning behind it all and honestly I would have thought that it would have the opposite effect due to the bold background imagery.


Approved Design


Perhaps the reason that this was chosen as the final design was because it is very similar to our existing websites (Hayes and Jarvis, Sovereign, Citalia, and Thomson Worldwide) in that it has the search panel on the left with an area for rotating images on the right. This is one of the reasons that I was disappointed that the ideas behind the rejected design weren’t explored at all. It was designed with the idea of doing something different, taking another approach and would have been very interesting to see how it would have done in contrast to the ‘safe’ option.

This is a perfect example of a rejected design that I, as a designer, preferred. Especially considering that it was trying to do something new by having the search panel go from left to right rather than down the left.


As designers, we should be proud of our work that wasn’t accepted or at least some of it. Whether we proudly display it is up to personal preference but it is certainly something that I have not seen on a single portfolio.

It’s an idea that I would like to see explored and I will certainly consider it when I redesign my portfolio soon.

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by Tom Kenny

I’m a freelance web designer and front-end developer with 9 years of experience designing for the web. Follow me on Twitter here.