How to Provide Useful Design Feedback
For creatives, feedback and critiques can be a sensitive subject because of the passion involved. And on the flip side, clients and managers can be prickly because they’re under pressure to deliver business results. So how can we avoid feeling like we’re walking on a tightrope where conversations about the quality of creative work are potential pitfalls? As a creative vendor, we need to find a way to facilitate genuinely constructive conversations about creative work – within our own team, between our clients’ team members, external stakeholders, board members, and everyone in between.
It’s essential that you and your team know how to receive feedback in a professional, constructive and resilient spirit. Over the past five years, ThompsonStenning has worked with many kinds of organizations and we’ve discovered that providing helpful communication and feedback guidelines before starting a creative project is incredibly useful to all those involved. Below are our six guiding principles that you can keep in mind throughout your creative journey:
Start with a foundation of trust.
Trust is a two-way street! Show faith in your creative vendor by avoiding impeding the established design process. We share a common goal – landing on the best design outcome for your project. Ensure this goal is never muddled by personal preferences or competing agendas.
Frame your feedback with context.
The most important thing about design feedback is that it must always remain framed by your project goals and metrics for success. When you give feedback, make sure its underlying motivation is aligned with these goals. If it’s not relevant to those goals, it probably falls into the category of personal aesthetic preferences, which aren’t all that useful.
Describe problems, don’t offer solutions.
Instead of providing the how provide the why. When you’re supplying design feedback, it’s natural to want to offer solutions. But if you knew the best design solutions, you wouldn’t need the expertise of a designer. This goes back to showing trust and respect. Trust that we, with your help, will come up with the best solution for your project.
Always be prepared to answer why.
The design feedback process is a discussion. As a creative agency, it’s our job to question everything. If you offer vague feedback such as “I don’t like this”, we will ask “why not?” or “how will your customers react to it?”. Be prepared to answer that why every single time. If you don’t have an answer that ties back to your project goals and customer needs, then question whether that piece of feedback has any merit at all.
Be clear, specific, and speak your mind.
Nothing is worse than vague feedback: “I’m not feeling it”, or “It doesn’t pop” are unhelpful statements. Make sure you frame your feedback and describe precisely what it applies to (color, layout, content design, usability, etc.). Speak your mind but stay concise and use concrete terms. However, if in doubt, it’s better to say too much than not enough!
Stay objective and focus on your audience.
This one can be really challenging because our personal preferences are so innate to our decision-making process. But you are not your customers. Your preferences have very little weight unless the deliverable you’re designing is made for you as the target audience. When providing feedback, it’s vital that you remove from the equation as much of your own aesthetic preference as possible.
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Always remember to…
Take into consideration what stage of production your creative project is at–balance what is possible with the time you have to do it in, and the budget you’ve set. Remain focused on each stage of your project, there is a time to look at the big picture and a time to focus on the smaller details. Great feedback starts with trust, leaving any egos and personal preferences at the door, and remaining curious at all times.