“Feedback is helpful and constructive; criticism is hurtful and damaging.”
Frank Sonnenberg, Author, Source
Ok, so the quote isn’t quite directed at design specifically but can be a reflection of the feedback process and how wires get crossed. This is particularly important in relation to design. When creative work is reviewed according to personal taste or bias, this can easily lead to unhelpful feedback and stand in the way of great work being created, as well as good working relationships.
So what does this mean? Well, it means any old feedback isn’t good enough. Negative comments can be deemed as criticism if not delivered in an effective manner, creating separation between designers and contributors.
With creativity being a collaborative effort, bad feedback and vague comments can lead to frustrations and broken communication…long term result? Poor design execution and lousy relationships. Not ideal. 😩👎
The classic ‘feedback sandwich’ technique is now outdated and predictable. With these positive comments being seen as disingenuous, the feedback loop has to evolve to keep the dynamic working.
Thankfully, we have come up with seven useful tips on how best to feedback to a designer or creative team.
Tip 1: Be specific
Don’t be vague with your design feedback. Certain phrases like ‘make it pop’ can mean a million different things. Be specific, say what and why you think something isn’t working.
Bad example: Make it pop!… (🤬< designers reaction)
Good example: These colours feel subdued. A brighter colour scheme might appeal to our audience and be more on-brand.
Tip 2: Let the designers design
Ask our opinions and listen to our suggestions. Trust us, we are professionals and trained to turn your vision into reality. We will have several tricks up our sleeve to fix the problem.
Be reasonable with your suggestions too. There are combinations of colours, typography and shapes that just don’t work and we do have rules to follow!
Bad example: Make the CTA bigger and add a zebra pattern.
Good example: I’m worried the CTA isn’t clear enough. It seems to get lost within the section. Is there a way we can bring it life?
Tip 3: Share examples
If you don’t know how to explain an amend or you’re worried it might be confusing, provide examples to give the designer reference points. It can help steer them in the right direction if the concept is struggling to work.
Bad example: The illustration is wrong.
Good example: The illustration at the top doesn’t quite tie in with the vision I had for the piece. Here is an example of the style I had in mind. Would we be able to implement something like this instead?
Tip 4: Balanced feedback
Don’t just focus on the negatives, feedback is a great opportunity to say what is working on the design too. Don’t do the feedback sandwich though! Make sure it’s genuine or don’t say it at all. 😎
Bad example: The photo isn’t great. Can we change it?
Good example: The layout and colour scheme are working well – they reflect our brand in a positive light. We do have concerns the photo doesn’t quite tell the right story. Could we update it so it shows more diversity?
Tip 5: Ask questions
Ask questions about the design and be interested. Showing you care goes a long way. If there is an element you don’t understand or want some clarification on…just ask 🙂 we don’t bite!
Bad example: Looks cool…*in head* (why is everything left-aligned?!)
Good example: We really like what you’ve done with the typography! We do normally like to centre-align our copy though. Is there a reason you chose to left-align it this time?
Tip 6: Don’t get personal
Put your personal taste to one side – this applies to designers too! This may seem harsh but design, in general, isn’t about you and your favourite colours. It’s about your audience and whether the execution is suitable for that market.
Bad example: I don’t like that colour. I don’t like green.
Good example: I’m not sure about the green, do we think this is a suitable colour to use for a piece about the environment?
Tip 7: Be thoughtful, be kind
Designers are people, not robots! We put a lot of thought and effort into our craft, the design principles and how we execute things. Be mindful of this. If you don’t have a better suggestion for something you’re unsure of, then don’t say anything. Use the previous six tips instead to help solve the issue.
Bad example: I don’t like it. It doesn’t make sense. You suck. (< ok a bit extreme but you get the point!)
Good example: I can see where this execution is heading, however, we have some concerns that the message isn’t clear. Could we try a version that is simpler and with stronger colours? Something along the lines of this…
So, not too bad right? It’s not expected that you’ll remember all of these at once but executing a few of these tips in your next feedback session won’t go unnoticed. Improvements in communication at this level will only increase the efficiency of the creative process, making life easier for you and the designer. 🤘
But remember, review your project at a bigger-picture level and don’t focus on the really minor details – all this will do is restrict the creative process. Successful collaboration with designers involves open communication, plenty of relevant questions and allowing them to do their job.