6 steps to better design feedback

6 Elements of Effective Design Feedback

Giving a design critique can be a frustrating experience, especially for those outside of the design community. Do you find it challenging to express your thoughts to your designer?

I’d like to share here about why feedback is so essential to the success of design, and how you can get comfortable expressing your views, resulting in smoother communications with your design team.

Briefly, Why design feedback is important

As a designer, talking and thinking about design is an everyday occurrence. In contrast, for many clients, describing their feelings about a logo, website, or brand visuals is the first time they’ve had to put words to an opinion about creative work.

Critique and feedback are an enormous part of the design process, and your input is essential for landing a logo, web design, or print work that successfully expresses your value as a brand.

What the feedback process achieves:

  • Opens up dialogue for further collaboration
  • Teaches your design team more about your thinking
  • Builds direction for subsequent designs
  • Leads to ideas and solutions beyond the most obvious

1. Criticism or Opinion? Define Your Feelings First

Design is sensory, and I think we can all agree that translating feelings into words can be challenging. Often, the expressions “I like it” or “I don’t like it” are the first to come forward.

If you’re not quite sure how expand on these impressions, reflecting on specifics is a good place to start:

  1. Why am I reacting in this way, what’s behind my feelings?
    I’m disappointed because ___________
    This reminds of me of ____________
    I have a personal distaste for _____________
  2. How is this design aligned (or not) with our brand values?
  3. Why might this image feel offensive, and is that a bad thing?
  4. How would this make people excited/disappointed about our product?

Assessing your reactions helps you get clearer on what you’d like the work to achieve, and sometimes uncovers personal judgments or even new perspectives you hadn’t realized were there.

Learning to embrace what feels like a negative can actually bring greater clarity to the entire effort.

2. Keep Comments Constructive

Because design exists to reach a result, we have to find a way to talk about what isn’t hitting the mark. It’s the how and why behind what’s not working that moves your designer toward what does.

Reviewing design work can get emotional, and it’s easy to have a quick, intense reaction to something — which may or may not be helpful.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be critical. It just means that your feedback needs to progress the conversation. Insensitive or unproductive feedback tends to shut things down very quickly.

If there’s any potential in the work, speak about that first. Sometimes this opens up entirely new directions. If the design doesn’t feel like a fit at all, try feedback that explains more of your thinking or what the work fails to communicate.

“We’d like it to feel more ___________ than _________.”
“Our company is more _____________ and less ________.”

The dialogue should always come back to the end goal:

• What does this design need to express?
• Will it resonate with our clientele?
• Where does this design help achieve that goal?

3. Stay open and ask questions

The design process is fluid, and the end result is a fusion and fine-tuning of the many ideas and conversations that come up along the way.

We get there by asking and answering questions – yours and ours. There are no dumb questions. They are, in fact, the process itself.

Before giving feedback on a design, ask your designer why they chose a particular typeface, or what inspired a color palette. There are many decisions, big and small, that we make when designing for you, and we’re excited to share about those choices.

A good designer will be able to explain the thinking to you, and let you know how and which parts of a design can be altered.

4. Remember that we have the same goal

It’s important to remember that your designer wants to produce great work that achieves your goals – we’re on the same team.

This can be easy to forget when you’re frustrated with a design that doesn’t work, or you’re having a hard time communicating your ideas.

Trust is essential to the client/designer relationship. We can always shift gears if something doesn’t work, but trust is what allows us to think bigger, experiment more, and innovate better.

Too many restraints or micro-managing tend to keep design small.

5. Keep the conversation moving

No matter what’s happening, always come back to the table. A great designer will find a way to navigate through the disconnect, as long as you’re willing to keep the conversation constructive and productive.

Likewise, we need to be able to respond honestly to your input. Some ideas don’t necessarily work well in the long term, and we have to be able to communicate that to you.

As much as possible, we try to filter out personal tastes to make sure we’re focused on your project goals. We want your solution to be the right one, now and into the future.

6. Hang in, sometimes the plot doesn’t reveal until the last scene

Often, the most challenging design projects turn out to be the most rewarding. Pushing boundaries can be uncomfortable. How many of us are at ease with jumping into the unknown?

Sometimes the answer evades until we’re all exhausted. But then..E-u-r-e-k-a!

As long as we accept that we’re collaborating toward some great unknown, what we create will be the fusion of all of those great ideas waiting to happen.

Don’t be in a hurry, let’s give this a chance to unfold.

Final thoughts on design feedback

Feeling at home giving design feedback requires practice. Remember, we’re expecting to hear your thoughts – it isn’t personal and we know that.

Don’t feel like you have to give feedback on the spot. Sometimes it’s better to take time to get clear, gather your thoughts, and come back. Just let us know what you need. Like you, we want your project to turn out great!