5 Tips for Providing Your Designer with Helpful Feedback

By James Lewis-Van Vorst / February 4, 2019 / Branding and Design, Graphic Design

5 Easy Steps for Giving Feedback to Designers

If you’ve ever worked with a designer, you know the scenario.

Your designer is enthusiastically presenting their work, but it’s missing the mark. And now you’re searching for the right way to provide them with design feedback that is useful and respectful, as well as understandable.

Whether you’re a client, a manager, or coworker, you want to help your design team get to a great solution in a reasonable timeframe while maintaining positivity.

Many times, that’s easier said than done.

Designers and clients don’t always speak the same language. So, during collaboration and feedback sessions, friction sometimes happens. Differences in the way people communicate can really complicate the process even more.

There’s a lot that can go wrong in a feedback session from both sides.

A designer might not be prepared with specific questions, the client and/or manager may be overly harsh or vague in their comments, or there may be conflicting opinions surrounding the design. Regardless, the following tips will help ensure you and your creative colleagues are communicating effectively, so that you end up with a final product that makes everyone proud:

1. Be Specific with Feedback

Avoid frustrating and potentially unnecessary rounds of revisions by giving clear and specific feedback.

Saying you like or dislike something or that something “feels off” isn’t particularly helpful without more context. Take the time to think through what’s behind your initial impression. Is the text difficult to read? Is the layout too busy? Say so. If your designer knows why you like or dislike it, they’ll be better prepared to move forward in the right direction.

Similarly, phrases like “Make it pop” or “Let’s take it to the next level” will only leave a designer trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together.

Then, when the next round of revisions come in, you’ll likely discover that you and your creative team have completely different ideas of what “fresh” or “next level” looks like.

2. Problems, Rather Than Solutions

This isn’t to say that creatives don’t have their own blind spots. Rather than attempting to redesign or rewrite something yourself, explain what you think isn’t working.

For example, if you’re providing logo feedback, make sure your feedback isn’t simply: “Make the logo bigger.” Explain why you want it bigger. Is it getting lost on the page? Is it difficult to make out what it is?

Once you’ve laid out the problem, your designer might see a more effective solution involving color, placement, or white space.

While you’re discussing possible revisions with a group, a problem-focused approach also invites a greater level of collaboration. If you say, “I think the logo should be red, white, and blue,” the conversation might not move beyond whether red, white, and blue is the right combo.

However, if you say, “I don’t think the color scheme matches the company’s personality,” you’ll ignite a conversation about what the company’s personality is and which colors are an accurate reflection.

3. Don’t Count on “Knowing it When You See it”

“I’ll know it when I see it” is code for “I have no idea what I want.”

This often leads to a situation where a designer is merely guessing what will make you happy, rather than thinking critically about the ultimate goals of the project. It’s a terrible place to be for everyone involved with the project — including the client.

The remedy to this problem is twofold:

  1. Go into the project with a clear picture of what you want and why. It can be beneficial to find inspiration online that you can share. Understand what you like about the example work and why.
  2. Get yourself in the mindset that the final product will vary from what you had in mind. More often than not, it will be better than what you had in mind.

4. Play Nice

Any designer would be over the moon if you loved the design so much that you didn’t want to change a thing.

Realistically speaking, it doesn’t happen often. Designers are used to receiving feedback. A little criticism won’t hurt our feelings if it’s direct and honest. You should feel comfortable sharing both positive and negative design feedback.

That said, don’t forget that designers are people, too.

Opening your work up to feedback is a vulnerable process, even for professionals. Be thoughtful about the way you frame your design feedback. Make sure the feedback is about the design, not the designer. An easy way to do this is avoid using “you” in your design feedback.

Constructive criticism is helpful. Personal insults are hurtful. Simply put, be mindful of what you’re saying, and everyone will be happy.

5. Consolidate Feedback

Few things are worse for creatives than receiving a pile of feedback from an entire team.

Collaboration can lead to creative breakthroughs, but a tangle of disjointed feedback only leads to confusion. If multiple people need to approve the final product, gather and sort through their thoughts before sharing them with the designer.

Be especially mindful of eliminating conflicting comments, opinions that diverge from the stated objectives, and any other criticism that isn’t constructive. It is also important to be selective when it comes to people whose opinions you’re seeking.

Only incorporate feedback from relevant stakeholders. Then translate the edited comments into a concise document (bullet points are better than a string of long paragraphs) with straightforward next steps and timelines.

Keep in mind that you and the creative team have the same goal in mind — a strong outcome for the project. The designer has invested a lot of energy and effort into their work and they deserve thoughtful feedback in return.

By facilitating an open conversation, continually grounding your comments in the project’s objectives, and following some basic etiquette, together you can elevate any project from good to great.

In short, treat the design feedback you give as if you were the one who is receiving the feedback. Provide your designer with constructive criticism and a clear path of what you would like to see in the outcome.

If your feedback isn’t resonating, it’s possible you need to work with a new team of design experts. Our professionals have the prowess to deliver designs that will exceed your expectation. To learn more, contact us today.