How We Think

Make it POP

Sep 05, 2018

How to give better feedback and get the most out of your designs.

The creative process is different for every designer. There are those whose first step is research, while others tend to dive in cursor blazing. Regardless of how the process begins, client feedback is a necessary component. Feedback is the opportunity to share thoughts and opinions to ensure that the project is progressing in the right direction. In most cases, client feedback helps the designer push past their comfort zone to create a compelling solution.

Client feedback is arguably the most important step in the design process for two reasons:

  1. Your client is the expert when it comes to their business and can provide valuable consumer insight that helps the designer to improve the design.
  2. More importantly, the client is the final decision maker.

So, to all, you clients out there: giving feedback that is clear and relevant is key but can be the most challenging part of the design process. To help alleviate this difficulty, and to save time and money in the long run, here are five basic rules for clients, based on common situations, to help improve feedback.

Rule 1: Be specific.

As much as your designer may boast about their talents, I assure you, mind reading is probably not on their resume. Comments such as “make it pop” or “work your magic” are difficult to interpret. What you think makes the page “pop” may not be what your designer thinks makes the page “pop.” By telling your designer exactly what is lacking, you remove the gray area and ensure the results meet your expectations.

Example: Our demographic is college students. This color scheme seems to have a childish feel–can we make the palette more sophisticated by darkening the colors a bit?

Rule 2: Give equal weight to positive and negative feedback.

If your feedback only consists of handing the designer a list of the 317 corrections, you might be doing it wrong. Feedback doesn’t just have to be the “designer-do” list, though those corrections are important. Much like when you provide examples of things you like, positive feedback provides a list of things you like and verifies that the creative direction is correct. Plus, designers are humans too ­ from time to time, it’s nice to hear when we do something right.

Example: Wow! You did a wonderful job making this layout cohesive with our brand. I’m having a hard time spotting the call to action on the page, could we make it more noticeable?

Rule 3: Ask Questions

In my experience, the best feedback does not come from a list of changes sent in an email, it comes as a result of the open discussion. Asking questions is a great way to ensure that you understand why your designer is making certain choices. In addition to opening the door for clear, concise feedback, having that dialogue with the designer shows that you genuinely care about the project and is a great way to build the working relationship.

Example: I’m used to seeing a specific “home” link on website navigation. Is there a reason you chose to omit it?

Rule 4: Try to steer clear of personal preferences.

Design is a subjective media. It can be easy to get caught up in what you personally like or don’t like. Unless you’ve commissioned a personal project, it’s important to ask yourself, “How will my feedback affect the way our clients view our business?” You may not like a certain color, but it may be the best way to communicate an idea to your audience.

Example: The font you chose feels a little stiff for our brand–is it the best choice?

Rule 5: Consolidate your feedback.

Art and opinions go hand and hand. Often when businesses hire a designer to create something for them, they like to rope in others (friends, family, colleagues, their boss, random guy on the street) to give their thoughts on the work. What results is often a muddled mess of feedback that quickly becomes a gray area. To save time for both parties and ensure nothing gets lost in translation, it is best to select one person as the point person and to have them consolidate and communicate the agreed upon direction.

Example: The team took some time to review the design one last time, and a majority feel that the photos don’t quite stand out enough. Can we find a solution to make them more visible?

By following the five rules for better feedback, you can ensure that you're giving effective and helpful feedback to pinpoint the direction and take a good design and make it great. Trust that your designer knows what to do and to create a unique solution that meets your project goals.