How to give good feedback —
In every creative project, there comes a time when you have to provide feedback. Everyone involved in the project likely hopes that feedback will be purely positive. Nailed it first round, a hole in one. In most cases though, this isn’t how things go. Sometimes you need to give constructive criticism and it isn’t always an easy thing do.
Providing feedback is often the part of the creative process where relationships break down. It’s an age old cliché – client is unhappy but doesn’t know how to communicate it, back and forth ensues, designer blames client, client blames designer – a tense journey to an end result that neither party is thrilled with.
As a client you may not think it’s your responsibility to craft your communication, but it is. The outcome of every creative project relies heavily on the relationship behind it. If everyone takes responsibility for their part in it, results will be infinitely better – and isn’t that what we’re all here for?
So how can you, as a client, help to avoid undue stress and play a part in building a healthy professional relationship that garners great results? Here’s a few things we’ve found valuable over the years:
The feedback sandwich
Despite the fact that feedback isn’t personal, designers are sensitive souls really. If you have something negative to say, cushion it with something positive on either side. This doesn’t mean you have to lie if you’re unhappy. If you have absolutely nothing positive to say about the work, try saying something positive about the process/person or previous work. So, positive sentiment first then direct and clear constructive criticism, wrapped up with a productive ending.
- Bad feedback example: It’s not quite right, I don’t know why, just not feeling it.
- Good feedback example: Thanks for getting that to me on time. I’m liking the typography and colours used. The layout isn’t sitting that well with me just yet, can we have a chat about this? Looking forward to working with you on version 2.
You’ve hired a professional to work on your business with you, don’t forget their value in the feedback stage. With concepts in front of you, you may be tempted to start passenger seat designing – don’t – it’s not helpful to the outcome, and definitely not for the relationship. It’s okay to ask to see a certain design revision, but it’s better to trust your designer to do the problem solving.
- Bad feedback example: Make the logo bigger, use this specific colour, see my attached mock-up.
- Good feedback example: I’d be keen to see a colour with more warmth and I’m concerned about the brand presence. Can you chat me through your rationale for the current design?
- Provide feedback in a consistent and consolidated way (i.e. one project lead consolidating thoughts and communicating via an agreed communication channel).
- If you need it, take some time to sit with the design. Gut reaction can often be right, however giving things time can bring new perspective and help balance emotional and rational reactions.
- Don’t let too many cooks spoil the broth. While it’s great to explore ideas with family and friends, when their opinions begin to muddy your own, you’re on a fast track to a Frankenstein design.
- It’s really considerate to send a quick response email when you’ve received or been presented concepts. Just something quick to say you’ve got it, thanks, will touch base by X date. Designers turn grey waiting for feedback on initial designs.
Feedback isn’t (and shouldn’t be seen as) personal, it’s certainly not something a designer should be offended by or a client should be apprehensive about providing, but delivery matters. The designer holds responsibility here too, but that’s a whole other post for another day. As with everything in business and life, communication is key to healthy relationships. Provide feedback with clarity and empathy front of mind, and you will enjoy the process a whole lot more and get better results for it.