9 Tips For Giving Designers Better Feedback
When you hear the word “artist” do you think of blue or green haired college kids with tattoos/piercings?
Designers sometimes draw a stereotype too, but typically more along the lines of nerds, techies, IT guys, or that we’re hard to communicate with, quiet, introverted, not personable, weird, unorthodox, would rather not listen to you in favor of creating something unique, etc.
While a handful of those things may be true for some designers, most of those stereotypes are based on a few bizarre individuals. The rest of us are just normal men & women. I’m a self-confessed introvert & home body, but I totally don’t have a problem chatting it up with my clients.
Stereotypes aside, introvert or not, I do want real feedback from my clients. In fact, a project with little to no feedback makes me feel like the client has checked out or doesn't care about the project which makes me wonder why I’m even doing the work in the first place?
How to communicate well with your designer:
1. START WITH GOOD COMMUNICATION
Things would be so much easier if I could read your mind during these projects, but alas, I cannot. I will communicate with you as best I can, but I also depend on you to tell me what you’re looking for, what you like/dislike about each proof set, and what you’re thoughts are. What are you marinating over with each proof set? I can't work toward solving your problems with an effective design unless you tell me exactly what’s going on inside your head. Don’t assume I already know whatever it is; you know what assuming does, right? (Makes an Ass our of u + me.)
DON'T say: “Yeah, It's okay.” or “That’ll work.”
I have no idea what your reservations are, or how to fix the design so that you REALLY LOVE it.
DO say: “It's almost there. I'm most concerned about the color orange being too strong. Is there another option that also conveys energy?”
Now I have a clear idea of the part you dislike, and I can address it directly, which makes BOTH of us happy!
2. BE HONEST
I'm beyond thrilled when a client loves a design so much they decide not to change a thing; that means I totally nailed it! Buuuuut this is actually somewhat infrequent so I'm never expecting that kind of reaction from a client. When I do get it, I'm always a little concerned (after my initial excitement that I've hit the nail on the head!), because I’m wondering if you’re just telling me what I want to hear… which means you’re settling & that’s not what you’ve hired me to do. Right?
Criticism is actually an integral part of the design process, and I promise that it won't hurt my feelings when you provide constructive feedback. That being said, you should still do your best to be polite; after all, whether you like the design or initially hate it, time and effort was dedicated to creating it with you & your business’ best interest in mind.
DON'T say: “I guess that's okay.”
I STILL have no idea what your reservations are, or how to fix the design so it can become exactly what you want.
DO say: “It's a great starting point! I love the nod to my competitor's style, but could it be too similar? I'd like to change it up a little more to make sure I really stand out.”
Now I know the problem from your perspective, and I can adjust the design to fix it.
3. AVOID THE WORD “LIKE”
I'm always glad when a client “likes” the design, but ultimately you aren't the only one that matters in the equation. What I'm really looking for is: a) whether or not you think it will be effective for your business, and b) if it will meet the needs of your target audience.
To be frank though, the effectiveness of the design does not necessarily rely on what you personally like. Although I do think it's always best when the design is both attractive AND effective, your design needs to work with your business goals too.
Instead of saying “like,” use more descriptive words to get the point across.
DON'T say: “I like the color!”
Why do you like it? Do you think it will be a good choice for your target audience, or do you just personally really like that color (possibly at the expense of appealing to your audience)?
DO say: “Although that color is a personal favorite, I'm really trying to convey energy in my logo. Does that color do that?”
Now I know what your concern is, and I can either alleviate that by either fixing the design (and the problem) or I can explain that why what I've already chosen to do addresses your concern. I don’t randomly choose things only because they look good, I usually have a specific reason for everything in the design from the colors to the graphics to the font choices.
4. ASK QUESTIONS
You may never know why I used that color or chose that font if you don't ask. I try really hard not to do this, but sometimes I slip & take for granted that you don't already know the lingo. If I use terminology you don't understand, just ask me to explain! I won’t mind a bit, I swear.
There's (almost, haha!) no such thing as a stupid question, especially regarding a field you're unfamiliar with. So please, feel free to ask and I will treat every question with respect.
DON'T say: “(nothing; silence)”
What are you thinking while you're quietly reacting to the design? Ask those questions and mention those concerns!
DO say: “I noticed you mentioned some terminology I didn't understand. What is raster and vector, and how does that apply to me/my business?”
Now I know I've miscommunicated by using design terminology I've forgotten to explain, so of course you're staring at me with a blank face while you try to work it out yourself! 😂
5. LIST YOUR PROBLEMS, DON'T SOLVE THEM YOURSELF
If you list your problems, then it's easier for me to provide solutions. If you vaguely tell me what your aim is or give me (too) specific directions on what to change, but not why you want me to change those things, then it's unlikely I can ever provide the right solution to your problem because I don’t know what your end game is.
It's not that I'm being difficult; it's just harder to know what you're trying to achieve if you don't explain your goals first. Right?
DON'T say: “Can you move the social media links to the top and make the text bigger? And change it to red?”
WHY are you asking for those changes? What are you trying to do? Maybe I can fix your problem by making other changes that you didn't even know were an option.
DO say: “I think I want to make my social media links more noticeable, can we move them to the top & make them a brighter color, like red?”
Your precise concerns have made the problem clearer to me. Now I can work on fixing it instead of constantly tweaking things here and there until we're finally on the same page (that's a REALLY lengthy & round about way to get things done, btw).
6. DON'T TRY TO CREATE YOUR OWN DESIGNS, PLEASE
If you're having trouble communicating what you want, a quick thumbnail sketch could definitely help me understand your vision. You don’t have to be an artist to get your point across that way, either.
Otherwise, please leave the designing to me. Your Word document isn't really going to tell me anything really helpful about what you want for multiple reasons. I have up-to-date industry standard software that I've been using for years, and with that I can come up with a more effective layout with tools you don’t even know exist. 😉 #justsayin
DON'T say: “I created this layout in Microsoft Publisher; can you just recreate that?”
Please, just don't. ✋🏻 1) Not everyone HAS Microsoft Publisher, myself included; 2) Remember you probably have limited design knowledge and resources. That's why you hired me, right? Draw out a simple sketch if you're having trouble communicating what you want.
Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell THEM what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell US what to do.”
DO say: “My target audience will be young and tech-savvy, so maybe have a lot of white space like the Apple website?”
Now I have a much better idea of how to create an effective design for your audience.
7. AVOID VAGUE FEEDBACK
“Make it pop!” or “Jazz it up”
“It needs more bling.”
“Use a block/cursive font.”
Those are not effective ways to communicate. I don't have a clue what a lot of those phrases mean to you, because they probably mean something entirely different to each individual that uses them.
Be specific with what you want. If you literally want to “jazz it up,” instead tell me you think the design needs more energy and that it may be too boring for your target audience; the vibe is wrong because you’re going for fun/energetic/exciting/etc. Use real descriptive terms so I can relate to what you’re looking for.
DON'T say: “Can you jazz it up some?”
I have no idea what your interpretation of “jazz it up” is.
DO say: “I think the design needs more energy. It might be too boring for my target audience.”
Nooooow I understand!
8. AVOID INVOLVING COMMITTEES
For this one, Shelia Patterson (from Apex Creative) said it best:
Oh, the dreaded design by committee. So Bob in accounting thinks the logo should be more round and happy, but Sue in marketing thinks it should be sharp and edgy… can we compromise? No, we cannot compromise.
As the saying goes, a mullet is a compromise between long hair and short hair. No matter how you view it, it’s just ugly.
If you must get feedback from several people, select only a few key players, and ask directed questions, like, “does this logo communicate strength?” or, “would these colors resonate with kids?”
Avoid asking them openly what they think, because everyone will feel like they get to chime in and play designer. Compile their feedback into a coherent list, and decide what is important and what is not (hint: you’ll be taking a lot of feedback with a grain of salt). Then present that list to your designer, and together you can go over it and discuss whether or not that input is appropriate for the brand.
Make sure your designer has only one point of contact (you); nothing is worse than getting conflicting input from several different people.
• [DON't say:] “Jane likes this, but Sarah said that, and Jon’s kid drew this! Oh, and my boss thinks it should be vomit yellow.”
• [DO say:] “Overall, everyone responded well to the idea of tying in mythology to our brand. However, some of them couldn’t tell if the logo was a lion or a tiger. Can you try rendering that a little differently to make that more clear?”
9. ASK FOR THE DESIGNER'S OPINION
I generally avoid giving clients my personal opinion of the work unless asked directly, because ultimately the design is for YOUR business. I will voluntarily give you my professional opinion when I deem it necessary during the process, but almost never before I hear your own feedback (because I don't want your opinion to be based on mine).
That being said, don’t let my explanation of the design be confused with my personal opinion of it. I can dislike a design I created, but still know it will work well for your business and your target audience. I don’t need to like the design for it to work well for you; that’s only a difference of personal aesthetic opinions.
Let me reiterate that one more time:
What I won’t give you is my personal opinion of the “prettiness” of the design, unless you ask. I will tell you why I chose the things I did in order to create the design or page layout that you’re seeing.
If you value my opinion and trust me as an expert, then you need to ask. I may not get the chance to tell you otherwise. 🙂
DON'T say: “That’s exactly what I asked for, but it doesn’t look like I expected… Nah, we'll just stick with this one.”
Whatever your reservation is, maybe you should ask for my opinion if I haven’t already given it to you at this point.
DO say: “What do you think will work best for our company?”
Now I get to share my expert opinion and help you make an informed decision which may or may not include some changes to the design.
Are you embarrassed to send clients to your current website?
SOUNDS LIKE YOU NEED A LITTLE HELP.
I design websites for female small business owners & entrepreneurs using Squarespace, putting the freedom & control back in your hands!
Content inspiration thanks to: http://apexcreative.net/give-graphic-designer-feedback-11-easy-steps/