9 Tips For Giving Designers Better Feedback

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Like with the word "artist," I think when people hear the word "designer" they sometimes think of one (or several) of these descriptors: nerd, techie, IT person, hard to communicate with, quiet, introvert, not personable, weird, unorthodox, etc.

While some of those things may be true for some designers, a portion of that is just a perceived stereotype based on a few bizarre individuals.

Stereotypes aside, I do want (and need) 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.

So, inspired by Sheila's blog post (on the same topic) over at Apex Creative, I've decided to list my own tips on how to communicate with your designer effectively, despite the personality differences that may exist.

1. START WITH GOOD COMMUNICATION

I can't read your mind, no matter how hard I try! Though, I will try to communicate with you as best I can, I also depend heavily on you to communicate your needs with me. I can't solve your design problems unless you tell me exactly what your needs are.

DON'T say:  "Yeah, It's okay."
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.

2. BE HONEST

I'm thrilled when a client truly loves a design so much they decide not to change a thing. However, this is actually pretty rare, and it should be. I'm never expecting that kind of reaction from a client, and when I do get it, I'm always a little concerned (after my initial excitement that I've hit the nail on the head!).

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.

DON'T say "I guess that's okay."
I still have no idea what your reservations are, or how to fix the design so that you really love it.

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 you're seeing, and I can adjust the design to fix the problem.

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 to hear from you 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 fit meet business goals as well.

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 alleviate that by either fixing the design (and the problem), or I can explain that what I've chosen to do in the design already addresses it.

4. ASK QUESTIONS

You may never know why I used that color or chose that font if you don't ask. Sometimes I take for granted that you don't already know a lot of the lingo, etc.. If I use terminology or create a design that you don't understand, ask me to explain!

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

If you list the problem, then it's easier for me to provide a solution. However, 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 for your needs.

It's not that I'm being difficult; it's just harder to know what you're trying to accomplish if you don't explain it first. Right?

DON'T say:  "Can you move the navigation 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'm not sure if I like the sidebar navigation. I'm concerned viewers won't be able to find it buried in the content like that. How can we make it easier to find?"
Your precise concerns have made the problem clearer to me. Now I can work on fixing the problem, 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.

Generally though, leave the designing to me please. Your Word document isn't really going to tell me anything really helpful about what you want. 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. 

DON'T say "I created this layout in Microsoft Publisher; can you work with that?"
Please, just don't. =) 1) Not everyone HAS Microsoft Publisher (and you may not know how to export the file to a pdf). 2) Remember you probably have limited design knowledge and resources. That's why you hired me, right? Basic things you can do in Publisher, I can do in my design software (and more), so just draw out a simple sketch if you're having trouble telling me what you want; I don't need your .pub file.


DO say:  “My target audience will be young and tech-savvy, so maybe have a lot of white space?"
Now I have a much better idea of how to create an effective design for your audience.

7. AVOID VAGUE FEEDBACK

"I need a jam up design this year!"
"Make it pop!"
"It needs more bling."

Those are not effective ways to communicate. I don't have a clue what a lot of those phrases mean to you, because they could mean something different to each individual that uses them. Be specific with what you want. If you literally want to "jazz it up," then tell me you think the design needs more energy and that it may be too boring for your target audience.

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."
Now 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?”

 
a comical example of why design-by-committee is usually not helpful

a comical example of why design-by-committee is usually not helpful

 

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).

So if you value my opinion and trust me as an expert, then ask. I may not get the chance to tell you otherwise.

DON'T say:  “I think we'll just stick with this one."
Whatever your reservation is, maybe you should ask for my opinion?

DO say:  “What do you think will work best for our company."
Now I get to share my expert opinion and help you make the best choice for you.

HAVE OTHER COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE OR SUGGESTIONS FOR A NEW BLOG? COMMENT BELOW! I'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

 

Inspiration thanks to: http://apexcreative.net/give-graphic-designer-feedback-11-easy-steps/

Katelyn Dekle

Studio 1862, P.O. Box 244, Calvary, Ga, 39828

I'm a freelance graphic designer. I've been designing for 10 years, and still love it! My passion is helping small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs become successful by providing professional branding and website design services.

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