Why “jazz it up” doesn’t quite cut it.
Like any project, feedback is a key part to the creative process. From working on a brand design overhaul to creating a poster, stakeholder input keeps us on track. However, vague comments and questions won’t do. Creative feedback needs to be clear, considered, and constructive to be effective. This not only allows designers to grow by pushing us to think differently. It helps you get the results you want, rather than settling.
We understand that giving good feedback can be tough when you’re not down with the lingo (is that what the kids say these days?). You may not be aware you’re not speaking the same language, and unwittingly giving feedback that causes needless confusion.
To lend a helping hand, here are our top tips to give more effective creative feedback:
Avoid vague or over descriptive comments
“Make it pop”: the three most feared words for any creative. Along with “I just don’t like it” or “it looks weird”, vague comments like these add unnecessary guesswork. Without a clear direction, we will be in the dark about your vision and the design will suffer.
Instead, get specific. The more niche the comment, the better. Is it the colour? What about the colour do you not like? “Make it pop” could become “We need the title to stand out more. Can we see more options using a different colour or type treatment?”. And don’t forget that all important ‘why’. Knowing why something needs to be changed means we can avoid making the same mistake twice.
However, don’t be too descriptive. Although helpful when kicking off branding projects, at the feedback stage it muddies the water. Big descriptive words are easy to interpret in a variety of ways and what you want could be missed entirely. For example, “more testosterone” could become “The colours feel too feminine for our target audience. Can we see more examples?”. Tell us why you don’t like a particular aspect, before reaching for the thesaurus.
Is it an impossible request?
Great design takes complex ideas and reimagines them into something that is both well-crafted and accessible. Design is a form of art, but it is still grounded in functionality. And so not everything is possible. Certain colours, shapes and fonts don’t work together, no matter how much try. And one project or campaign cannot answer all your problems. A logo cannot (and should not) tell your story, how much you charge and how you take your coffee in the morning. A poster can only fit so much text before there’s too much. It then becomes overwhelming and none of it is read. By asking for everything in a single design, you will be disappointed.
Instead, work out the core goal for each project and include it in the initial brief. This way the designer can work to one unified goal, with the ability to refer back to it and compare their design to the brief. And if we don’t think it’s possible within the project constraints, we will advise alternative solutions. This is not us being awkward, I promise. It’s us making sure you don’t have to settle for mediocre.
Multiple stakeholder projects can be tricky for all parties. There’s feedback coming from all directions. Email, video calls, PDFs, some random guy in IT whose offhand comment means the director wants the whole project changed (no joke, it happens). From a creative viewpoint, all we really need is feedback in one place laid out in a clear manner. This avoids confusion and ensures nothing gets missed. Do this by:
· Having one project manager in charge of collating everything into one place.
· Writing down all copy amends to avoid spelling mistakes.
· Answering any internal queries from the client before coming back to the designer, unless it needs their input.
· Using an online Excel sheet or Word document where everyone can put their amends in at once.
· Using one PDF where amends can be added.
· For video feedback, sharing videos via Frame.io to allow for timestamped feedback that everyone can see.
Sometimes you’re having a bad day, nothing is going right, and you get pulled into a feedback meeting that you’re not in the mood for. At its best, this results in feedback that focuses solely on the bad. At its worst, the feedback is taken out on the designer rather than the design. It can be easy to point the finger, but we all know that sinking feeling when the negative points keep piling up without an end in sight. Your designer will become frustrated, and a lack of motivation will set in. So when giving creative feedback, opt for the sandwich technique: one positive item, one negative, one positive.
Knowing the positives isn’t just there to stroke our egos. It means we get to know what’s working for you and your clients. So in the future, we can use that knowledge to create designs that you’re proud to share.
In short, creativity works at its best with collaboration. Amazing things can happen when people work together. So next time you come to giving design feedback, don’t let your ideas get lost in translation. Keep these tips in mind and you will not only increase the efficiency of the creative process, but you’ll also have even better working relationships with that fabulous designer of yours (who? Me? Oh, you’re so kind).