How to Give Effective Feedback

feedback-520527_640Many of Solamar’s clients first discovered us because they saw a website or a brand they loved; and after doing a little digging to find out who created it, they reached out to our agency to design something equally amazing for them. We also do a lot of design work for clients who originally come to us for marketing strategy and support; and when a design need pops up — a new logo, business card, flyer or landing page — they ask us to whip something up.

The good news is, we have a track record of wowing clients and hitting the ball out of the park on the first swing; but it’s always important for clients to understand that the best design and branding work is most likely to happen when the client communicates clearly and honestly throughout the design process.

Without sharing as much information as possible about what you want, it’s nearly impossible for any designer to get it right, much less on the first attempt. In the first blog in this two-part series, we covered How to Communicate Your Vision With a Designer.

But expressing your needs and desires to bring your vision to light at the outset is just the beginning. Once the process is in motion, and you have your first draft or mock up in hand, what next? Maybe the designer missed the mark from your perspective or didn’t quite knock your socks off. How do you handle giving effective feedback for the next stage of the process?

In my role as an account manager, I’ve encountered three general types of reactions when a client is less than impressed with the first round of a design process:

  • Outright dissatisfaction, which sounds a bit like this: “I hate it. This isn’t what I expected. I just hate it.”
  • Reluctant displeasure, which sounds more like this: “I’m so sorry, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Please tell the designer I appreciate his work, but I don’t really like it and I’m not sure what to do.”
  • Quiet acceptance, which comes with a simple, “thanks!” And we are none the wiser until months later when we hear something like, “Well, I never liked the design of X in the first place, and now you’ve made Y look just like it.”

Understandably, you’re upset when something does not turn out the way you were hoping. It’s perfectly natural to have an emotional response. The next step, however, is to begin moving forward in the process by providing constructive feedback. That way, the next round will take you closer to what you want, or even better, nail it.

When providing feedback to your designer, use the following guidelines:

Be Honest

Rest assured that designers are professionals, and they are fully prepared and expecting to have their work critiqued. You have to work against your natural instinct to try and make everything better by glossing over how you really feel. If you aren’t honest with your feedback, there is almost no chance you’ll end up with something you like, because your designer won’t be working with accurate information.

Go for Constructive not Destructive

Try to convey your honesty in a way that builds towards something you want, rather than simply tearing apart what you don’t want. Take the time to sit with the design, reflect, think, and figure out why it turned out differently than you had hoped. Ask questions about choices you don’t like so that you and the designer are on the same page about what you are discussing. Be specific. It’s not enough just to say you “like” or “dislike” something. Ask why. If you don’t like a specific element of a design, don’t say you don’t like the entire design — instead, point out and explain the specific thing that is bothering you. If fact, the words “like” and “dislike” are only meaningful if you further qualify them: “I like/don’t like this because…”

Focus on Function

Keep in mind that the goal is always for your design to perform a function or a set of functions. You want the design to do something — to inspire your audience to take action. You may want them to buy, opt-in or read more. If you think the design is interfering with that desired function, make sure you express that. For example, are you worried your opt-in form isn’t positioned prominently enough? Say that, rather than just saying something like, “move the box to the left and make it wider.” Remember, it is the designer’s job to figure out what changes would be best to solve the problem that you have.

Remain Open-Minded

Once you’ve asked questions to determine why decisions have been made in your design, open yourself up to possibilities other than what you originally wanted. Try not to let your personal bias overwrite design choices. If you don’t like the color green, but green is the best color to convey the qualities your business is trying to convey, then using green in the design should at least be on the table. If you want the logo to be bigger, but that would distract from a more important element, reconsider making it bigger. If you want the opt-in box to be in a certain position on the screen, but a different layout tends to convert better, take the designer’s suggestion into consideration.

Say What You Really Mean

We tend to revert to buzzwords or empty phrases we’ve heard somewhere before when we are not quite sure how to convey what we want. But the trouble with these terms is they are often not specific enough and you are assuming that the other person knows what you mean. Avoid “marketing speak” in place of clear and direct language. For example, rather than say, “make it pop,” say, “I can’t see the text very well. I feel like it blends in with the background too much,” or say, “ The colors in this logo are more appropriate for a traditional corporate logo. I want my customers to see the logo and know that I have a high-energy, fun, bubbly personality.”

Stay True to You

One of the biggest mistakes we encourage business owners to avoid is getting too many people involved in the design process. When you are unsure, you only open yourself up to more uncertainty and vulnerability when you start asking everyone you know for feedback and input. Too many cooks in the kitchen leads to endless revisions and unhappiness, and the whole design process can go off the rails quickly. If you value input from a few select colleagues, of course that is okay, but be sure to ask specific questions related to the design, rather than seek general “what do you think of this?” input.  If you do solicit feedback and input, filter through it, decide what you think is useful, and present it to the designer yourself.

Most importantly, think of design as an iterative process. Your expectation with any designer should always be that there may be more than one round to get it exactly right. Understand that there can be a huge improvement from one revision to the next. Keep communication open, honest and constructive, and you’ll be sure to get a design that you love.

Give our team a call, and we’ll be happy to move through the design process with you. Let’s plan to hit it out of the park on the first attempt, but know that a few more swings may be what you need to get what you want.

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