One of the toughest parts of a designer’s job is feedback. It’s not because we aren’t thick skinned, it’s because we are often left interpreting open ended comments from clients. While we are pretty amazing problem solvers, we haven’t yet tackled how to read minds.
So, why is this topic worthy of a blog post? Because clients are notorious for assuming that a designer is simply an Adobe Photoshop puppet. Normally a designer emails you a proof, you check it over and send back a list of changes you want them to make. This may seem effective, but from our standpoint it really does hinder the process.
Truth be told, we actually love feedback! It’s just a matter of how you handle the process.
Make sure you are on the same page
Before you begin to comment on a design, make sure both you and your designer are crystal clear on what exactly you are evaluating. Is this a final draft? Are there still content and image placeholders? Are you looking at the overall look and feel, the body copy font, the placement of the logo or how the color scheme will speak to your audience?
If you aren’t sure what the purpose of the design review is, ask! Take it step by step and piece by piece. A designer would much prefer you ask questions and take feedback in stages than simply bark out orders via an email without fully understanding the document at hand.
Assess the problems, not the solutions
Designers are visual problem solvers. As a client, the best thing you can do is identify the problems in a design. Yes, that can be more challenging than simply asking us to “remove the red in the header,” but it really isn’t. Identifying problems (the color in the header feels too harsh), as opposed to suggesting solutions (remove the red in the header), allows a designer to do what they do best – solve the visual problem at hand. If you can’t articulate why you want the designer to remove the red, you could be missing out on the best possible way to solve the problem.
We like a challenge. Don’t feel like you can’t argue your point. If you feel strongly about something, let it be known. Playing devil’s advocate can lead to exceptionally great brainstorming. While we hope you’ll consider our expert advice, we don’t want you to simply tell us to “do whatever you feel is right.” In the end, you won’t be satisfied with the final piece and we won’t feel as if we delivered our best work.
In the spirit of point two, if you’re not happy about a design, you need to tell me why you don’t like it. Do you feel it won’t work for your audience? Is it not conveying the message you originally intended? Be open, honest and direct. Just because your comment isn’t positive doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear it. Having said that, don’t be a jerk…we are all people here.
Please don’t use cliches. When you tell me that you need the piece to “pop” I am going to curse you under my breath. If you ask me to “jazz it up” I will give you the side eye. I can’t translate those phrases. You may interpret “pop” to mean use brighter colors, and I might think you want more embellishment. See how this can get dangerous? And word to the wise…whatever you do, do not tell a designer to make the logo bigger. Trust me, you don’t want to go there.
Leave your personal tastes at the door
This one is tough, really tough.
When talking with a designer, try and eliminate the word “like” from your vocabulary. As my freshman design professor would always say, “use your art speak!” Again, let’s go back to the why. Yes, you may like the design and it might be exactly to your taste, but I need to know why it is going to work for your business in your feedback. Does the design align with your business goals? Will your audience respond to it? If so, excellent. If not, we need to keep designing.
The big takeaway here is that you are not your business. Your living room has different goals and needs than your company logo. More than likely, they won’t share the same palette or audience. You may not like gray, maybe you are more of a beige person, but your target demographic responds favorably to trends; go with the gray.
Just like your Mom told you in the third grade, “there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Design reviews and feedback meetings are safe spaces. Anything can be asked or challenged. I take immense pride in my work, and when you ask questions it shows me that you value what I do and that you are equally as invested in the project.
If you are in fact bold enough to have left your personal tastes at the door, asking questions can help you understand how I identified a solution to your problem. It’s like reviewing my work on a math test, you can see how I got there.
Always ask the designer for their professional opinion. Not only will this breed new levels of trust, but you may be surprised with what they have to say. Their perspective is a valuable one. After all, you did hire them for a reason.
Don’t let a committee get involved
Every designer has been there at least once, and when they have, they grow to loathe design by committee. This is even more frustrating than, “make the logo bigger.” Yes, it’s that bad.
Ultimately, some projects require feedback from several people. If this is the case, you as the client have some responsibilities. First, make it clear to your designer and your colleagues that you are the point person and ultimately the decision maker on the project. If this is not agreed upon, go back to your drawing board before you come to mine.
Second, never openly ask people what they think. Be very specific. Everyone gets “jazzed” (see what I did there?) when you get to the final stages of design. There is suddenly something to see and everyone wants to be a part of the process. Everyone wants to play designer. Please don’t let them. After asking your specific questions, compile their feedback into a list and decide which comments are important enough to share with the designer. Don’t let the designer in on your internal email chains, it won’t result the way you want it to.
Give it time
Let it sit for a bit. Yes, your gut reactions have some merit, but they aren’t the only reaction a design should garner. Before you send an email with an immediate response, let it sit. I also caution against sending late night emails to your designer, because nothing good happens after 2 a.m.
Knowing and understanding that the design currently on your desk is a solution to a problem, contemplate the reasons behind decisions, jot down notes and set up a meeting with your designer. You will be able to have a productive and informed conversation that is solely focused on the end result for your audience.
Think twice before sending your designer an email at 2 a.m. with a bulleted list of “solutions” to a design they have been working on. Is that really providing the with the feedback they need?
Make it work
Collaboration breeds better design, and the more perspectives you bring to the table, the more challenges arise and the more potential solutions will be identified.
Don’t sell yourself, your designer, or your design short by breaking the rules of great client feedback.
Do you have any techniques that you regularly use with your designer to produce great work? I would love to hear them! Please post in the comments below!