05. How to provide constructive feedback to your designer

Design is reliant on constructive feedback. It is an iterative process that requires clear and honest communication between the designer and the client. Over the past two years I have had good and bad experiences with client feedback, and the bad feedback could easily have been avoided by following a few guidelines.

I’ve drawn up a list of tips on how to give your designer constructive feedback they can actually use.

01. Remember your audience

With each branding project we deliver a minimum of three mood board concepts, and three logo concepts. The client has to review the options and provide either a final choice, or feedback to assist us to reach the final design. The most common pitfall with having to choose between options is that clients have the tendency to simply choose their favourite one. The problem with this is that you are not necessarily your audience.

Your target market or audience, whichever term you prefer, are the ones that purchase your product and/or make use of your service. They are the ones that you want your brand to resonate with. You might love bright colours and fun design, but if you’re an intellectual property lawyer, you might want to go for a brand that is minimal, formal and professional.

Always remember to step into the shoes of your audience when giving feedback to your designer. This helps to ensure that your feedback is in line with the design brief. View an example below.

POOR FEEDBACK: ‘I don’t like the yellow, it’s too much’.

CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK: ‘I feel like our older audience might prefer a more muted colour palette, could we try a darker yellow or grey instead?’

02. Use action words

It’s really important to provide actionable feedback to your designer; in other words, feedback than can actually be implemented. Avoid using phrases such as ‘it’s not working’ or ‘I don’t like it’, as these terms can not be actioned. Your designer will be confused, and probably a little disappointed. Try to guide your designer with directions and instructions, like the example below.

POOR FEEDBACK: ‘I’m not sure why, but I don’t like it. It’s not what I had in mind.’

CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK: ‘I don’t like the way element X crosses element Y, how would it look if you moved the two further apart’, OR ‘Please remove element X, I prefer the design without it.’

03. Trust your designer, don’t micro-manage them

I recently had a terrible experience with a client who micro-managed me from start to finish. They didn’t trust any advice I gave them and eventually I was so beat, I gave up all attempts to stay true to my design knowledge and just did everything exactly as they asked. Do you know what the worst part is – both of us lost. I walked out of the project emotionally drained with a knock to my confidence, and the client walked away with a disjointed brand & an awkward-looking albeit functional website.

When you book a designer, you are paying not only for the deliverables and for their time – you are paying for their expertise and their knowledge. If you spent a bit of time looking for a designer, and you found someone with valuable insights and an impressive portfolio, chances are they know a thing or two about design. It’s important that you respect their insights and that you collaborate with them, not work against them.

There will always be revisions, as I said, design requires iteration; but if you are concerned with a certain problem, chat to your designer and see how you can come up with a solution as a team. I’ve included a relevant example below.

POOR FEEDBACK: ‘Liétte, just quickly, could you please change all the headings on the website to a grey that’s one shade darker, I think it will make it pop more.’

GOOD FEEDBACK: ‘I’m concerned that there might not be enough contrast between the heading and the background, I’m struggling to read it on my side. Could we look at a few solutions to fix that?’

04. Ask questions!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. As designers, we sometimes forget that not everyone knows what the difference is between a primary logo and a secondary logo, or which logo file to use on your website.

You might be avoiding asking questions because you think you’ll look silly or because you’re scared you’re wasting time, but remember that every designer wants their client to walk away confidently with their new brand in hand. Asking questions is a form of constructive feedback because it highlights parts of the design the designer might have missed or not explained well. It creates dialogue and opens communication which is imperative to reaching a final design.

Asking questions will ensure that you and your designer stay aligned and it means that you fully walk away with a complete understanding and appreciation of your new brand.

POOR FEEDBACK: ‘I don’t like the font you used in Concept 2’.

CONSTRUCTIVE QUESTION: ‘I’m not sure about the font in Concept 2, would you mind explaining your reasoning behind the font choice? I’d love to hear your thoughts.’

05. Be kind

Design is a lot like cooking. You plan beforehand what you want to make, you gather all the things you need to make it, and you spend hours working on it, perfecting every little detail to make sure the final product is perfect. When you present it to someone, and they spit it out, it’s heartbreaking. But when someone gently puts down their fork and tells you how to improve it next time, you come out of it feeling like a little bit less of a failure.

Don’t get me wrong, designers are accustomed to negative feedback, and we’re pretty thick-skinned; but putting in hours of work only to be told it looks crap is just not how you want to start your day.

Clients, don’t be scared to give negative feedback, this whole post encourages open and honest communication, please just be mindful of how you do it. After two years of sending out design concepts, I still find it mildly terrifying. It’s an intimate and vulnerable process, so be honest, but be kind too!

POOR FEEDBACK: ‘No, this is just not working for me.’

CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK: ‘I can see you’ve worked hard on this presentation and I appreciate all your effort. I really like the thought behind the logo, but I’m not sure if it’s the best fit. I have a few suggestions, can we arrange a time to talk? Once again, thanks for the hard work.

Constructive feedback is a skill, and it improves over time. Hopefully you’ve taken something valuable from this post that you can use in your next project. Remember to get in touch if you have any questions regarding constructive feedback!

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