How to give effective design feedback

As a client, it can be a challenge to express your vision for your logo, brochure, ad design, website, etc. When it comes to the design of your next piece of marketing collateral, you probably already have something in mind, or maybe you’re one of those “you’ll-know-it-when-you-see-it” type folks. Either way, once you’ve communicated your initial vision to your designer, there will come a point in the process where you have to critique the first pass that the designer sends over.

Here’s where things get interesting...

Giving that feedback to your designer is mission critical to getting the job done well, on time, and on budget. While your designer should have the skills to intuit a lot of what you’re saying, there are several things you, as the client, can do to make sure you are giving effective design feedback and to – as a result – streamline the whole process.

Here are 6 things to keep in mind when you are giving feedback to your graphic designer:

  1. Adjectives are subjective When you say “pop” the designer hears “high contrast” but you might mean “yellow”. When a different client says “pop” the designer still hears “high contrast” but you might mean “drop shadow”. See what I mean? Master the art of taking a screenshot so you can provide visual references and provide examples to illustrate those adjectives clearly.

  2. Computer monitors can render colors differently It’s important to make sure your screen is well calibrated and – if all else fails – print the piece with a high quality printer to make sure you are seeing the colors accurately. Your designer may have intended that blue to lean towards aqua, not teal.

  3. “Design by committee” can be very damaging to the design process As fun as it sounds to involve all of your employees, your grandmother, your father-in-law, and the neighbor next door in the design process, this can be detrimental. Think of the “too many chefs in the kitchen” analogy – when you get too many people involved, the creative message gets lost, the visual impact is diluted, and you lose control over something you actually know the most about: your business. It is your business and you hired a professional, keep the feedback limited to the two of you as much as possible. Ask 1 or 2 of your closest colleagues for their thoughts if you must, but no more.

  4. Designers want MORE feedback from you, not less You may feel like leaving some of your thoughts out of the feedback process, assuming the designer already knows what you’re thinking. More feedback is always better than less. Get specific, and lay everything out there. DISCLAIMER: This does not mean you should send your stream of consciousness to your designer. No one likes reading 10 separate emails, which start with one thought, circle to another, then back again to the first one. Get clear on your thoughts, then provide thorough feedback. SECOND DISCLAIMER: Ask your designer how she prefers to receive feedback and honor that communication platform. Designers work with more than one a client at a time (usually) and you can help them stay organized by keeping all of your feedback on one platform (Slack, email, text, voicemail, choose one and roll with it).

  5. You’re not going to hurt her feelings During college, design majors go through dozens, if not hundreds, of design critiques from their peers, professors, and even potential employers. They are used to getting vulnerable, putting their work out there, and hearing “yeah, this kinda sucks” many times before they enter the professional realm. They’ve learned that negative feedback is just as helpful as positive feedback. If you don’t want to go in a certain design direction, they need to know that so they can change gears. Do us all a favor and be honest about how you feel about the design. Ditch the compliment sandwich. We are all adults here. This will greatly help expedite the process and will ensure that you are 100% happy with the finished product. A good designer retains that as their top priority anyway!

  6. The designer may actually know a thing or two about design (I know, right?) When your designer pushes back a little bit on some of your feedback, it probably isn’t because they aren’t open to feedback, it’s probably because they feel that specific piece of feedback might sacrifice the design integrity. Be willing to be pushed out of your comfort zone a bit and trust that your designer has got your back. Ultimately, they want a rocking portfolio piece too!

Bottom line: learn to give good design feedback. You’ll enjoy the process more and you’ll get more bang for your buck!


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