Guiding principles for design feedback

Giving feedback on your designer or design agency’s work can be a daunting prospect. The purpose of feedback is to ensure the design achieves the right result while maintaining a good client/designer relationship. That said, we understand that knowing what kind of feedback to give can be difficult, especially if you haven’t been told what to look for.

In our case, it’s in our best interest to produce designs that will help our client accomplish their objectives, so we welcome feedback on our work that can help ensure the right result. However, there are a few guiding principles that ensure that the feedback and comments you provide are constructive and won’t hinder productivity.

Objectivity

It’s impossible to be completely objective when reviewing designs, of course. Subjectivity is what makes us individual and so personal preference is bound to factor into feedback. But it’s important to do your best to put aside personal preference for the good of the project because, despite being perfectly reasonable, subjectivity is not practical.

Designers don’t choose features such as font and colour etc. based on to their personal preference, rather these elements are chosen as a result of in-depth brand and market analysis. For instance, if a designer has chosen a blue colour, they probably did this to imply trust and honesty, which they believe to be characteristics that best represent the brand. If you have negative feelings associated with that colour, then you are not speaking for the target audience or your brand, but for yourself.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t give feedback on design elements you don’t like. All we are suggesting is that, when you do, the criticism should be directed at the reason a decision was made, rather than just the visual result.

Keep a tight pool

Try to limit the number of people who are responsible for giving feedback on designs. Ideally, only a small number of people should be involved in the project to ensure more practical feedback. When assessing designers’ work, there is always the temptation to share it with everyone in the company and get a generalised perspective from as many people as possible. However, this is unlikely to help.

Opening the floor to general criticism will invite a flood of subjective opinions, which will usually contradict each other or be counter-productive. This amount of feedback would not only take time to sort out and organise but is unlikely to offer designers constructive criticism.

Try to keep the collection of people included in the feedback process small and make sure they have followed the development of the project from the beginning. Feedback should come from those who understand what it is the design is trying to portray so they are able to make contextualised comments.

Communicate with your team

Once you have your group, it’s important that you work closely with them. Feedback should be consolidated, with any in-house disagreements ironed out before you communicate with the designers. Designers need you to reply as a company – rather than a group of individuals – so that your feedback is cohesive and decisive.

Don’t be prescriptive

It’s very natural to want to give specific recommendations on a design when giving feedback, but it’s actually far more productive to point out something you don’t agree with and explain what is it you don’t like about it. This gives designers the opportunity to address the problem in a way that specifically targets what is it you want to accomplish. For instance, if a colour is wrong, there are two ways you can tell the designer:

“This colour doesn’t work, I think you should make it darker or maybe a green.”

Or

“This colour doesn’t work because it suggests strength and competitiveness, while we want to be approachable and friendly.”

The first example gives a designer little to work with and, if they were to apply a green colour, the brand could be associated with values such as health or peace, which might not be in line with your strategy. The latter example brings up the problem with the reasoning behind it. This empowers the designer to solve that problem using their knowledge and experience, offering you the best possible solution.

Look at a bigger picture

At least to begin with, try not to focus on the minor details. At the beginning of a project, there will be a lot of minor issues yet to be addressed and focusing on those can turn the conversation overwhelmingly negative. Make sure your designer has given you a set of instructions on what they are looking for in terms of feedback and do your best to stick to those guidelines. They will give you coordinates of what to look at and what requires your input.

Towards the end of the process, criticism will become less broad and more granular, and that’s a good thing. When you’re looking into the specifics, usually that means you’re at the design equivalent of dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. But when you’re at the building-block stage, it’s wise to focus on building the foundations before you start picking out curtains.

 

Those are our guiding principles for the factors to consider when assessing work from your designers. One last point we recommend is to meet face to face to give feedback where possible – especially early on. Feedback over email can sound much harsher than in person, and it reduces the chances of misinterpretation.

These points, of course, don’t delve into many of the individual factors that make a good design, all of which will require objective critical thinking as part of a cohesive group. If you want to know more about how designers can help your business, get in touch via our contact page and we’ll be happy to address any questions you have.

 

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash