by Rishi Patel

When working with a graphic designer to create a marketing piece, giving honest and useful feedback is trickier than it seems.

Giving feedback can be awkward for those not used to working with professional designers, but professional designers know it’s part of the job to receive feedback.

In fact, more experienced designers welcome feedback early and often ─ it helps us do our job more efficiently.

The hardest part of a project for designers is often getting useful feedback that actually moves the project forward.

Introducing Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is crucial for a design project to be completed effectively and affordably. But what exactly is constructive feedback and why is it so important?

Staying “On Brief”

Most design projects start from a brief of some kind. The brief’s purpose is to establish a strategy that solves the business problem.

It’s easy as a design client to get ahead of yourself and draw inaccurate conclusions about what the design should look like.

Constructive feedback helps the project stay inline with the strategy by forcing you (and the designer) to approach the process in a step-by-step method.

Eliminating Revisions (And In Turn, Costs)

Unnecessary revisions are the quickest and easiest to rack up an enormous design bill. I’ve seen many projects where poor feedback leads the designer down the wrong path, leading to avoidable revisions.

Constructive feedback encourages short, fast iterations. It forces you to view the design in context with with the brief, improving decision making.

Giving Constructive Feedback

Now that we’ve established the characteristics of good constructive feedback, we need to figure out how to create and supply it.

Giving constructive feedback isn’t difficult once you’ve learned the basics.

Following these guidelines for providing constructive feedback will ease tensions during the feedback cycle and ensure you get the most value out of your design project.

Be Direct, But Frame Your Feedback

As professional designers, we expect to run into criticism.  Even the best designers won’t hit a home run every time, and we know it. So go ahead and tell us loud and clear if you hate the work ─ we’ll get over it.

However, being direct isn’t enough on its own. Be careful to frame your statements. “The tagline gets lost in the busyness of the page” is much more effective than “This just doesn’t do it for me.”

Better still, ask plenty of questions. As professionals, we do a whole lot of research and learning. We make decisions based on the knowledge we glean and, most of the time, our logic is pretty sound.

Respect Boundaries

Related to the last point, you should know your boundaries. Although specific feedback is welcomed, avoid prescribing solutions. That’s what you pay us for.

Examples of prescriptive feedback include comments like the infamous “Make the logo bigger!”

Simply tell us what does and doesn’t work about the design and why. If you can tie your comment to a business goal, you’ve hit the jackpot.

Don’t DIY It

The most useless form of feedback is a comp. Getting a comp of a design just means that we have to rebuild that comp and guess at what you were trying to solve with it.

What a waste of our time and your money!

Being Creative vs. Being a Designer

I’m sure you’ll want to  show the designs to others people ─ friends, family, and coworkers. Please remember that although your significant other may be very creative, he or she is not a seasoned, trained designer.

You’re likely to receive many pieces of feedback and some of it will probably conflict. Paying your design team to decipher 27 pages of scribbles & notes probably isn’t the best use of your project budget.

If you can distill the feedback down to the most few most important, clear points you’ll receive a much more pleasing result.

Present Your Feedback

Not everything can be communicated effectively through email. For the best results, set up a time to go over the feedback with your designer.

We might need clarity on certain points, or need to explain something to you visually. Emailing back and forth wastes a lot of time.

Don’t Expect Instant Revisions

When we receive your feedback, we need to evaluate and prioritize each point as it relates to solving your business problem.

Some of your requests won’t be actionable, and some changes may be broken out into their own round of feedback. Without the time to objectively analyze your feedback, we can’t make these decisions.

Above all, don’t ask us to make a change while you look over our shoulder. There’s nothing more distracting and unproductive.

What feedback advice do you have?

Whether you’re an experienced designer or a veteran design client, I’d love to hear your tips and advice. Share your comments below.