One of the greatest tasks a creative team faces is interpreting design feedback from a client. It’s a difficult job for various reasons, however, it’s worth noting that, for the creative team, this feedback, unlike a critique from peers, such as an art director or a creative director, originates from those who are paying the creative team to solve a business problem. It may be unnatural for a client to understand “design-speak,” and may be unrealistic for the creative team to hold their clients to that standard. For this reason, there is both an art in how the client communicates feedback, as well as how the creative team carries out the design revisions. We’re going to help make a science out of that art.
The creative process typically starts with a meeting between the client and the creative team, to discuss the client’s business needs. During this meeting, the creative team has the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the client, and can begin mulling over solutions that fit the needs of the client. The two parties will part ways after this meeting, leaving the creative team with time to get working, ultimately resulting in a deliverable for the client — some sort of visual interpretation of the needs the client. From here on out, the ball is in the client’s court, so to speak; the client is left with the deliverables, and with a creative team awaiting some sort of feedback on how to proceed to complete the project.
Here are a few tips for providing good feedback to your creative team:
1. Be clear on what you are giving feedback on
In any given design, there are bound to be many areas to provide feedback on. Let your creative team know what, directly, you are identifying needs additional work. Are you responding to fonts, colors, structure, or navigation? What are your expectations of the creative team for the changes you’d like made?
2. Try not to micro-manage
When providing feedback, it’s important to remember the reason in which your creative team of choice was hired. This might be because your Director of Marketing is the former roommate of your brother’s cousin’s nephew, so you’ve got that in common, but it might (probably is) also due to the experience and skill of the creative team. Providing clear and concise feedback in terms of organizational guidelines and expectations is of great help to your creative team of choice.
3. Don’t worry about hurting feelings
With that said, this is about business — your business, to be exact. Be sure to make your feedback known, and don’t worry that it could get personal. If your creative team has hurt feelings over your feedback, it may be time to find a new team.
4. Be disciplined
A typical schedule for review goes like this:
- First Round Review: Identify any issues and provide feedback
- Second Round Review: Confirm issues from first round have been resolved and provide guidance if they haven’t
- Final Round: Approve and move forward
If you regularly have more than three rounds of feedback with your creative team, some discipline is needed. Sometimes this requires being more specific during your initial feedback, and devoting the time that’s needed for this process; other times it requires your creative team to be more attentive to your requests. Inevitably, though, time investment at the beginning of a project equates to time saved at the end of a project.
5. Good feedback relates to your business needs
Bad feedback is subjective. Good feedback is objective. Identifying a color that cannot be used in a design is helpful, but identifying the “why” yields even greater guidance. “Red doesn’t work for us, however, we’ve found our audience engages more consistently with blue,” is great feedback. Your creative team may not know how to move forward if the feedback is simply, “We don’t like red.” They can, however, help to meet your business goals when they are communicated to them.
6. Know what you want
If you don’t know what you want, it can be difficult for your creative team to know what you want. Defining clear objectives before your project begins will enable the wonderful, and sometimes magical, tool of design to fully solve a business objective.
7. Distill your feedback
If you are the lead on your team, and are responsible for communicating feedback to your creative team of choice, be sure to settle any internal debates and disagreements prior to providing feedback. Present your creative team with a document that has been compiled clearly and is full of strong, definite decisions. Designing for incomplete or indecisive feedback will only end up costing time, money, and additional budget.
8. Ask questions
Always feel free to pick up the phone and call your creative team for guidance. Communication is part of the package you’re paying for, and your team is probably waiting by the phone to hear from you! Holding on to questions and concerns until feedback is due almost guarantees an extended project timeline, especially when design revisions are involved. Your creative team is there to help — utilize them!
Giving good feedback isn’t hard, but it certainly takes practice. Be specific, give good examples, respect your creative team, and when you’re able, provide a detailed creative brief. If you do, you’ll have a design you love, a business that’s successful, and maybe even a boss that thinks you’re a hero!