How to provide design feedback

Notes from the Studio

How to provide design feedback in a constructive manner

Many times in my design practice, I work with clients who struggle to verbalize how they feel about a certain design or concept. They don’t know how to provide design feedback in a way that is not only useful but collaborative. 

And commercial graphic design, unlike art, is a subjective field wrapped in many layers of collaboration between client and designer. There is not right or wrong. There is the perception of what feels right and that can change from individual to individual.

In my case, as someone with a four year degree in design, I spent many hours going through project critique and feedback. I learned the ins and outs of useful feedback, and learned the questions one should ask when designing. 

So I teach my clients how to provide design feedback, and now I am going to help you understand what makes great, useful feedback for your graphic designer. 

Be specific

When you say things like “make it pop” you’re not providing your designer with a measurable direction in which to move. Some people interpret something popping as something that needs to be bigger, louder or even more colorful. 

The clearer you can be about what you don’t like, the quicker we can make changes that you do like. Is it the font? The colors? The images? The way the content blocks interact? 

How to practice this skill? Look at the cover of a magazine. Analyze all the elements. Point out the things you like and the things you don’t. Try to be exact. Does something need to be larger? How much larger? A percentage works. 

Be vulnerable

Your designer is invested in you loving this thing you’re paying for. They are also trying to provide you with a design that is original and will break from the norm. As much as your designer is learning about your business, you might have the opportunity to learn something new during the design process too. 

How to practice this skill? Imagine your designer is instead a dentist. Unless you’re a dentist yourself you might ask them for the reason they prefer a certain type of filling over another when fixing a cavity; instead of telling them they are wrong about it.

Your design is not a place to exhibit your artistic ability

It’s really easy to get caught up in what you like, after all this is your business. But the thing is, unless you directly fit into the target audience that you’re trying to sell to; your personal preferences don’t really matter in this project. 

If you’re working with a professional, you have outlined the goals for the project at the kickoff meeting. And your designer is making design decisions based on those goals. This part can feel very harsh, because design can be so subjective. So try to remember that you are paying the bill, but you’re not the audience you’re trying to convince to purchase your product or service.

Don’t micro-manage

Yes, I know you have to be specific. But you’ve hired a professional designer to help solve your design problems. So instead of telling them exactly what to do, present them with the problem you’re trying to solve when you provide design feedback.

For example, instead of saying “make this bigger,” saying “I feel like this might be hard for my audience to read” might lead to making the type bigger but it might also lead to a different kind of solution you might not have considered because you’re not a designer. In order to get your money’s worth, you need to let your designer make the decisions that help solve the problem; not just realize a specific vision in your head come to life. 

Provide samples

I ask my clients to show me samples of things they like, and things they don’t like in the early stages of a design project and while I’m getting to know them. Many times, an image captured off the internet or a picture snapped on a phone can be more valuable than a thousand words and explanations. If you’re having trouble communicating what you want, find a picture.

This is not to say you’re requesting that your designer copy a certain design or layout, it’s more about providing bumpers to keep your designer on track toward a solution that works for both of you.

Talk about your likes and your dislikes

It’s really easy to go down a path of discussing everything you dislike about a design. But, there has to be some value into the things the designer got right. Make sure you mention those. Providing your designer with positive feedback helps reinforce the trust in the client vendor relationship and everybody likes to get a compliment now and then.

Ask questions

Is there something you don’t understand? Ask a question! We love talking about design. And we love explaining why we do certain things. If you work with a professional designer, having a conversation about fonts or widget placement, or color trends is our favorite stuff to share with clients. Remember, it’s our job to be able to support why we’re solving the problem in a certain way. 

Are you looking for a graphic designer who can take your feedback and make magic happen? I might be the solution to your problems. Let’s chat.

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid Storey is originally from Panama and spent most of her early years traveling through Central and South America. She arrived in Denver in 2003. During the next decade-and-a-half, she’s juggled a career in a variety of creative and marketing roles while building her own studio, Storey Creative, with clients in real estate, health care, publishing, and tech.

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