Tips For Providing Your Designer With Helpful Feedback

“The key to good feedback is a balance of heart and mind.”

Ryan Donahue, VP of Global Design at Zendesk

Tips For Providing Your Designer With Helpful Feedback

Tactics for giving great feedback

If you’re a client or project manager who needs to provide feedback to your designer, keep these guidelines in mind. The three worst words a designer can hear: “Make it pop.” It just doesn’t mean anything.

Vague design feedback doesn’t give your designer enough information to move forward. A lot of times these comments are based on gut reactions. “I just don’t like it.” Alright, well why? “This looks weird.” What does weird mean? “Make it better.” Is that one thing? Or a bunch of things? Keeping things vague adds an unnecessary level of guesswork to your design process. And contrary to popular belief, a designer cannot read your mind. Without clear direction, designers are in the dark about your vision, and your final design will suffer.

Be specific:

Be very, very specific. Describe exactly what you’re looking for. Ask yourself first :

  • Is it a color issue? 
  • Is the layout weird? 
  • Is the font a little stale?

Instead of “make it pop,” you could say, “I need the title to stand out more. Could you give me some other font or color choices?” Or if words are failing you, use very clear visual examples that illustrate your design direction. Find something that “pops” for you, and tell your designer what you like about it.

In short, figure out exactly what your gut reactions are and use clear words to collaborate with your designer to find an awesome solution together.

Ask questions and listen:

Great designers will push back when your creative vision just isn’t feasible or if they think they’ve found a better solution. Ask them lots of honest questions, but trust them to know the best way to approach your project. If you don’t understand something, feel free to ask why. By working together, you’ll be able to create something that you’re both proud of.

Don’t be confuse:

Confusing feedback like this will lead to an endless chain of revisions that will result in your frustration and designer burn-out. Being confusing is just as bad as being vague.Big descriptive words are great for kicking off a brief and providing creative inspiration. That’s when you can invite your designer to really be inventive.

Just say what you mean:

Be specific or your designer will make a decision for you. Is it “less pink and more blue”? Is it “sharper lines and fewer curves”? Is it “a can of Miller Lite, a pickup truck, and a smoking shotgun”? Try to compose your feedback in the simplest possible way. If your design needs “more testosterone,” for example, tell your designer what that actually means to you.

Understand your boundaries:

A design can’t do everything. Keep your requirements simple, clear and easy to understand. Consider running your creative brief or feedback by a few other stakeholders. They’ll be able to tell you if your comments don’t make sense or are unrealistic.

Do not use wrong words:

Do not say “bleed” when you mean “trim”. Do nott ask to adjust the “kerning” when you mean “tracking”. Don’t request a “darker shade” when you really want a “lighter tint”.

Designers are taking direction from you. The more precise you can be with your design feedback, the better. Knowing what you want but using the wrong words will add confusion and delay the progress of your design.

Highlight real examples:

“Whether providing reinforcing or redirecting employee feedback, specificity is important for learning,” explains Lexi Croswell. Be sure to ask yourself, “Which behavior did I appreciate? Which behavior do I want to see more of? Why?”

Give feedback regularly:

If you want your best talent to stick around, it’s important to give feedback regularly. Weekly 1:1s are a great time to share feedback about work behaviors, while design feedback should be given during critiques and retrospectives.

Give Respect and Be Patient:

For those whom are providing feedback, it’s important to remember this and to remain respectful and patient when providing feedback to our colleagues. Doing this will allow the feedback process to be more effective, and ensure the recipient is more receptive to our opinions.


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