Feedback is the life and soul of a design job.
Designers need feedback.
Designers want to work with you during the design process. We are on the same side, we care about your company and your brand, and your feedback. But not all feedback is created equal. Giving the right type of feedback is crucial to the success of a project. Let’s take a look at an example from a recent experience here at Awemous:
Having won a competitive pitch for work, our suggestions were accepted and progressed into artwork for the campaign.
Our first draft delighted the client and we received written confirmation that it was brilliant. However, a few days later, we were called in to present additional ideas to more people. These new ideas were called excellent. Yet, two days later, more amends were required. These new designs were described as much better (!). Several days later, the designs were required to ‘pop’ – no, we didn’t know either and nobody could explain to us what that meant.
So all the feedback we were given for the majority of the project was that it was brilliant, a few new lines were requested and new logo files sent over but no major revisions until the very vague ‘make it pop’ feedback right at the end.
Designers are not mind readers. Bad feedback is almost as difficult to work with as no feedback.
Of course designers like to hear that their work is brilliant but we’ve never worked on a job that went straight to print in it’s very first incarnation. We’re used to getting feedback, and sometimes that feedback involves throwing everything out and starting again. If that’s how you feel, then you need to tell us.
This all brings to mind a recent article on Apple’s designer, Jonny Ive, in the New Yorker. In it, Ive explains his former boss’ blunt way of providing feedback on work he submitted.
Jobs’s taste for merciless criticism was notorious; Ive recalled that, years ago, after seeing colleagues crushed, he protested. Jobs replied, “Why would you be vague?,” arguing that ambiguity was a form of selfishness: “You don’t care about how they feel! You’re being vain, you want them to like you.” Ive was furious, but came to agree. “It’s really demeaning to think that, in this deep desire to be liked, you’ve compromised giving clear, unambiguous feedback,” he said. He lamented that there were “so many anecdotes” about Jobs’s acerbity: “His intention, and motivation, wasn’t to be hurtful.”
Clear, unambiguous feedback.
That’s what is required to create a company like Apple. When the design is on track, praise it. When it isn’t make sure your designer knows and they can correct the issue.
So we’ve put together our top tips on how to give feedback to your designer:
1. Take your time. Your first thought about a project is often driven by personal taste “I love it” or “I hate it” but design is a more complicated beast than that. If time allows, live with the designs for a while. Think about how well the design matches up to the brief. Is it doing the job it needs to be doing? Think about the audience for the design work – would they understand it?
2. Ask everyone involved in decision making. If there are six people that need to sign off on the design then get their feedback as early as possible in the process. Projects can easily be derailed by a sudden input of new feedback once other people see the designs – especially if their requests contradict previous feedback.
3. Don’t be too vague. Designers need to understand the problem with the design to be able to create a solution. Telling us to ‘make it pop’ or ‘I’m not really feeling it’ gives us nothing to go on. You need to be able to articulate the problem clearly and unambiguously. Something along the lines of ‘the colours seem quite flat, we’d like this to be really eye catching so could we find a way to make it brighter?’
4. Don’t be too specific. At the other end of the spectrum is feedback that is so tight it gives us no room to manoeuvre. Feedback like, ‘please change the font to Bodoni at 32pt in Pantone 361.’ This might not be the best solution to the problem you’re trying to solve.
By explaining the problem rather than prescribing the solution you are allowing your designer to use their skill and judgment to decide on the best solution. Try something like, ‘we’d like a more high-end look for this, maybe a classical style font would work better.’
5. Don’t worry about hurting our feelings. We want your feedback. A good designer doesn’t become so attached to a design that they take every change personally, even ones that involve going back to the drawing board. Sometimes things do go wrong, a brief can be misunderstood, objectives can change and that is all part of the process. Tell us what’s going on and we can work together to find the solution.
6. Your logo doesn’t need to be bigger. A classic cringe worthy bit of client feedback. Truth is you should be able to miss your logo off a piece of design and people still recognise it as yours. A logo is one small part of a brand and making it bigger is rarely the solution to whatever problem you have with the design.