The feedback process between client and design has always been plagued with miscommunication and a lot of hand motions from the other side of a GoToMeeting screen, but with slight adjustments and a little faith we can all be better.
Make it Actionable
Feedback without context or direction is simply fluff. “This isn’t working,” does not help us understand your pain point, the symptom for the issue, or what you want. Feedback without context is not helpful. There were a thousand variables and solutions for your particular design issue and by telling me “it doesn’t work,” you have only narrowed the field by one.
If you do not know what bothers you, say that. Be honest. “This is not working, but I can’t put my finger on ‘why,’” gives your designer the ability to ask questions and work through the issue with you to find out what is bothering you. This will help your designer know how you approach problems, your thought processes that will eventually produce ‘better’ design for you in the future. (In this instance, “better” means design that fits or pushes your current brand in a way that improves your return on investment, appeals to your target audience, and meets your goals.)
Do Not Crowd Source Our Work
When you do this you’re asking for trouble. No literally, you’re asking for trouble. Anyone who needs to provide feedback should be in every meeting we have. Obviously there are a few exceptions to this, but if you’re someone who likes generalities and rules to guide you—they need to be in every meeting.
Take “Jill in accounting”, who doesn’t have a marketing background. She thinks in numbers and cents (and a foggy world that be) and has no concept of the strategy or the context for the decisions we’ve made together as designer and client. Plus, Jill is applying all her feedback as a thirty-year accountant, then given the opportunity to give feedback on something that she didn’t have a role in making. Of course she will find something to nitpick! (You will recognize Jill’s feedback isn’t Actionable—instead she just doesn’t like Sans Serif fonts.)
Remember that you are working with artists and artists invest a tiny (or large) part of themselves every time they create. Now imagine what it feels like if you ask for the button from someone else’s campaign, the copy treatment from Cabella’s logo, and the color scheme from a competitor. It hurts. Somewhere a fairy dies every time someone asks a designer to steal.
We do our best work with great collaboration and rapport with clients and the brand, add time, a lot of coffee and music, and you get your design. This didn’t exist before and now it does and it came from our minds. A designer pulled it from your mind, through theirs and out their fingers. Seriously. Not only will it probably fail to look cohesive or meet your goals as well as it could, but you will kill a fairy. Do not steal.
Instead, tell us what you like about the button. (The button really stands out and almost begs to be clicked because it looks like pillows and dreams), Cabella’s logo treatment (script font for the “Letters from the CEO” section just seems more personable and approachable), or the color scheme from a competitor (their colors just make me feel confident, secure, like my money will always be there and it’s safe). That helps! Stealing doesn’t.
Provide Examples, Don’t Mark It Up
The “red pen” is just now starting to have a comeback and print publications had to start dying off for that to happen. No one likes a critic, an editor. It’s human nature to take over, just do it, and write all over someone’s work. Please do not. This is a huge offense to designers everywhere. To you, it’s a gesture to help that is almost always overlooked, driving us faster into disengagement. If we “missed the mark” with your design, show us examples of other successful campaigns where you feel your brand (or goal) is better represented.
If a client sent me eight examples of headline treatments that they like better than the one I delivered, with the feedback to talk about headline treatments in the main content, I would pee-myself-excited. This shows your designer you respect their work and want to work together to solve the issue they’re having. Allowing your three in-house designers, or taking the work into MS Paint yourself, to mark up or change the work is the opposite of working together. (See Make it Actionable, or Do Not Crowd Source Our Work.)
Trust your designers
We’re professionals—literally humans who are paid to design. I know the unknown is scary, but we’re here to help guide you through this. If you follow my feedback at the end of your project you will probably find a blossoming work-friendship, new brand loyalist, and a trusted designer. It is a leap of faith, and we know that. Most of us have a genuine need to help, we love our work, and will eventually love your brand. Let that happen. We’re here to catch you and you’re there to make sure we don’t go too far for your comfort.
(Cue the music. Fade. Fin.)