5 Rules of Actionable Feedback for Designers

Posted on
September 30, 2017

Good communication and honest feedback are necessary, regardless of where you work. When you are working with a designer, being direct can be even more important.

Why is that?

Well, design is subjective. Your idea of “clean” or “modern” design may differ significantly from your team’s and your designer’s. In my experience, the key to constructive conversations come down to finding balance: You want to give clear directions while also giving designers the room to be creative.

In this post, we are going to show you how to provide your design with actionable feedback that will speed up your design process and help you reach your business goals!

By the way, if you have any great stories about working with designers that you want to share, reach out to us here info@punchy.design.

Tip 1: Be Specific Whenever Possible

It’s natural, especially when you are pressed for time, to give rushed instructions. However, this is a habit that needs to be unlearned. In the long run, being vague will only to projects being delayed and being over-budget.

At the beginning, start with a clear scope on what needs to be worked on and what the business goal for each item is. For all employees and consultants, it’s important to be specific. When working with designers, it’s particularly important because good design is subjective!

For instance, if you want to redesign your website, there are very specific feedback you can give your designer. it is useful to provide 3-5 examples of websites that you like their design and another 3-5 examples of websites that you like their color palettes.

When you provide these examples, write 1-2 sentences on what you like about the website. Comments like “I love these style of icons” or “This green is great for our call-to-action” can help designers steer their thoughts and get you closer to the intended results.

Tip 2: Create an Environment of Trust

OK, this may sound like fluff but let us explain.

You hired a designer or design agency because they are subject matter experts. And you need to treat them as such.

Creating trust is necessary so that your team and your designers feel comfortable experimenting and exploring new unique options. In the beginning, there may be mistakes and missteps, but at PUNCHY we believe this is how you learn the fastest.

When your project is just starting, you should avoid absolute statements. Comments like “I hate this!” or “Don’t use this color!” do not build trust. They put up guardrails that designers must work in. Instead, we recommend creating an environment where it’s OK to make mistakes and fall short.

Let designers be creative. Let them spin their wheels. Be supportive, knowing that you do not have to love everything they create! The most important goal is to iterate enough until you feel you've experimented and explored enough and you are getting closer to solving that business problem and meeting that business goal.

Tip 3: Focus on Constructive Comments

Along the way, there will be a lot of feedback shared and how you share that feedback will shape how your project will continue.

Let’s be very clear: focus on only giving constructive comments. When you look at a design, explain what you like and what you dislike. When you are describing what you dislike, think about how to phrase your comments.

We recommend giving direction along with your feedback. For instance, you could say: “I’m not a huge fan of this logo concept. Can we try something with fewer colors?” or “This landing page design is good, but doesn’t leave much room for text. Can you work with Sarah to see how we can provide more space for her copywriting?”

A balance of positive and negative feedback will give designers the tools they need to come back with an even stronger round of designs next!

Tip 4: Check Your Ego at the Door

Cohesive design is hard to achieve and often goes unappreciated. In addition, everyone believes that they have a valid opinion on the subject.

As a result, many design conversations are ego-driven. You may have experienced this before... There is a lot of finger pointing and hand waving, and very little progress forward.

When giving your designer feedback, focus the comment on the goals that you set out at the beginning. This will both frame the feedback and keep the conversations centered.

If your team (for instance, your marketing department) is interfacing with the designer, be sure to share this advice with them. At the end of the day, you hired a designer because you were seeking their expertise! Treat them like the professionals they are.

This is not a battle of “us versus them” or “right versus wrong”. You are all on the same team and you should all work to create the best possible designs.

If you feel that the conversation is not going in a good direction, take a step back and orient the conversation about how this design helps you achieve your tangible business goals.

Tip 5: Ask Clarifying Questions

When in doubt, you do not need to have strong opinions or earth-shattering feedback. When you are going over new concepts with your designer, you should ask clarifying questions!

Instead of looking at designs at their surface, ask how they reached this design and why they feel that this works well. Clarifying questions can help your team and the designer get on the same page.

Truthfully, most miscommunications come from making unnecessary assumptions.

Working with a designer can be an invigorating process! You should be excited about the process of identifying a problem, hiring a designer, and working together to create a solution.

As you look to manage a freelance designer or a design agency, you should reflect on these 5 tips for providing actionable feedback:

  1. Be specific whenever possible (and it’s almost always possible!)
  2. Create an environment of trust
  3. Focus on constructive comments
  4. Check your ego (and your team’s ego) at the door
  5. Ask clarifying questions

Now that you have these skills, we look forward to what you can create! If you are looking for a designer, be sure to reach out and chat with the PUNCHY team!

Posted on
August 23, 2019

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