We work with thousands of entrepreneurs, some who are at the very beginning of their relationship with a marketing agency or design team, or even outsourced freelancers in general. And it can be hard at that point to know how to give feedback to help your team match the vision that you have in your head. So we’ve pulled together our seven most important tips on how to give feedback so that your project can be most successful.

The things that you see that you like, we need to know so that we can repeat.

Having specifics about WHY you like it is helpful (see below). Never forget, it is 100% just as critical for us to know what you like and what to see repeated, as it is to understand what you do not.

Things that you want to see changed, slightly edited, completely refined.

You don’t need to worry about that old recommendation of sandwiching redirection after or between reinforcing. You likely remember how they recommend managers do this … “Sally, you’re always on time, but you left a mess in the kitchen yesterday, and you treat the customers great.”

Simply tell us what you like and why, and what you want changed and why. It is very helpful if part of the item is on track, and part is off track, to tell us both so that we don’t completely scrap the part that is working. As long as you don’t tell us how much we suck as a person … lol … we’re always open to your feedback, and when needed will explain why we made the choices that we did if those reasons need to be considered, such as they will improve your user’s experience.

Sometimes the feedback we get is so generic that we aren’t able to do much with it.

I don’t like it. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not “on brand”. Design isn’t your strong skill. I don’t want you working on my designs any more.

As you can imagine, because it’s so vague, this isn’t descriptive in helping us get it right; and no matter who you use, there’s helpful ways to pull more helpful information. If you’re at this point and sort of don’t know what you want, that sometimes means that your branding vision isn’t quite yet strong enough in your own mind to be able to share it with others. And that’s okay — we’re here to help you with that as well.

I see where the execution is heading, but I’m concerned the message isn’t clear / our audience won’t understand / (example). Could we try a version that is (adjectives)?

First main tip — manage expectations. Design has rules, and everything just isn’t possible (as much as we wish it were).

For example, putting red and blue together can result in crossed eyes — think about 3D glasses at the movies. Shapes, colors, or trying to fit everything. Sometimes you may only be able to get 2 out of 3 pieces of your request. We like a challenge, but we also can’t do the impossible.

The end product also may not be 100% what you envision in your head, because unless you’re the person sitting down and putting pen to paper (or mouse to computer) that’s almost impossible. As much as we’ve tried for years, we just can’t read minds yet. But imagine if we could!

Your design may get close, and it may end up being even better in a way you didn’t understand or expect, because of the knowledge and expertise we bring. Or sometimes you may be thinking of it from your own perspective, and we tend to look at it from your audience perspective. Sometimes letting a designer loose to use their creativity is beneficial.

Here’s a great example of how you can provide more directed feedback. I bet you’re familiar with how you’re supposed to talk to your spouse how you’re feeling when they’ve pissed you off, right? Something along the lines of I feel _________ when you _________. A similar concept to that, or related to if ____ then ____ statements, is also helpful to help guide feedback.

Where I see __________, I would rather see __________

Where I feel __________, I would rather feel __________

(and let us know the “where” … since we may not get that same feeling by that same spot).

*disclaimer — always keep in mind that feelings can be hard to explain, because as humans we all feel different things. So relying upon the more descriptive and specific words (further below) will always be more helpful. But when you aren’t quite sure, you can tell us what you’re feeling and what you would rather feel and we may be able to help get it there a bit quicker.

Where I see dark red, I would rather see light orange

Where I see a person looking to the left, I would rather see a person looking down

Where I feel subdued colors, I would rather feel brightness.

Where it feels technical and cold, I would rather feel warm and inviting.

Where I see a dog playing with a ball, I would rather see a can of beer and a pickup truck.

Instead of being vague, be very specific. Use descriptive adjectives, words such as:

  • colors — black, white, red, blue, simpler, stronger
  • vividness — brighter, darker, light, heavy; more contrast, less contrast
  • size — large, small, bigger
  • quantity — more, less
  • seasons — winter, spring, summer, fall
  • temperature — hot, cold
  • feelings — happy, angry
  • direction — right, left, top, bottom
  • positioning — more negative space between, less negative space on the right side, aligned vertically, aligned horizontally, staggered
  • places — forest, mountain, beach, inside, outside, home, city
  • overall — ‘clean’, softer, warmer, friendlier

Don’t try to use the industry lingo if you don’t 100% know what it is — because we will go with what you say, and you may get a completely unexpected result if you used the wrong term.

For example:

  • Don’t say bleed when you mean trim.
  • Don’t say adjust kerning when you mean tracking.
  • Don’t request a shade when you mean a tint.

Don’t know what any of those are? That’s completely fine. Just use the words that you DO know, so that we stay on the same page.

Also completely throw away the words like, love, hate. Well … okay … if you love it you can tell us, yet what we would really need to know is if it’s done and final, needing no further edits.

What do you feel when you see the current design?

What do you want to feel instead?

What elements do you want the design to focus on? (font, graphics, negative space)

Example: You don’t like it.

Ask yourself … Why?

You don’t feel like it reflects your brand.

Why?

It’s darker and we usually go with lighter.

Why?

Someone told us to a few years ago.

Why?

They said it clashes with other design elements.

Why?

… We don’t actually know …

Asking yourself “why” five times helps you boil down to the essence of what you’re trying to say or do, which helps us reach that spot to. Sometimes we may also ask YOU why five times, for this same reason.

It also helps to be curious about why we did something the way we did.

Why did we go with lighter designs? We’ll explain that to you.

Maybe you usually put text left-aligned and we centered it — ask why. Perhaps it’s based upon how and where the design is being used or displayed, and it will make a difference.

There’s often a reason we’ve done something a certain way, and if you ask, we may be able to change it closer to what you’re expecting while still meeting whatever needs we had on our end.

95% of the time we’ve done something for a very specific reason — the other 5% it was just a personal preference, and we know when that’s the case our preference may be different than yours.

Also, try to put your personal taste aside. We do that when working for clients, since our focus is entirely on your audience (and of course on incorporating your brand — but even then still on your audience first). So if you don’t like green personally, it doesn’t mean that your audience also doesn’t like it. You can still give feedback, but it’s helpful to do it as a question — is green the right choice for the audience in this specific piece?

It’s helpful to show an example of a design that aligns with your vision — but don’t expect an exact recreation, that may put you in hot water with copyright infringement. Besides, you don’t want to look and sound exactly like someone else.

Book a Free Consultation

Originally published at https://vickywu.us/7-tips-for-giving-design-feedback-successfully/ by Vicky Wu

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Vicky Wu

Vicky Wu

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Your business isn’t cookie cutter- your marketing shouldn’t be either. Clear away marketing clutter to laser-focus on strategies that result in business growth.