“Just make it pop!” How to give a designer (useful) feedback

You’ve given the designer the brief...you’ve nervously awaited the first draft. As you open it up, you realise that it doesn’t quite match the vision you had in your mind’s eye. But how do you explain this vision so that you both fully understand what needs to change?

We asked Monika, from the Sookio design team, to give us some tips on giving constructive feedback.

At what stage is it most useful to have feedback?

After sharing initial design ideas of potential solutions, we give our clients the first opportunity to review and critique the different design solutions that have been presented.

There are different design stages depending on a project scope - so we ask lots of questions to make sure we understand your feedback and usually more than once.

What works best? A email with clear points on it, a phone conversation or...?

From experience we find that phone conversations or a face-to-face conversation work most effectively.

Emails are great to share quick thoughts, but in order to fully understand our clients, nothing compares to a chat. If distance is a problem we can always hop on Skype.

Give us an example of feedback that hasn’t helped!

The one I will never forget is one for an company’s rebrand: ‘It is not very prominent, make it pop!’ This kind of feedback is an immediate response, which works as a good starting point. But one sentence comments like this are missing a very simple thing, a description of what the ‘it’ is.

What we need to do is help our clients expand on their thoughts so we both understand each other about what needs to be tweaked.

How about a time when feedback was really useful?

This is the sort of feedback that makes my day! This is a summary of a phone conversation I had recently.

"I've emailed you an example of something I found online. I really liked the cool and smooth surface with that soft freehand writing. The text is easy to read and yet feels personal. And the image is so powerful, no unnecessary extras.

"Could you do something similar, something very simple. Would that work for what we are trying to achieve?"

What do clients worry about when giving feedback?

Time and budget! 

Clients want to give you great feedback that helps you get to the solution quickly. Working on a design project requires time for us to really understand what the goals are, what the problem is, the true target audience,  and of course what solution would be best.

We do our best to assure our clients that honest, descriptive feedback will save time and budget, for one simple reason. You won’t have to spend time and money if everything is done right the first time round!

How can you avoid receiving conflicting feedback halfway through a project?

Feedback issues can occur at any stage of the design project. Most of the time simply because a client is not sure that the design can achieve what they have envisioned.

Negative or conflicting feedback is an indicator to ask less of 'what?' and 'how?' and more of a 'why?' There is no need to rush through changes to colour, size of the text or the way it is aligned. Often revisiting the brief can help to make sure we are both solving the same problem, trying to achieve the same goal.

Having a solid brief at the beginning is a good way to avoid conflicting feedback further down the line. The more thought you can put into the initial brief, the more time will be saved further down the line, and the better the results. Read our recent post on how to brief a designer for more thoughts on this!

How can a designer help a client give better feedback?

I think the key here is to make a client feel part of the design process, and constructive feedback is all part of an effective collaboration.

We present and get approval on different parts of the project, dividing it into smaller sections, sharing sketches, visual mock-ups, design samples, which reassures and shows you that your opinion is important.

For example with a recent packaging design, we presented lots of different variations on swing tags, wrapping and inlays so that we could all see what would work or not. It's only when you have lots of sketches to play with that you realise a particular colour scheme will work, or you spot an opportunity to add in some extra attention-grabbing copy.

This flow of a project is more natural through regular feedback and a final design will not feel like a surprise, because you'll already feel like you have ownership of the work. 

What questions do you ask clients during the feedback process?

Designers should ask a lot of ‘whys’ and equally should be able to verbally support own design decisions. It is almost what you give is what you get! It's up to ask the right questions so we can help people put their emotional responses to the design into words. These are the sort of questions I ask:

Is the design clear? If not, why do you think so?

Does it represent your brand, your values and messaging, and why do you think so?

Is there anything you would remove to make it more simple? Why do you think so?

Does it solve the problem outlined in the brief. Why do you think so?

What if you disagree with the feedback given – what do you do then?

I strongly believe in continuous communication and asking questions.

It is very easy to misinterpret text, especially if a designer gets a rushed email feedback. The client is always right, as the saying goes, and there is nothing wrong in giving reasons for your design suggestions. After all both the designer and the client are trying to achieve the same goal.

As my colleagues in the Sookio copywriting team will tell you, they actually like negative feedback. Obviously not too much! But just enough to show that the person has read through what you've done, and picked up on any areas that need tweaking early on, rather than when it's just gone to print!

What’s one thing that clients can do to improve the type of feedback they give to designers?

I think there could be two things actually.

First. Stick to the brief.

Second. Trust the designer.

As a designer I love problem solving and I give my best to achieve an innovative design solution. And we designers understand that design projects can be intimidating for some clients, especially if it is their first one. Confidence in a designer can take the uncertainty away and makes collaboration more successful. 

We can help with all types of design from infographics and graphics for presentations to packaging design, brochures, banners and flyers.

Talk to us now about how we can help!