on-demand design,on-demand graphic design service,online graphic design

How to give effective feedback that gets results

constant feedback loop

Great design does not happen by accident. The design process is a two-way street between the client and the designer. A continuous feedback loop lies at the heart of everything.

In short: You and your designer have to communicate, effectively.

Easier said than done, hey?

I feel there is a deeper reason why you’re here reading this article.

You’re probably about to fire your designer, aren’t you? You’ve been so frustrated, they don’t get you! You keep repeating yourself, asking for revisions over and over again. They are providing you with the opposite of what you want, and you are getting nowhere.

You know what? Thank you for reading this post because it shows that you are eager to work on the relationship. And this is the best place to start learning how to provide constructive and actionable feedback that gets results.

Let’s get started.

Start with the “Why”

No, I’m not gonna go on about Simon Sinek’s brilliant TED Talk, but I urge you to simply ask yourself: “Why did I not like the design”?

Is it just because you don’t like it? Or maybe you believe your target market won’t respond to it?

Every piece of graphic design that gets published has a purpose, and you, as the client or the client’s representative, must advocate for the preferences of your target market. 

Now, once you have answered the why, think about how the thumbs down 👎 can be a thumbs up 👍.

Here are some examples:

The advertisement for a new product has too many words

Why I dislike it: There’s no hierarchy. I cannot see the important words

Solution: Can you reduce the copy or use highlights?

The ad for a new podcast is quite dark and not appealing

Why I dislike it: My target market is women in their 30s and research says they don’t respond to dark colours

Solution: Please use fonts and colours that resonate with women in their 30s

meme talking to oneself

Know the Design Process

“If you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter where you go”, said the wily feline in a 1951 animated movie.

To get to a preferred outcome, you need a map. The map to a consistent advertising campaign is the Brand Guideline. It is the cornerstone of any design. You should always have it set it in stone first.

design commandments cartoon

You need to follow the brand guideline, just like Moses was not exempted from the ten commandments. This way, you and the graphic designer are looking in the same direction, both aiming to arrive at the destination.

Next, you must have the entire campaign planned out, from the audience to the venues where the advertisements will be shown, the target impressions, and the schedule.

This is useful to avoid piecemeal graphic design requests and the stress of having to ask for revisions for each document one by one.

Are you requesting changes to a social media post one week and then requesting a billboard layout the next, only to find out that they both promote the same campaign? Stressful, isn’t it?

If you like a particular design and have the whole picture in mind, you may simply tell your designer: “Please apply this design to the rest of the collaterals”, and you’ll be OK. 🍰

Choose the right words

There is a common party game called “Pin the Donkey”. Heard of it? (I hope so?!)

In case you haven’t, here’s how it goes. A blindfolded person will try to pin a tail to a picture of a donkey as accurately as they can.

Their teammates will try to coach them, yelling as loudly as they can to drown out the rest of the people who are giving the blindfolded person incorrect directions.

It is pretty simple for a very simple task, but it becomes progressively tough due to the blindfold and all the noise. The key to winning here is knowing who to listen to, and the coach must pick the right words.

Will you, as the coach, say, “turn to the direction you believe is best”?

blindfold birdbox gif

Of course not, right?

You’re their eyes. The “it” literally needs to see through your coaching. Same thing with designers. In order to deliver the desired outputs, they need your vision and it is a must that you communicate clearly with purpose.

You must use words in your feedback that echo your vision. That is, it must be clear why (oops, there goes the W-word again!) you are requesting that specific revision.

better designer feedback

Instead of saying: I’ll know it when I see it

Say: Can you give me 3 options. I would prefer them to look and feel professional, technical, and reliable, just like our target market

Instead of saying: Make it more like our competitor’s ad

Say: This client’s strength is exceptional customer service. How can we highlight that in our ad?

Instead of saying: Make it more creative

Say: Here’s what the previous campaign looks like. The new campaign needs to catch the attention of a new target market.

Instead of saying: Make the white brighter

Say: I think sharper contrast will make the other elements stand out

Structure your Feedback

The Sandwich Approach has become stale. The receiver end has gotten so used to it that they now ignore the positive feedback as fluff.

So, I recommend cutting right through the chase and give feedback that yields results. Present the problem first, followed by your suggested solution.

⚠️ There is a fine line between recommending a solution and spoon-feeding. Even if it appears to be tempting, do not cross that line just because it is easy.

Yes, spoon-feeding the answer is the quickest and easiest approach. The designer, on the other hand, will not learn, will not remember their mistakes, and will not have the chance to redeem themselves as the experts you paid them to be.

While might seem difficult, giving feedback pays off in the long term.

Deer Designer’s Scale of Effective Feedback

Giving effective feedback is challenging, and you must continuously monitor how you do it. Check out this scale to see where you normally land.

scale of effective feedback

Broad feedback will compel the graphic designer to try to read your mind and ask more questions, which you don’t have time for.

Overly precise feedback will provide accurate robotic outputs. You can imagine how awful that would be for creatives.

Remember: you’re working with people, not machines.

Choose the right tools

There are communication barriers that can be solved with the right tools when using on-demand design services such as Deer Designer, where you provide your instructions and revisions online. Here are a few tips:

Collate the feedback in a Word/Text document

  • Write it all down and read through them again
  • Use bullet-points to avoid points being missed

Use image-annotation tools

  • Scribble over the designs
  • Pin notes on the images with your revisions
  • Use annotation tools such (e.g.: Redpen, Atarim, Marker)

Explain your feedback using video

We miss working face-to-face and receiving feedback in real-time and on a personal level. But we are lucky to live in a time where tools exist to assist us in communicating.

When to let go

You did your part in keeping the relationship and it is time for your designer to do their part. Consider your designer’s strengths and weaknesses.

Maybe they are good in conceptualization but not great when it comes to choosing fonts? Or they might be excellent in execution but need micromanagement?

If you’ve tried all of my suggestions above and your designer hasn’t improved, maybe it’s time to let go. 

Hammering your designer even if nothing happens might mean one thing: the nail is deeply embedded in the wood. It can’t get much deeper than this.