How To Give And Receive Feedback On Your Designs

Feedback is what keeps a client and their designer connected throughout the design process. While it’s important that clients provide feedback, that’s not enough on its own.

It’s equally important for the designer to know how to interpret that feedback. If confirming a mutual understanding of the way forward is overlooked by either a client or their designer, the design is probably going to go down in flames.

This is why it is important for a client to know how to provide valuable feedback and for the designer to know what to do with the feedback they receive.

First, let’s see how, as a client, you can provide your designer with effective feedback.

Do not beat around the bush

Be specific about what you need. Vague statements like ‘I don’t like it’ or ‘make it more creative’ aren’t particularly constructive. Try to say something that will contribute to the advancement of the design. Which part don’t you really like? In which ways can the design be more creative? Provide these points to your designer and they will rebuild the design based on that.

Having said that, make sure you don’t be too specific. Asking your designer to make the font Bookman is certainly specific. But this shuts all the doors to the ways the design could have been better. There might be a font out there that’s better suited to your design. Give your designer the chance to explore.

Don’t push your personal taste into the design

A client’s preferences are important to keep in mind. But remember that your logo or ad isn’t being designed with your personal tastes in mind. It’s made to represent your company to your customers. Forcing your personal taste onto it will make your audience see an individual. Not the brand. Remember, through a design process, the design that contributes to the intended project goal will be the best design. Not just the one that fits your personal taste.

When you point out the parts you don’t like to your designer, reflect on why. Make sure you’re saying you don’t like those parts because they don’t bring anything to the table. Nothing less, nothing more.

Be sure to communicate clearly

Both a client and their designer should be open to giving and receiving feedback. The design process can’t just be about you giving orders and your designer following them. To get the best results, there has to be a discussion on both sides on how to make the design better. This way you can both present your ideas to each other and together pick out the best ones.

If you don’t understand why your designer would use a particular picture or colour combination, ask them. Good designers don’t add design elements at random. Hear out their reasoning before criticizing what you may assume it to be. This way you can move forward productively.

Try following the brief yourself

When you get the finished design and before you get cross with the designer for not doing what you wanted, revisit your design brief. There’s a chance that your designer has simply interpreted something differently than you intended. Even when a brief seems to be explicitly detailed it may just appear to be so to someone already familiar with your brand or business.

Make sure your feedback aligns with the design brief. And work with your designer to get your design where it needs to be. That may mean adding more or removing some things from the brief. Go through it point by point to identify the best way forward.

Be quick with your feedback

Design projects are often time-sensitive. And that’s on top of your mountain of to-dos. So, don’t let your proof sit too long in your inbox before you review it. Send back your feedback adhering to the above-mentioned points as fast as you can. That’s how you maintain the momentum of your project. Until you provide them with feedback, your designer can’t move forward, with this or any other projects you have tasked them with.

Also bear in mind, if you delay the feedback process past a point, you might end up having to have some of the same conversations and asking some of the same questions you already have. No one’s memory is that good! 

Now on to the designers – here’s how you give and receive feedback in ways that improve the design and your workflow:

Think positively

Easier said than done, yes. You may be quite proud of the designs you submit to clients and you don’t expect to receive bad feedback. Fair enough. But always leave room for your client’s opinion and don’t assume to know what it will be. Take their feedback as constructive criticism.  Build on it. It might take some time to develop the thick skin to take the feedback both good and bad with the same smile. And to learn how to incorporate the feedback into your design effectively. But you can’t give up the project because you didn’t knock it out of the park on the first try. Keep trying until you do.

Do your research

I know you have read the design brief thoroughly and got every point locked up in your head. But research will provide you a bigger picture. Doing some research on your client’s industry and goals will broaden the possibilities of the design.

If your client gets back to you with some not so great feedback on your first design, hear them out. And then share with them what you’ve uncovered in your research. Explain your rationale for the choices you made. And ask them for guidance so that you can more effectively prepare to tackle this project.  

 Alternatives are valuable

Client feedback can be biased based on their singular vision of the design. In these cases, you can’t keep defending your design and hoping they’ll see your perspective. But you can present alternatives which help achieve your client’s goals. And you can explain the limitations of certain elements and ask if there may be any flexibility.

Most clients are inexperienced when it comes to design. Or the specific details anyway. Make it easier for them to make informed choices by educating about them about different options and approaches. Your client can’t give you a specific direction about something they’re unclear on. So let them know the range of possibilities that can be explored for their project.

Don’t take anything personally

Don’t think of the feedback as a personal attack. Sometimes it may be harsh. But it was only intended for that one design. And it represents how invested and passionate your client is in their design. Treat receiving feedback as opportunities to learn and improve. Because only a stormy sea can make a good captain.

Design is an ever-evolving process. One cannot simply know everything about it. So, do not ignore the possibility that you might have done something ineffective. Even the pros can get it wrong. The less your ego is a part of the process, the better off everyone is.  

Always respond promptly

Your client expects you to be responsive. There’s a lot at stake for them. And for you. Communicate with your clients effectively and share your views and their options for the design. Give valid reasons for the choices and recommendations you make.

When you receive feedback on your design, break it down. Identify what is possible, or isn’t, the compromises required of the design in each scenario, and prepare alternatives and options. Get back to your client with the changes you can actually make and the changes that won’t look that good in the design. By giving them the full picture you eliminate unnecessary back and forth.

Giving and receiving feedback can be one of the most uncomfortable parts of the design process. But that’s only true when assumptions are made and communication is not clear. Invest in giving and receiving feedback and you’ll see the impact on your designs in no time, whether you’re a client or a designer.