You and Your Designer: Giving Honest Feedback without the Frustration

By Rob Johnson

02/24/15

Hall of Fame baseball player and manager Casey Stengel often said “Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ‘em to play together is the hard part.” Such is often the issue when companies hire graphic designers to design projects to their liking. They will find a designer or design team that appears to have the talent and moxie to execute their vision, but sometimes the project breaks down and becomes a disaster, not because both sides weren’t knowledgeable and capable, but because the communication was not there. Good players not playing together.

One way to avoid the breakdown is giving honest feedback to your designers in a way that maximizes efficiency and creativity and lessens frustration. As a designer, I can tell you we want nothing more than to absolutely kill it on the first round, leaving you completely satisfied with your end product and amazed by our brilliance. However, as professionals we also know that often what we think of as brilliant may seem much less so to clients, and we expect revisions based on your feedback. Here are a few suggestions for framing your feedback so you get what you want and the designer doesn’t leave confused and frustrated.

1. Don’t Panic
Even the most seasoned designers don’t always hit a home run on the first swing. As stated previously, designers understand this and expect your criticism and feedback. Go back together and look at the initial design brief. Begin an honest dialogue from there of how to improve the design to your liking.

2. Be Honest and Be Specific
“I just don’t like it” might be the most hated sentence in the world of designers. When offering feedback to your designer or design team, be forthright about what you don’t like, but be able to back it up with why you don’t like it. Is it the font, the color, or maybe it’s too masculine or not on brand? Designers are problem solvers and want to work with you to create the best solution possible. Give them as much detail as possible, both good and bad.

3. Clear the Kitchen
Does Ted from accounting have an opinion on the cover art for the new annual report? Well, entertain his thoughts (it would only be polite), but don’t bring them to your designer. “Too many cooks in the kitchen” can kill a project from the get-go. Only gather opinions from decision makers and those relevant to the
project. Even then, try to make those points as succinct as possible when presenting to the designer. Asking your designer to decipher notes from people in four different departments about why they think the design should be a certain way in order for it to be successful is a surefire way to make it the most unsuccessful design of all time.

4. Compile and Analyze Changes before Communicating
Few things can be more infuriating for a designer than clients changing their mind on direction and/or getting multiple changes over a string of several communications. Depending on the project, the design process can be intensive and interwoven, meaning one seemingly small change effects many other aspects of the design. Analyzing and being sure of all of your changes and then compiling them in one email/phone call allows the designer to see the project as a whole, designing accordingly, without having to backtrack and do things twice. This saves you money on revisions and the designer time and frustration.

5. Ask Questions
Design professionals have a bevy of knowledge, accumulated over years of work and training, at their disposal. Ask them what they think can be done to solve a specific problem. Any good designer will not only offer some ideas but will also have questions in turn for you as to what you see as working in a design for your ultimate end usage.