Feedback: must try harder

Posted in News on 11 September 2017 By David Hunt, Creative Director

Five simple tips that will ensure you get the best from your design team or agency.

 

Feedback. It’s that screechy, head-splitting noise that you get from speakers when things go wrong and get in a loop? Fun, but not that useful unless you’re an Angus Young type.

So how about  “information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.”

Now, that sounds much better, useful and productive. So why do many designers cringe at the mere mention of it?

Frankly, it’s because a lot of feedback isn’t good. And I don’t mean ‘good’ as in ‘well done’. Often it isn’t useful and doesn’t contribute enough to the successful outcome of a project.

I once witnessed a colleague of mine being given a printout of client feedback on an Annual Report spread which simply had the words ‘IMPROVE’ written largely in black marker pen on it. Not at all useful and demonstrating how the client wasn’t engaged in the project.

So how do you keep your feedback in the productive, useful category and avoid it falling into useless noise?

Here are five simple tips to help you give your designers better feedback, get more involved in a project and get a better product.

Recognise the importance of feedback

Many designers wouldn’t openly admit it, or at least wouldn’t say it in earshot of a client, but feedback is fundamental and a vital part of any design process. Without it, we’re doing what we want and/or working blindly, rather than responding to a brief and delivering a solution for our customers.

So there is a responsibility that lies with the client to recognise this, engage with designers and collaborate through the process from brief, into development and then delivery of the finished product.

If you do this you’ll establish a relationship with your design team that enables an ongoing and open dialogue that should be more rewarding for everyone involved.

Be specific but not too specific

Think back to my ‘IMPROVE’ example above, and what the designer must have thought. He was understandably frustrated, not because his work wasn’t hitting the mark, but because he had no clue why - and therefore wasn’t sure how to improve it.

Articulating what you like and what you don’t, along with why will give your designer what they need to take the work to the next level in a positive and informed way.

The best way to do this is to set some context for your feedback.

Let’s explore that by using a simple example: imagine you’re commissioning a new identity for your business. Telling your designer “I don’t think the new logo designs work in blue because it doesn’t give us enough stand-out from our competitors” is much more constructive and directional than ““I don’t like the new logo in blue”.

The former tells your designer to avoid colours used by your peer group and that you’re open to something a little adventurous, perhaps. Whereas the latter just tells them to pick something else - that could be as equally wide of the mark as blue.

Don’t try and solve the problem for them

Most designers are trained and experienced in their chosen field and you are paying for that expertise, so use it. Just as you wouldn’t tell your accountant the best way to minimise your exposure to taxation, telling your designer exactly what to do isn’t usually the best way to get the best out of them. Or for you to get the best value for money.

If we carry on our new logo example, you could have said “I don’t like the blue so make it orange” but to do so would have precluded other options and approaches that your designer may have considered - and you may not have. Maybe it should be pink. Maybe multi colour. Maybe it shifts and changes. Or maybe orange is the right colour. But you’d want to be sure of that and your designer is there to help you explore the possibilities.  

Be open to discussion… and push back

The importance of feedback and its very nature means that the best design projects usually involve a chunk of collaboration. And that obviously has to include you - the client. Speaking with your designers (ideally face-to-face) at the outset will give you an opportunity to define goals, brainstorm ideas and get to know each other - creating a good platform for success.

Ongoing dialogue is vital. As you progress through the project and have to respond to creative work, remind yourself of your goals before verbalising your feedback.

Importantly, be prepared for your designer to push-back and challenge your feedback. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, you should expect your designer to do so from time to time - if not, they’re possibly not thinking and just doing.

Sometimes, for good reason, they’ll suggest a different course from your suggestion. Other times, their push-back and the following conversation will help them better understand and implement your feedback, thus improving their response to it.

Remember that your designer is a person

Most designers love what they do and, as a result, are very motivated to create work that is effective, attractive and absolutely the best it can be. They want to do great work and are often pouring their heart, soul and hours into it.

So it’s worth remembering this if you don’t think the work is hitting the mark or needs a different direction. Be constructive, polite, honest and engaging.

Every designer and design team is different, but as you start to build a relationship through the lifespan of a project, you’ll get to know them and their personality better and naturally find the best way to have these sorts of conversations.

Give it a try…

The good news is that all this is very easy for you to do and it could have a massive impact on the success of your project and, as a result, your enjoyment of the process.

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