When you work with a designer, you’ll ultimately be tasked with reviewing their work and providing feedback. It’s the foundation of the entire process, really, because that dialogue is what propels the project forward.
A healthy and productive back and forth will empower your designer to create work that fully speaks to what you need, and, in the end, ensure that you are completely happy with the results.
But the review and feedback process can be a challenging one, especially if it’s your first time having that experience, or if you haven’t worked with a particular designer before. So today I’ve put together a few tips to help you make the process flow as smoothly as possible.
Before Your Conversation
First, here are a few tips to keep in mind after you’ve received the initial work, but before you’ve provided any feedback to your designer.
1. Formulate an opinion.
Your designer does not want you to just blindly love everything immediately (unless that’s really how you feel!) Providing constructive feedback is crucial to arriving at an outcome that meets all of your needs and that you also happen to love.
2. Remind yourself of the project goals.
Most likely your reason for starting the project was less something like, “I want a pretty business card,” and more something like, “I need to expand my audience.” So as you review the work, make sure your focus is on what’s in your business’s best interest, as opposed to your personal preferences.
3. If something doesn’t seem to be working for you, try to pinpoint WHY that is.
Does it feel too bold? Too soft? Too…anything? Do you have some sort of personal association that is coloring your opinion? (More on this in the next section.)
4. Avoid inviting others into the process.
Before you ask anyone else for their opinion, first determine what your feelings are and then give yourself a chance to discuss them with your designer. She will be able to offer helpful feedback that will move the process along in a mutually beneficial direction, whereas bringing in outside opinions can often get in the way.
During Your Conversation
At this point, you’ve taken some time to review the work, formulate your opinion, and (most likely) come up with some questions for your designer. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during your review:
1. Don’t hold back.
Ask questions. Give opinions. Your designer should want to know everything you’re thinking and feeling about the work so that she can make completely informed decisions as you move forward.
Approach the process as an open dialogue between two experts. The relationship you have with your designer should be one where you can have a productive back and forth about the work, and that is easier to do when there is a mutual desire to benefit from the other’s expertise. You know your business best, and she knows design best; so if you come together with open minds, you can make magic happen.
2. Focus on the WHY.
One issue you want to avoid is getting stuck in a place of misunderstanding, which can happen if you’re too focused on personal preference. If you’ve worked on determining the WHY behind your opinions, as I suggested above, you’ll likely avoid this scenario naturally. But framing your feedback in terms of “like” or “dislike” is one thing that can lead you into this place.
Here’s why. Telling your designer that, for example, you dislike the blue she used, doesn’t give her much useful information. Do you feel like the blue is too light? Too dark? Does it feel too masculine? Too corporate? If this is where you start, it’s definitely your designer’s responsibility to ask questions that will lead you to these answers, but doing your work ahead of time will help. Because knowing why you do or don’t like something is key to providing your designer with enough good quality feedback for her to be able to make refinements that address your concerns.
3. Treat your designer as a partner as opposed to an employee.
To get the best results from a design process, approach the process as one with someone you collaborate with as opposed to someone you manage.
Lean towards asking questions before providing directives. For example, rather than saying, “Change that blue to purple,” it’d be better to first express why you’re not loving that color choice, and then ask what other colors could be used to achieve the result you’re looking for. Maybe you want more softness, or you want the design to feel more feminine. Again, it’s all about the why. That type of information will actually help your designer tremendously because it gives her the freedom to come up with the best solution possible to achieve the result you want.
A directive like, “Change that blue to purple,” doesn’t leave much room for experimentation or critical thought. And cutting that out of the process could mean cheating yourself out of an even better result.