The Best 5 Ways to Give Honest Feedback to Designers
Ah, the design process! When you were choosing a designer, you no doubt scoured through pages and pages of portfolios, nitpicking styles before settling on the right visionary for your brand. You pitched your digital dreams over to the designer, and eagerly awaited the first draft to appear!
But upon looking at it, you notice some serious problems. Maybe it just has the wrong feel. Or maybe it seems like the main focus was lost. Or maybe, much to your dismay, the entire project is a disaster. No matter the issue, it’s likely that you feel a twinge – or a giant wave – of regret.
How do you turn crossed wires into a positive experience? How do you steer your designer in the right direction without seriously offending them regarding their area of expertise? Let’s find out!
Key Sections to Note
- Focus on Improvement Over Change
- Pinpoint the Elements That Aren’t working
- Be Realistic With Your Needs
- Give Direction that Allows Creation
- Ask For Major Revisions In Person
- When to Call It Quits
- To Replace or Take the Reigns
- Let Us Help You
The Balancing Act
After seeing a draft your hard-earned dollars have funded that is not up to par (at least in your mind), your first impulse may be to call up the designer and voice your displeasure. Do not do this, please! Negative feedback driven entirely by an emotional reaction is bound to go south fast.
Instead, take a moment to breathe. Collect your thoughts. You want to come to this conversation with a clear head. If you don’t, it becomes all to easy for tempers to flare and the project to end up unsalvageable. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!
One wrong creative turn can lead a project awry. A respectful conversation can help bridge the gap between what you think you should have, and what the professional has suggested. Remember, your designer has done this before. Their thoughts come from experience, and their judgment calls might be in your best interest.
Either way, the worst thing to do is to attack the designer for making a misguided effort. Below, we will consider 5 steps you can take to handle the situation in the most positive manner.
#1 – Focus on Improvement Over Change
Chances are if you bring a giant list of major changes that you want to be made to your designer, they aren’t exactly going to be thrilled. Often, how you present something is just as important, if not more so, than what you are presenting. This is definitely the case when it comes to criticism.
You’ve no doubt heard the term “constructive criticism”. This shifts the focus to building up instead of tearing down. The designer likely spent a lot of time and brain power coming up with the design concept for your project. So it’s not a great idea to rip it to shreds with judgement. If it really isn’t what you were looking for, try to find aspects that could be improved to meet your standard.
This adds to the designer’s creation, instead of trashing it. By putting your heads together and focusing on areas to improve, you can salvage the work that has already been done. And for the designer, it won’t feel so insulting to better the design that they have created. In a sense, it is a type of positive reinforcement. Commend the areas of the draft that you do like, and look to expand on the parts that you don’t!
#2 – Pinpoint the Elements That Aren’t working
Trust us! There is nothing more frustrating to a designer than a client whose wishes are vague. No matter how good your designer is, they still cannot read your mind. If you aren’t feeling good vibes when you look at what has been presented thus far, dig a little deeper.
Yes, a design can evoke feelings inside of you, but feelings are not easily defined. If you want solutions, you need to be able to tell your designer, in detail, exactly what isn’t working for you. Take a moment and really look at the work. Is the colour palette off? Is the design too cluttered or too minimalistic for your brand? Are the fonts taking away from the level of seriousness that you are going for?
You need to break it down into actual, technical features. By giving your designer simple feedback that deals in measurable units, they will be much more likely to meet your needs. And despite what you may think, the vast majority of designers want just that.
#3 – Be Realistic With Your Needs
From the outside, it can be difficult to see just how many hours of work it takes to come up with a good design. What may throw you off even more is the fact that we are constantly bombarded with ads, images and websites that have been prepared by an entire team of seasoned pros. So when you contact a local graphic designer to do some work for your business, you may have set the bar too high before you’ve even begun.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Look closely at the designer’s portfolio. What is the size and complexity of most of the jobs they have taken on? If you swamp someone with more work than they can handle, things can go wrong pretty fast, not to mention prices can skyrocket!
Speaking of prices, you also need to be realistic with your budget. You can’t expect someone to give you their undying attention if you set a low cap on costs. If you want a project that looks truly professional, be prepared to pay professional prices.
Also, it’s good to make sure that you aren’t taking a designer completely out of their comfort zone. While you may like some of their previous work, asking them to create in an entirely different style could render results that you aren’t expecting. A reality check never hurts the design process.
#4 – Give Direction that Allows Creation
We realize that we’ve already advised you to pinpoint the exact features you are looking for, but when you are instructing your designer, don’t forget to let them design! The fact is, if you control every last pixel, chances are that your end result is going to look a little uninspired.
Not only does a good designer have technical skill, but they have a healthy dose of creative genius as well. Your goal should be to unlock that genius in the direction that suits your company’s needs the best. So while it’s totally fine to have a distinct vision, try to avoid being nitpicky. If you find yourself in a difference of opinion, it might be a good idea to have your designer create two mockups, one with your suggestions, and one with theirs.
Do your best to be in this state of mind when seeing the drafts and final product as well. If the overall look isn’t what you had imagined, pause for thought. Sometimes, although it may not be easy to admit, the designer’s vision works better for the project at hand. So don’t let pride get in the way of an awesome outcome!
#5 – Ask For Major Revisions In Person
In the event that things really have gone off the rails, it’s best to break the news in person (or over the phone if face-to-face isn’t an option). While it definitely takes more effort (and guts) to confront your designer with serious revisions, you’re showing more sensitivity by approaching the issue this way.
Another huge benefit to making big changes while you are physically together is that it is far less likely to get mixed up in person. Texts and emails are handy, sure, but they can easily be misinterpreted. This can end up in hours wasted and major frustration on both ends.
When you take the time to revise in person, you are increasing the chance that the process will go smoothly. You can confirm if your ideas are understandable or doable right there on the spot. It also makes it easier to let your designer know what things you really do not want on your project.
If there already is a breakdown in communication, skirting the issue can only lead to further problems. Don’t waste either of your time and spend your dollars wisely by handling major revisions in a personal manner.
When to Call It Quits
So you’ve made your best effort to be clear about your needs while still letting your designer do what they are paid for. You’ve set your expectations according to what your budget and designer can accommodate, and you’ve handled any differences with care and honesty. But, despite what you’ve done, the project is plummeting downward and you’re about to pull your hair out.
Sometimes a client and a designer just aren’t a good fit. Clashing styles (or personalities) can make a desirable outcome become impossible. Other times, the problem lies with the skill level of the designer. You’re never going to be happy if you’re looking for a modern theme and your designer hasn’t done any new research in decades.
If you feel a lump of stress every time you have to contact your designer, chances are it’s just not working out. Another good indicator that it’s time to part ways is if your designer rejects every ounce of your input. Remember, this is YOUR project, funded by YOUR money. You should not feel bullied into producing something that just doesn’t fit the style of your brand.
As with any large decision, it’s best to end things in person. Plan out a civil way to end the business relationship ahead of time so you are not fumbling for words. Leave emotions out of it but make sure to give them a valid reason for the decision. That being said, there is no reason to kick someone when they’re down, so simply explain that there is an irrevocable difference of opinions – and please, pay for the work that was done! Obviously, the full amount of the project should not be charged, but hours were spent, so don’t request free labor.
To Replace or Take the Reigns
If you’ve parted ways with your professional, you may feel like you are back to square one. This, however, is not true. You now have a real sense of what you do – and do not – want. Use this to your advantage!
At this point, you have the chance to find the perfect designer who can match your vision. Or, if you feel like you have a good grip on the process, you might consider attempting a design on your own. While this could be an excellent way to cut costs and come up with something truly “you”, there are a few things you should consider before embarking on this quest.
First, take a look at the size of the project. Is it just some basic visuals – maybe a logo design or an advertisement, or is it a major task like an entire site design? If you really don’t know what you are getting into, it is probably best to pay someone who does.
Another point to consider is how much time you actually have to work with. The design process usually happens in the early stages of a company launch. Chances are, you are already working your butt off trying to make sure that your business is a success. Don’t burn the candle at both ends! You will either end up doing a sub-par job, or you will put the project on the back burner and forget about it for months. Neither is a good option.
Let Us Help You
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