How to Give Constructive Feedback to a Designer
Remember That You Are Not the Target Audience
Don't take this the wrong way, but it doesn't matter whether you like the design or not. What does matter is that the design communicates effectively and connects with your target audience. You are not commissioning a work of art. You hired a designer to solve a problem or move you closer to your goals. This is the lens through which every design should be evaluated.
Do you really care if you like the color of you're cover art as long as it is going to attract more listeners and form a strong connection with your audience? So when you are critiquing the work that your designer has done, don't ask yourself if you like it. Instead, ask if it accomplishes your goals.
This ties in directly with my next point.
Give Reasons for Any Changes That You Request
Avoid requesting changes in a vacuum. Providing an explanation behind your feedback forces you to think it through. Ask yourself if what you're requesting is really for the good of the project. Or are you falling back on personal preference? If you have an objective reason to request a change, let your designer know. It will make it easier for him or her to evaluate your suggestions.
Another benefit of explaining your reasoning behind asking for a change is that it gives the designer an opportunity to come up with an even better solution. For example, if you just say, "I want a bigger font," the designer is left wondering why. They may not think it's a good idea and continue to dialogue with you about it. Or they may decide to simply implement your suggestion to the detriment of the final product; no one wants that.
On the other hand, if you say something like, "I think the title of my podcast should be more prominent so that people can find it more easily in iTunes," the designer has the context to properly consider the problem. They may determine that increasing the contrast or changing the font would actually be a better solution. By sharing your thought process, you may help the designer come up with an even better revision than you were hoping for.
Don't stress if you're unable to completely and clearly explain your reasoning. Client communication is an enduring and vital part of being a professional graphic designer so it is ok to expect your designer to meet you more than halfway on this. Just remember that specific, objective critiques will only help your final product be more effective; you will ultimately reap the rewards of your efforts.
Be Prepared for Pushback
We all have bad ideas. Be sure that you are open to the possibility that your suggestions may not be in the best interest of your project. A good designer will not just roll over and make every change that you request. They should carefully consider your feedback and tell you honestly if they think the changes should be made or possibly present alternate solutions.
While it is the responsibility of the designer to have the resolve and integrity to push back on poor revision requests, you can help smooth out this process by inviting dialogue. Something as simple as saying, "What do you think about this suggestion?" or asking if the designer has any better ideas can make things much less awkward and confrontational.
You DO NOT Need to Request Changes
Revisions are an extremely common phase of graphic design projects. Some designers even include a certain number of revisions in their process as a kind of selling point. This can send the wrong message that the client is somehow obligated to request revisions.
It's important that you understand that you do not need to request changes to a design. If you've found a talented, hardworking, professional designer then each design decision will have been carefully considered and made based on your project goals.
Look for a future post about how to find a designer like this to hire for your projects.
Change for the sake of change can be very detrimental to a project. Asking for edits just because you enjoy playing Art Director can have a negative impact on the final product and will only hurt your business in the long run. Remember that you chose this designer for a reason; now is the time to prove that you really do trust them.
If there is some aspect of the design that you're not sure about, ask the designer if they can explain the thinking behind that design decision. It's ok to express your concerns; a professional will have no issue discussing why they did what they did and how it will help you reach your goals.
Understand that Designers are Just People
There is a lot of negative talk that goes both ways in the design world. "Clients are so clueless and frustrating." "Designers are so pompous and stubborn." It is destructive and counter-productive and it needs to stop.
Understand that the person on the other side of that email or phone call is just that, a person. Treat them with respect and expect them to do the same for you. Be gracious and accept that miscommunication and mistake are unavoidable parts of life. Be willing to listen to their expert opinions and trust that they really do have the best interest of the project in mind.
Please don't think that I am giving graphic designers a pass. I hold myself and my peers to very high standards, not only in our output, but also in treating our clients with respect and professionalism. If you feel a designer is not treating you with respect or is being unprofessional, it may be time to part ways. Be sure to read over your contract carefully to understand the ramifications of canceling a partially-completed project.
Below are a few examples of less-than-helpful revision requests contrasted with more thoughtful and constructive versions of the same feedback.
"I don't like green and yellow because I hate the Green Bay Packers."
While you are correct to hate the Packers, this is not a good reason to change the design. Do you want an image that you personally like or do you want to make more money?
"Our competitors have a similar color scheme and we would like to differentiate our brand."
Your designer may have good reasons for the colors that he or she chose, but this is a very valid point that makes the change worth discussing.
"Center the logo in the layout"
Why should the logo be centered? The designer likely has very good reasons for putting the logo where he/she did. They may have even tried centering the logo and decided that the current solution was better.
"This feels unbalanced to me. I would prefer having the logo centered to match our website. Let me know what you think."
While not entirely objective, this feedback gives the designer a better idea of where you are coming from. It is also more courteous; keeping the relationship amiable makes everything easier.
The designer is ultimately responsible for guiding the dialogue and vetting your feedback. However, this is your project and the easier you make the designer's job, the more likely it is that your project will be a success. If you really care about the project, it is likely worth the extra effort to turn yourself into a valuable asset.
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