Here at Liquid Light we are lucky enough to work with a varied group of clients from many different sectors. When we start any project we understand that your involvement as a client is vital for success.
We also understand that most people are not involved in a design process regularly, and as such it’s essential that we take the time to clearly explain how we work, and to offer our guidance to ensure a smooth process, a happy client, and a great result. An area we are often asked by our clients for guidance on is how to give effective feedback?
“Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas”
This article draws on the Liquid Light teams joint experience of working within different sectors and focuses on providing some tips and guidelines that we have found helpful when receiving design feedback.
At Liquid Light we kick off every project with a meeting to establish the goals and objectives. We encourage all client stakeholders to be involved at this stage. A clear brief is the key to any projects success and the brief will be something that crops up throughout the rest of this article.
I’ve broken our tips down into three main stages; before, during, and after a meeting.
Before a meeting
Be the business expert
It can be daunting being asked to give design feedback, something not uncommon to hear is “I’m not a designer”. That very statement is the exact reason why you are essential to the process. When giving feedback remember that you don’t need to be an expert in design but do recognise that your understanding of your audience and business is essential to the process - any insight you can provide from the perspective of your customer or business will be valuable to us.
Are you the decision maker?
In larger teams and companies it’s important to consider if you are the right person to be providing the feedback. When creating a brief we will work with you to best identify who your projects stakeholders and decision makers are but you too should be aware of where your responsibilities lay. If you are in any doubt then raise it with your designer and colleagues. It’s far better to clarify this rather than providing comments that could be overruled by another stakeholder. We want to ensure a smooth running project and a major factor in this is making sure that key decisions are made by the right people. Getting this right helps avoid any unnecessary U-turns when designs are eventually seen by the top decision maker.
During your meeting
Start with a summary
Starting your feedback with a summary of your general thoughts will help set the tone for the rest of the discussion. “As a whole I like where its going” for example tells us that although there will be details to discuss, we are on the right track, whereas “these designs are really missing the mark for me” sets a much clearer expectation that we will have to make many changes or try a different approach.
Be clear what you’re evaluating
Are you looking at general appearance, typography, image treatment or headings? Knowing exactly what the designer is trying to show you will allow you to be very clear in the feedback that you give. Your designer will have informed you exactly what the focus is for the meeting and if they haven't then don't be afraid to clarify.
When providing feedback it can be very easy to make sweeping generalised statements. Try to avoid vague statements that are difficult for a designer to interpret. Identify specific areas of a design and work out why you do, or don’t like something. Designers are problem solvers - try and focus your feedback on specific problems that need solving, rather than trying to offer solutions yourself. For example, perhaps you find a typeface difficult to read, or a design feels empty or full because of spacing. Being specific with your feedback gives us a clear problem to solve and therefore a clear direction.
Stay focused on the brief
Although it’s difficult, try to set your personal preferences aside and see the work through the eyes of your intended audience. Ask yourself - “Does the design achieve what it is setting out to do?”. If you’re still not sure - ask your designer, it’s likely that they will have a clear rationale as to how their design works towards your brief and as the business expert it’s up to you to decide if the designer has solved these particular challenges.
Designers spend a lot of time thinking about their work. Every element is crafted and thought through. If you don’t understand why something has been done in a particular way then question the designer on it, and remember, there are no silly questions! Once you have their rationale you can decide if you agree or not and move forward accordingly.
Don’t forget the good stuff
During feedback sessions it’s easy to only focus on the problem areas, but it is equally useful to point out the things that you do like about the designs. If a designer knows what is working, they’ll be able to adapt their designs accordingly. Not to mention that we love hearing when you’re pleased with our work!
After the meeting
At Liquid Light we follow up from a meeting pretty promptly with some form of documentation to clarify the meeting’s outcomes. This might be a contact report but is often just an informal email to clarify the next steps. Whatever form the communication takes it is important that you read through and ensure that the designer has taken away the correct points from the meeting. Always reply to the designers follow up if you can, even if it is just to say that it all makes sense.
Whilst every client/designer relationship will be different, we have found these guidelines provide a great foundation for building a good working relationships, getting the most out of your budget, and ultimately creating design work that not only meets its brief but that you also love. As an agency we are always tweaking our processes to improve them and to implement the feedback our clients provide about working with us.
We’d love to hear if this article has helped you with a project or if there are things you have done that have helped you give more effective feedback.