How to make sure you receive great feedback on your design

“I don’t like it” is not feedback

As a designer, account manager, or marketer, how many times have you heard these soul-destroying words about your beautifully crafted design?

We’ve put together 5 tips for how to avoid this feedback, and how to handle it.

1. Reverse brief, or return brief

Mad men opening scene - Don Draper- a Creative Director at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Advertising Agency in Manhattan
Confirm back what you’ve understood of the brief

As someone in charge of bringing a client’s request to life, make time to quickly give a reverse brief (also known as a return brief).

Reiterate back to your client:

  • The position and voice of the brand
  • The overarching key message for the piece and its purpose
  • Any contraints – for example, the brochure must be tri-fold and fit into a DLE-sized envelope.
  • What the various deadlines are, and who is responsible for giving it final approval
  • The mandatories – the absolute must-haves in the copy, imagery, call-to-action etc…

Remember, you should be filling this out, not your client, as this is your interpretation of what they have originally briefed you.

Before letting your creative juices flow, ask the client to agree to the reverse brief so everyone is on the same page (if you need to, explain that it helps you present a first draft that is on the right track from the start).

2. Read body language and listen, listen, listen

Get to the bottom of ‘why’ with probing questions

If the first response to version 1 of your artwork is “I just don’t like it”, if you can meet face-to-face at this stage it will be worth your time. Often what is not said is just as important as what is said.

Watch for body language during your meeting, start by listening, and always listen more than you speak. Ask clarifying questions, for example: “It’s awful you say, in what way is it awful in particular?”, “what aspect of this page do you like?” – you need to  exactly what they do and don’t like.

Make it your goal for the session to maximize the amount of information that you collect and write their feedback down – seeing you physically write what they have to say down makes them feel like they’ve been heard.

3. Give your client (and their team of reviewers) time

It’s often not just your client who needs to approve your creative. Give them time to gather approvals from everyone involved.

It’s not a good idea to present the first version and ask for feedback within a 1-hour timeframe on a Thursday just because you want to give them the second version before your weekend begins.

Often your contact will need to seek the opinion of others. If you give them time to do this, you’ll ensure that a larger volume and better quality of feedback is received. There’s nothing worse than being fed dribs and drabs of amends over a high number of versions – getting a chunky list of feedback for a single version is a much better use of everyone’s time. So aim to smash those artwork deadlines to give everyone involved all the time they need!

4. In situ, and the benefit of the brand family tree

Show how everything works together

Seeing artwork in situ is a far better way for the recipient to see the potential impact. For example, if you’re designing a billboard, make the effort to mock the billboard upon an image of the billboard site showing the street perspective. If it’s a T-shirt design, show the flat design as well as on a potential wearer who’s the target audience.

If the creative is a reinvention of a previous piece, have before and after mockups – this is a great way to present the brand’s evolution and new positioning.

If the design is part of a product family, show how the new piece sits well with the rest for brand continuity.

You might be thinking, ‘my client has been there forever and completely knows how our creative sits’. This may be the case, but the other invisible team members whom they show your work to may be new to the team, so for those people, context is critical.

5. Give your client a tool for sending you feedback

Make it easy for you and your client with an online feedback tool

If you don’t design and lead the process for giving you feedback, each person involved in the design project will invent their own. Do you really want to receive a mixture of print-outs with illegible scribbles, phone calls, long email trails, conflicting requests, and interruptions all day long? Unlikely.

Decide on an online review and approval system. Not only will you gather feedback in the same manner from everyone, but you will have full visibility on the possible workload coming at you for version 2. A digital process will save countless hours for you and your reviewers.

PageProof specializes in online proofing and is the simplest way to use a red pen to get approvals. Feedback can be gathered on any media type – even video, websites, and 3D content. The efficiency and clarity it brings will be like having extra team members helping you in the design process, without the headcount.

Credit: This blog post has its imagery inspired by the Mad Men drama TV series giving us a glimpse back to New York’s advertising world of the 1960s.