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How to Get Better Design Feedback


You know the punch line: Make the logo bigger.

Or maybe this one? Make it pop.

It might be funny to hear when you’re out with peers (sort of), but not when you’re standing in front of a client or boss trying to make outstanding creative.

HOW Magazine has a great series of articles in which superstar creative director Douglas Davis (JWT/Brouillard, Tribal DDB, Deutsch, G2 Direct & Digital) answers designers’ questions about career development and managing professional relationships.

We think Davis’ recent blog post, 5 Steps for Managing Creative Feedback really hits the spot when it comes to smoothing the sometimes-choppy waters of client/creative relationships.

Here’s our take on his 5 steps.

1. Ask questions before you start working.

It sounds like the sweetest creative direction a client can give: “Make us a cool website.” In reality, it’s disaster waiting to happen. Always make sure to drill down and find the actual business objectives for your client. Which is going to sound a lot more like, “We need to drive more traffic to eCommerce site.” If you don’t ask questions now, you’re going to be doing a lot more revising later. Davis’ advice: be sure you know the client’s problems before you start creating solutions.

2. Base your creative solutions in tangible facts based on the brand, product, or service you’re working with.

This can be a mistake even for in-house teams who should be familiar with the company’s products and services. Going with the assumption that you know everything there is to know about sticker manufacturing, energy monitoring systems, or even a sales team’s process is a mistake. Doing your homework now will save you a lot of headaches later.

3. Anticipate or avoid negativity.

In your conversations, try to keep things as positive as you can, avoiding negative connotations and hot-button words. Knowing in advance that your client doesn’t like particular styles and approaches will prevent you from seeing those concepts go down in flames.

4. Introduce your work strategically.

You’ve come up with a creative solution in a methodical way, reflect that in your presentation. Co-founder of Mule Design, Mike Monteiro famously said that if he had to choose between a great designer who couldn’t present and an average designer who presented well, he’d always choose the latter. This is the point at which you’re selling your product to the buyer. Be sure to always frame your concept/s or theme according to their business needs.

5. Reframe the language.

When going over your work, your client may think they are picking apart a Quentin Tarantino movie. Everyone’s a critic, right? Davis recommends that when your client says the words “like” and “hate” you replace them with “this works” and “this doesn’t work” when you speak back to them.

If your client “hates” a layout or concept, be sure to drill down on what it is that “doesn’t work.” Is it the typeface? Colors? Imagery? Not only will it keep things respectful, it will help your client be a part of the creative process.

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