Dear Clients, Your Feedback Could Use Some Work
Imagine you’re a business owner just starting a new company, or you’ve been in business a while and you want to give your old brand some new life. You have some money in the budget for marketing, so you hire a design agency to work their magic. Maybe you’ll have them develop your company’s brand or maybe it’s just developing a new advertising campaign for the upcoming season. It’s been a few weeks since the first meeting, where they rattled off questions to you for over an hour, some ideas were discussed and a planned was agreed upon. And today is the day you get to see what they’ve been working on. The creative team comes to your office, they set up and the creative director gives his presentation. He takes you through a few design concepts, gives his spiel about each, finishes up and then asks for your feedback.
Now imagine, everything you just saw was the opposite of what you were expecting. You go to communicate that, but don’t quite have the words. You’re not sure what to callout first or how your feedback will be received. Luckily for you, CONTRAST has been through it all. We’ve compiled some tips and techniques for providing better feedback and resolving creative differences, that will ultimately help get your design project back on track and in a place that you can be proud of. Part one of this story covers why giving good feedback is important, as well as setting your design team up for success from the beginning.
FIRST OFF – DEFINE THE OBJECTIVES
No matter the skill level, expertise, portfolio quality or experience that a designer or creative team may have, a clear directive has to be provided and communicated from the get-go. What are you trying to accomplish? How will this creative be used? Who are your competitors? What is your budget and timeline?
Another vital element to consider is your audience. What group have you defined to be your target users? What reaction do you want them to have after being introduced to your brand? What emotion should they feel after interacting with your product? How do you want them to think of you the next time they see your logo, ad or website? Identifying the desired visceral response your users should experience will go a long way in making meaningful, lasting impressions on them and will eventually lead to repeat business.
Good designers should be asking these types of questions and filling out a creative brief in your first meeting – what we call the discovery meeting. If they don’t, be prepared to provide them the information anyway, or maybe consider hiring another designer. Collecting this information helps us narrow in on what you’re trying to accomplish and why. These questions can also help both the client and design teams stay on track and avoid things like scope creep, unforeseen charges and delayed timelines.
Additional questions can also be helpful for us to identify your desired creative outcome and get there faster and with more clarity. Even if you don’t find them relevant, give them a chance. They can be questions like:
- What design style do you generally like?
- What are some of your favorite brands and why?
- What are some things you’ve tried in the past? Did they work?
- What direction do you see your company going in the future?
- How did you come up with the idea?
- How do you define success in terms of this project?
GIVING BETTER FEEDBACK
Although nobody wants to hear you hate their work or you have some edits, believe me when I say, we as designers have heard it all. And because we have, we’re actually not as bad at receiving that feedback as you might think. Most designers can be professionals and separate themselves from the work they produce – quite literally, it’s part of the job. We want nothing more than satisfied clients, so without fearing that we will break down in tears, go ahead, and give us your honest feedback. But PLEASE, do so with respect. What do we mean by that? Instead of hearing that you hate everything, or you want to start over, try to identify what exactly is causing your hesitation.
As designers, it’s extremely challenging to receive feedback that’s just a blanket, “I don’t like it” without any further explanation. Maybe that specific shade of green bothers you because it was an ex’s favorite. Maybe the font bothers you because it reminds you too much of your last company’s brand font. Maybe these elements conjure up negative memories from projects past that you don’t wish to revisit and that’s okay – these are small elements that can easily be adjusted. Really take the time and try to identify what exactly is not working for you and why. Sometimes the answers can reveal more about the project’s intended purpose or direction that you initially realized.
On the other hand, if then entire piece has an action sports vibe and you were going for a calming spa aesthetic, then something is definitely off. It all goes back to that initial conversation and original project brief often. You’ll want to refer to it often and without personal bias clouding the objectives. We have a saying in user experience design: “I’m not the user.” The same goes for your design team AND yourself. It’s important to think in terms of your users throughout the entire process, but especially when providing design feedback. The creative won’t work if it exists only to satisfy your personal tastes and aesthetic. If the company name or logo has an underlying meaning that only you or internal employees would understand and appreciate, then it won’t work for you users. Narrow in on things like: Does this web design or ad layout appeal to your customer’s buying habits or shopping sensibilities? Does it encompass your entire target demographic? Does it require more explanation than just a quick glance?
Be patient with your designers as they work to identify specifics for developing your brand, and ones that help them understand their misstep if they didn’t get it right the first time. These clarifying questions or conversations will help them avoid similar mistakes on future projects. Respectfully disagreeing with your designer is okay, in fact, we welcome it. We’re not expecting to get everything 100% right every time, but if the objectives were clearly defined from the get-go, then we should be at least 60% of the way there.
In part two, we’ll discuss what good feedback looks like versus bad, and break down the remainder of the creative process, once feedback has been received. Stay tuned!