This might be a surprise, but a design project is not one-sided. Even when you hire a solo designer, it is still a team effort. You, the client, are on the same team as your designer, so to make sure everyone is happy and effective, you need to be a good team member. Your role in the team is initially informative: you provide the designer with all the material and knowledge they need to fulfill the scope of the project. But once they hit the ground running with the designs, you step into a very important role: the critic. A good designer will seek your feedback often to make sure they maintain the right course and neither time or money is wasted on wrong directions.
Offering feedback can be very intimidating, and giving poor feedback can be very hindering to a designer. Below you’ll find five tips that will help you become a great critic and an outstanding team member!
1. Be specific.
This is the first thing learned in any creative class. Saying “I like it,” or “I don’t like it,” is a waste of time, because it gives the artist nothing to work with. We need to understand the WHY, so get down to the nitty-gritty details. Instead of saying, “I don’t like it,” say “The color orange is too bold for my taste, I’d like to see other color options.” Even just saying, “I like it,” isn’t as helpful as you might think. While we appreciate the kudos, it doesn’t help us understand how you interact with the work, which is a designer’s constant goal. So instead, say “The colors make the important information stand out, and readability is always at the top of our priorities.
2. Be honest.
Many a project has been sabotaged because someone withheld their true feelings. Here’s an insider tip: Designers have thick skins. It’s a job requirement! Our livelihood is built on satisfying strangers, so we’ve learned how to take it. When asked for your opinion, don’t hold back, because it will just lead to both of us being unhappy, and a lot of time and money will be wasted.
3. Look once, look twice.
When you get the emails with the designs you’ve been anxiously waiting for, before opening it, grab a pen and paper or open up a Word document. When you first lay eyes on the designs, jot down your initial thoughts and reactions. Remember, be specific and honest! Walk away for a while, then return again and jot down your thoughts and opinions on your second interaction with the designs. The first look often is biased, influenced by your expectations, emotions, even how the designer worded their email. It’s still insightful, but not necessarily a clear vision. Returning for a second look allows the shock or newness to wear off and you can see things that might not have been evident the first time.
4. Do research.
A good designer will often ask for samples of related work or styles you like or don’t like at the start of a project. But as the project develops, continuing to identify elements in other designs that strike a chord with you can give your designer a clearer path.
5. Be open.
An important part of feedback is allowing your designer to explain choices they made. There should always be solid reasons behind their designs, and sometimes those reasons must trump your opinion, especially in regard to production or distribution. So be open to your designer’s choices and suggestions!
These tips should help your communication with your designer thrive, and result in happiness for both of you!