(You’ll get better results in the process, trust us.)
Every designer dreams of having all their work instantly approved without any changes. Here at TJA, we are realists (but also optimists), and know that first round approvals are few and far between. We are often reminding ourselves that we are problem solvers, not mind readers. However, as client-designer relationships grow and communication becomes more natural, the creative process often becomes much more fluid and productive.
Feedback in the creative world is key. Before anyone externally sees a design, the TJA team works internally to critique each other’s work with a client’s best interest in mind. Here are some tips on how to formulate criticism in a way that not only helps designers from an outsider’s point of view, but also creates constructive dialogue for a common goal.
1. Honesty Really is the Best Policy
Most designers have pretty thick skin, and if they don’t they’re probably in the process of building it up. Don’t be afraid to tell it like it is, or at least how you see things. Sugarcoating responses in order to not hurt anyone’s feelings will only result in work that isn’t completely what you are looking for. When a client and a designer can be open and honest with each other (almost like a good marriage), it’s a lot easier to find a solution to a problem. In the end, designers are able to focus their thoughts on what clients really want, and the work will be more aligned with their vision. However, there’s a caveat here—being honest doesn’t just mean saying “I just don’t like it” and calling it a day, it involves reasoning. This brings us to tip number two…
2. Rationality Through Reasoning
As designers, we do our best to make sure that all of our design decisions are rational. Whether it be something simply visual, like using a color because of its relevance in an industry, or pushing a concept as a forward-thinking way to engage consumers, we make sure to incorporate best practices and validate all of our actions.
A client’s responsibility is to digest (or attempt to understand) our reasoning and decide whether or not they like it; but most importantly WHY they like it or not. This helps us understand a client’s perspective as industry specific experts, and ultimately move forward in a positive direction and build a better communicative relationship. It’s easy to say “I just don’t like this,” but in the end, all that does is cross one possible solution off an infinite list without creating a direction to go. At the same time, being more descriptive than saying “I love it because it’s great!” will help a designer get a specific sense of what the client likes for future work.
3. Don’t Take it Personally
Let’s face it, we can all agree that orange is the best color out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best color to use for everything. Letting personal biases get in the way creates unnecessary roadblocks in the creative process instead of focusing on the ultimate goal. As designers, we like to step back from our individual preferences and look at a bigger picture—are these decisions right for the client? Do they speak to the voice of the brand? Are they directed toward an appropriate audience? That being said, we’ll use maroon and yellow for a design if it’s what works, even if we hate that color combination.
Critical feedback, whether it be from a colleague or client, is always valuable. It helps narrow direction, provide insight, and in the end, makes a piece stronger. In fact, this post is probably 100x better than the first draft. Thanks team! Happy critiquing!
– Darren Simoes, Art Director