If you’re in a creative industry you are more than familiar with the giving and receiving of feedback. It’s an extremely important part of the process because creative work will always be under review. It’s great when a project goes off without a hitch and the feedback is all puppies and rainbows, but generally what happens is slightly more complex than that. There are occasionally miscommunications, and some clients are naturally better at providing input. The key is to roll with the situation and keep it under control by balancing your expertise with the wishes of the customer.

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to design feedback:

Be Specific

I recently worked on a branding project where I was unsatisfied with the feedback I was getting. The client wasn’t unhappy with the work, but they were having a difficult time articulating their thoughts. I realized I wasn’t doing my part to help them decipher what areas of the design they liked and didn’t, and most importantly, why they felt that way.

Once I took the time to explain my decisions in detail and ask for the client’s preference about very specific elements of the design we immediately started making more progress. For instance, the client knew there was something about a typeface they weren’t gravitating towards, but they couldn’t describe it properly until I gave them some adjectives that would be associated with the style of the letters. After going over the other elements of the proposed designs in a similar way I was able to take some great notes for the next round.

In any profession, it can be easy to forget that our clients and customers have hired us to do what they can’t. It’s always best to meet them half way and help guide them through the feedback process.

 

Separate Yourself from the Work

This one can be difficult. No one likes rejection, and it’s especially hard to get critical feedback about something you feel strongly about. That being said, learning how to accept less than stellar reviews is one of the most valuable skills you can acquire. Some things I like to remember when I’m faced with negative feedback from a client:

  • The sooner you can drop the ego, the better. People recognize when you are treating or speaking to them condescendingly, so make a point to never behave this way.
  • Feedback is not a personal attack. If you are immediately defensive, you are signaling to the client that you value your own opinions over theirs.
  • Listen to what the client is saying, and clarify that you both understand the issue. This helps avoid miscommunications and allows the project to get back on track more quickly.
  • Remember not all negative feedback is bad. This sounds contradictory, but sometimes a client can tell you they don’t like something, but the feedback is valuable. Let the client know when they are giving the right kind of feedback, regardless if it’s positive or negative.
  • Be flexible. Always be prepared to explain your design choices, but be just as prepared to alter them accordingly when necessary.

 

Learn from it

True creative freedom is a nice thought, but it’s rarely the case with client work, and it’s not the type of work that stimulates professional growth. Every single time you receive an assessment, whether good or bad, you should consider it a learning experience. The only way to improve your ability to handle feedback is to consistently embrace it and know that it will inevitably make your work stronger.