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Effective Design Feedback: How to Get the Results You Really Want


bad design feedback

Whether we’re saying it, receiving it, or overhearing it in a team meeting — all marketing and design teams have experienced lousy criticism. Characterized by vague descriptions, cliché phrases, and subjective diction, poor design feedback causes frustration and wastes everyone’s time. To establish a stronger relationship with your creative co-workers and drive tangible design results, follow these 6 helpful tips on giving effective design feedback. 

Be specific.

There are a surprising amount of folks who underestimate the necessity of detail when providing design feedback. Many people who aren’t used to working with designers actually think that phrases like “make it pop” and “jazz it up” are actually useful. Of course, everyone has the right to exercise their opinion. But there’s more to criticism than just which fonts you don’t like, or which color irks you the wrong way.

It all comes down to why you feel those things. If you don’t provide an explanation behind your suggestions, it’s likely they’ll come off as subjective. And if that’s the case, why would a highly-skilled professional change their work based solely on your personal preferences? You have to explain the greater context and meaning behind your feedback.

Provide a course of action.

Instead of saying “change the color,” you could say something like “try changing this font to a more vibrant yellow in order to maintain consistency with the shade used on our homepage.” This gives the designer a specific plan of action and an explanation as to why that action matters.

Perhaps a more vibrant yellow isn’t the best design choice. But since you explained how you wanted to achieve consistency with your homepage, the designer can find her own more effective solution to the problem you’ve described.

Put yourself in his or her shoes.

Effective design feedback requires a delicate balance. You don’t want to come across as a micro-manager, but you also want to be sure your concerns are voiced acutely. To ace the yin and yang of constructive criticism, think about how your proposed feedback would affect you. Is it upsetting? Is it realistic? Does it give the designer a chance to actually improve upon her work in a tangible way? If you wouldn’t know exactly what to do after hearing that feedback, chances are your designer won’t either.

Know what you’re talking about.

If you’re a digital marketer, you should probably stick to the language of leads and landing pages. In other words, don’t act like you’re a design expert when you’re not. Just think about how frustrating it is when someone unqualified for your job tries to waltz in on your work and tell you what to do.

Instead of being a know-it-all, try to structure your feedback based on your own areas of expertise. From syntax to sales philosophies, applying principles from your own work creates a more seamless and collective end result. The added bonus? Your creative teams gain a perspective they’re not familiar with, which gives them a chance to apply problem-solving skills in new and nuanced ways.

Figure out what you want.

It’s much easier to get where you’re going when you know the destination. It’s your responsibility to find examples, ideas, and inspiration to support your designer’s creative journey. That doesn’t mean you should know exactly what the end result will look like (in fact, you shouldn’t). However, you should know exactly what purpose you want the design to serve. Keeping the end goal in mind will help you deliver feedback that drives your designer towards your desired result.

Be open and accepting.

We’ve already covered the importance of providing feedback that is specific and knowledgeable. But if you’re seriously devoted to reaching a mutual goal that keeps everyone happy, you also need to be open to the opinions of others.

For example, you might find that you absolutely hate the layout of a new eBook page.

Rather than saying “change it” and ending the conversation there, try asking your designer why she made that decision. You’ll probably realize she made that choice for a specific reason, and she might help you understand that an alteration would throw off the entire composition of the piece. 

What’s the best piece of design feedback you’ve ever heard? Let us know by tweeting us @Brandfolder!


Michelle Polizzi is a freelance writer and former content coordinator for Brandfolder. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her bicycling around Denver, catching a live concert or cooking up a fresh vegetarian dish.

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