8 Essential Tips on Delivering Feedback to Designers

Feedback implies change, discomfort, confusion and extra work or stress, and that’s why it’s tough to deliver it, but it’s an indispensable part of the design process.

I’ve been a designer for a decade now, and I have sees recurring patterns on the delivery of design feedback, so here are eight essential tips that will help you effectively deliver your thoughts, improve your relationship with the designer and ultimately have a better product.

1) Make the designer feel empowered.

Nobody likes to be told what to do, and designers are no different. Designers are on your team to give a meaningful contribution to your project from the beginning of the design process to the end. So avoid statements like “Make this pretty” or “Just make it look good”. Comments like those will be decoded by the designer’s brain with something like “You (superficial dumb artist) are just here to prettify things, do your job” this will immediately put the designer in a disempowered and defensive position that will NOT bring any forward thinking design ideas to the table.

Not effective: “We need this page to be eye catchy, can you prettify it?”
Effective: “Our new marketing campaign will bring lots of people to this page (give context) and we need visitors to feel confident about clicking this button (share your goal), what do you think we should do? (Ask for professional advice)”

2) Start with the positive.

You have probably heard this before, but I have to re-affirm it because it’s very crucial and often not practiced. Starting with negative feedback upfront will put the designer in defense mode where the feedback won’t be heard completely, and your changes may not be integrated as you want them to be.

Starting with the positive feedback first will create an atmosphere of comfort and openness where the designer will listen to the rest of the feedback without feeling immediately judged.

3) Don’t impose ideas, get people exited about them instead.

Feedback needs to be embraced by the receiver so you should try avoiding imposing your opinion with no way out. While you might feel that this approach works because you get what you want, it doesn’t guarantee the best payout.

Forcing your ideas will make the designer stop taking risks and coming up with new solutions that will lead to less innovative on future work.

Not effective: “Let’s do it this way.”
Effective: “This might be very different from what we have been doing but what if… (enter your exiting perspective)”

4) Feedback is directed to the product, not the person.

Make sure that the designer doesn’t take feedback personally – which unfortunately, most designers will because they see their work as a reflection of themselves.

Feedback is directed to the design, and the sole purpose should be focused on improving a product, not to letting someone down or judge the designer’s abilities.

Not effective: “You should try to put more time in the details.”
Effective: “The design needs more attention to these details because…”

5) Start with general feedback before getting specific.

This is really important because an initial general feedback will give the designer an idea of the direction you were thinking. After giving your general thoughts, you can move on to more specific feedback. You should get into the nitpicky stuff last.

Starting with the nitpicky stuff will make your feedback sound superfluous and ultimately will close the designer ears on the rest of the more important directional feedback.

Not effective: “Make this orange and change this font.”
Effective: “The design needs to feel more cheering and friendly, I’m no designer so take this with the grain of salt, but what do you think of injecting some color and try another font?”

6) Give feedback frequently.

Don’t wait too long to deliver your feedback, it’s much easier to make changes on a primordial design rather than an almost completed product where the designer has invested a lot of time and effort.

Ask the designer to see early mocks and work in progress files. Designers will resist this from the fear of showing something that is incomplete and rough, but it’s important that they let go of that fear and share early mocks.

7) Request multiple options.

Having just one design alternative to choose from will make the designer feel very invested in it which will make him or here more likely to resist changes. On the other side if the designer makes three initial options to choose from the feedback will feel less personal and more directed to the designs making it easier to improve it and bring it to the next level.

8) Use objective words, not subjective.

Remember that words mean different things to different people, try finding different ways to describe your thoughts. When feedback is poorly conveyed, it often results in conflict.

Not effective: “This image it’s kind of weird, can you change it?”
Effective: “This image doesn’t seem to reflect the high end feeling that we are looking for, can we try something less quirky?”

#reminder: Good feedback does not always mean positive feedback.

If after applying these tips the designer still resists feedback and is unable to produce a change in the design for the better, you might need to have a different type of conversation…

But I guarantee that practicing these tips on a regular basis will improve your communication and relationship with not only your designer but other members on your team as well. Which, in the end, will ultimately boost the quality of work that is produced and the level of innovation generated!

Do you have other tips to add to this list?

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Ignazio Lacitignola

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Ignazio Lacitignola

Founder & Designer

Meet Ignazio, affectionately known as “Igi” to friends and colleagues. An Italian designer, creative and entrepreneur who finds it a bit peculiar to refer to himself in the third person, but he’s willing to do so for the sake of this bio.

From his earliest memories, Ignazio’s mind has been a canvas of creativity, and his love for digital design ignited as soon as he could afford a computer and an internet connection that wasn’t the sluggish 56k dial-up.

Growing up in the less glamorous corners of Milan, Italy, Ignazio defied the odds, earning honors at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti without ever brushing shoulders with the law.

Following his heart’s call, he ventured across the Atlantic to San Francisco, USA, to immerse himself in the startup and User Experience world. It was here that he kickstarted his journey with Meno Design, a digital design studio dedicated to distilling complex digital experiences into their essence, while learning through experimentation.

In Ignazio’s eyes, every piece of design is a potential masterpiece, an artistic expression in its own right. His ongoing challenge is harmonizing his meticulous attention to detail, sometimes bordering on OCD, with the practical timely demands.

Beneath his approachable and calm exterior lies a delight of colorful Italian cursing that surface whenever he stumbles upon poor design choices—though it’s worth noting that he’s incredibly friendly, and a simple “ciao” is always welcomed.