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How To Do A Proper Critique

Good feedback is equivalent to good design. We need you as much as you need us. Yet, few clients are conscious of how to administer criticism that is purposeful and constructive. This isn’t suggesting that they’re to be shamed and faulted for their ignorance. Instead, I’d like to consider this piece to be perceived as an exemplar to enlightening your designer with thought-provoking feedback that forges a design you’re both happy with.

Good feedback is equivalent to good design.

Be Crystal Clear.
It’s important that you both specifically know what the targeted problem is in the design. Illustrate the problem to the best of your ability and be sure to avert from cliche, vague, and overused phrases—which will be disclosed shortly. If you can, express an ideal solution to the obstacle by showing your designer why it doesn’t work—I will also be reviewing the incorrect method later in this piece.

While you and your designer confabulate the issue, be sure to be direct and honest with them. We’re all professionals and only want what’s best for the design. But, being direct and honest comes the responsibility of delivering such criticism constructively. We did just pour our heart and soul into to this project, you know.

Phrases Like the Plague.
Naturally, most struggle with this. They’ve unconsciously become accustom to and acknowledge these as a fail-safe. From a designer’s point of view, it comes across as unprofessional, infuriating and downright confusing. In this case, the best medicine is to show you some examples of what I’m referring to:

...being direct and honest comes the responsibility of delivering such criticism constructively.

“Make it pop”
“Jazz it up a little”
“Make it sexy”
“You’re the designer”
“I’ll know it when I see it”

Trust me when I say, “Avoid these at all costs, please.”

Design Isn’t Art, It’s What Works.
I don’t expect the day to come where everyone can think this way. It’s humanly impossible. It doesn’t come instinctively because design is universally viewed as art and art is subjective. But, as designers, we’re groomed to do so. When you hire us to design a project for you, it isn’t you we’re making the design for. Instead we’re tailoring a design that will match the needs of your business and target audience.

So how can you condition yourself to this? Look carefully at the project and compare the designer’s notes, as well as your business’ goals, to the work submitted. Check to see what aligns with them and what doesn’t. If in your mind it doesn’t, target the problem and explain your reasons in detail as to what your business is looking to accomplish. By the end of the project, it doesn’t matter whether you or I like it or not. What matters is if it works.

Don’t Do the Job Yourself.
The worst possible scenario for a designer is a client coming to us with a design that they’ve created. Often, they become overly affixed because it’s their’s and are incapable of rationally explaining how it aligns with their business goals. Thus, accomplishes nothing other then wasting time and money on both ends. If you feel you must show your designer an ideal solution of what your business needs, provide real world examples and give reasons as to why you believe what they did works. the problem and explain your reasons in detail as to what your business is looking to accomplish.

When providing feedback to your designer, be sure to not micro-manage or macro-manage their work. It’s fine to guide your designer on track with your business goals, but that’s not to say that you should be hand-holding them through the entire process. Respect the expertise of your designer. It’s why you hired them, right? What I recommend is that you should be the problem-maker, not the problem-solver. What I mean by that is target a problem in the design and mention why you see it as a problem. Design is about solving problems and thus our job to solve the problem you’ve discovered.

Questions Are Good.
We’re all human so we don’t expect you to know everything. Often we surround ourselves with other designers who the speak the same language as us and forget to tone that down with others outside our field. Feel free to call us out on that. But, also, don’t be afraid to ask questions when we use a term your unfamiliar with.

Questions are good—as my title to this section clearly states—and we’ll never hold it against you for asking. By asking questions, it means your engaging and coming across as invested into the project. If you want to play a wild card, ask us our thoughts. We’ve studied and worked in this industry long enough to earn the title, design expert. We’d hope that you would ultimately trust our judgement.

Questions are good... and we’ll never hold it against you for asking.

Remain the Point of Contact.
That saying “the more, the merrier” doesn’t necessarily apply to design. It can be quite a struggle for you and your designer when multitudes of people are involved on the project. By opening the design to more options, it makes it more difficult to come to an agreement and clouds your own judgement. Should you seek an outside opinion, it is best to have them analysis a specific point you’re stressing over.

If you are still struggling with your decision and have consulted with others outside of the project, always feel free to bring all the information you’ve gathered to your designer and hear their opinion on the matter. Like I said earlier, questions are good and we’re here to help.

By following this advice, not only are you guarantying yourself a stronger design to be produced, but also a stronger relationship between you and your designer for future projects.