How to give good feedback

Creative work is "creative" but far from being completely subjective. 

Outside of having great talent on our team a big part of successfully delivering creative work is having a process that maximises the likelihood of a successful result.

In our experience, sensible provision of feedback is the key role that our clients play and it looks like this.

Respect the purpose/brief

Whatever task we are working on it will have a purpose/brief. This will have been agreed on in some form before we started.

  • New branding projects have very detailed briefs and much documentation to refer to.
  • An individual social media tile may have no specific brief but the overall direction and goals will have been recorded in a strategy document.
  • A routine design for a vehicle wrap would likely be documented in a few bullet points in an email. Something like “adhere to the brand guidelines and make sure the phone number is easy to read” etc

The best feedback is given against how well (or poorly) the work does the job it was designed to do.

  • “There is no clear call to action in this piece. We agreed that this was going to promote our EOFY sale”
  • “Our brand is premium quality and the home page design is cluttered and doesn’t reflect that”

Collect all feedback

If there are multiple stakeholders then all feedback needs to be compiled and provided as one piece of communication.

You may want the logo bigger and your colleague wants it smaller. It’s best if you settle these differences first to avoid confusion and lots of wasted time making changes and changes on those changes. 

Tell us what is working:

You don’t need to sugarcoat it but knowing what is working before the discussion turns to the elements that aren’t working gives everyone a good idea of how close (or far away) the final solution may be.

This is way better for everyone than starting with the negative.

  • Do you like the concept in general?
  • Is there an element that you like?
  • What parts could be used right now?
  • What parts need small adjustments?

Be curious about the things you think are not working:

Often our team has had to problem-solve during the process and that reasoning is opaque to you.

  • “Can you explain how this idea is connected to the brief?”
  • “Talk me through how you arrived at this result ?”

Sometimes the things that aren’t great about a piece of work are the result of being between a rock and a hard place. 

  • A complex diagram on a social media tile.
  • A lot of copy on a DL flyer and not much room for anything else

Make it Descriptive, Specific and Actionable:

  • “We don’t like the layout” is way less descriptive than “The phone number is barely readable”
  • “This isn’t working” is way less specific than “We think that the ALL CAPS headline will be seen as YELLING by our audience”
  • “We will know it when we see it” is way less actionable than “Please move the call to action so it is more readable”

All in all, clients should feel free to disagree with their agency (we sure will disagree with you from time to time) but feedback along the lines above is not just sensitive but a sensible way to work towards a great outcome.

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