Design is subjective. It’s both a blessing and curse. I think everyone has seen a piece of artwork, let’s say a Jackson Pollock, and said to themselves either 1 of the following 3 things: 1) That’s beautiful. 2) That’s art? 3) I can do that.
All of these are perfectly acceptable answers for both a novice and an expert. But these are all “on the surface” type reactions. Real answers, real reactions lie below the surface surrounded by “the reason’s why.” This is where good, critical response comes from. This is where you need to look when giving feedback on design. But for someone who has either never given feedback on design or gives feedback once every few years, this can be a much more difficult task. So as someone who both gives critical feedback on design as part of my job, and also is on the other end of receiving feedback from clients, I thought I would give a few pointers for those struggling to answer the big question typically posed at the end of a presentation. “So, what do you think?”
Feedback itself is just critique. There is typically positive feedback and negative feedback. That’s easy enough, right? Well, it’s not as simple as love it or hate it. At least if anyone is to learn from it. Good positive feedback can be broken down into 2 sections to create 1 piece of truly effective feedback. Reaction & Reason. You start with your reaction to something put in front of you and you follow it with the reason why. Doing both of this creates a more complete picture of what is going on in your head without having to make assumptions. Complete feedback also gives us insight into other things that you may not see that can effect changes down the road.
Positive Feedback Examples:
- I like those colors. They’re very bright and cheery.
- That photo is perfect. It really sums up what we do as a business.
- The headline is great. It gets to the heart of the matter.
- I love this. It does a great job showing the benefits of our product.
Now negative feedback on the other hand should contain 3 pieces of information. Again, you start with Reactions & Reason, but it should be followed up with an Objective. This objective is what you want to accomplish to get the result you want. You’ll notice that the objective can be often posed as a question, but not always. By posing it as a question it shows you are open to other ideas.
Negative Feedback Examples:
- Those colors are very dark. It makes everything depressing. Can we brighten things up?
- The copy is too small. I can hardly read it. Can we make it more legible?
- The photo isn’t working for me. It doesn’t showcase our industry well. Find something that is more applicable.
- That typeface is ugly. I don’t think it works with our brand. It needs to align more with our existing materials.
The biggest mistake people make when giving feedback is too often turning the “objective” into “direction.” Meaning coming up with the solution before all options are explored. Not to be insulting, but not everyone has the ability to visualize a solution in their heads, so you typically fall back to things that are simple to describe. Make it bigger. Change it to orange. A lot of times, these directions aren’t the best solution to accomplish the goal at hand. And if you leave a meeting having stated these directions, you will expect it the next go around. And again, since it may not be the best solution, what you are expecting still won’t reach the goal. That’s why it is best to talk about the goal you would like to reach so that the best solution can be found.
The classic one is “make the logo bigger.” A lot of the time it has nothing to do with size, it means “we want to place more emphasis on our logo.” Which is a great thing. The solution to this isn’t always enlarging the logo, but controlling what is around it so it appears more dominant than other items on the page/screen. It’s why if the feedback was phrased as “Our logo looks too small. It is getting lost on the page. Can we find a way to bring it to forefront so everyone sees it first?” is a much better way to express what you are wanting to accomplish.
By following the roadmap of Reaction, Reason & Objective, you can structure useful and important feedback in a way that takes away the guessing and delivers the best and least painful review process when someone asks you those 4 little words. What do you think?