Though popular culture would have us believe that creativity is a solitary art, the truth is a lot different. Most major creative projects are a collaborative effort. Writers need editors to refine their words. Designers need an art director to guide their thought processes. The right feedback empowers people to improve, to rethink certain ideas and move forward, and it can completely transform a project.
But there’s an art to giving feedback that is respectful and effective.
I’m sure we’ve all heard phrases like, “can you make it pop?”, “Why don’t we jazz things up a bit?” and “I’m not sure about that font.” This kind of feedback drives creatives crazy, because it doesn’t give them the detail they need to address the problem.
Maybe you’re guilty of giving feedback like this yourself – and that’s okay! Delivering good creative feedback can be difficult if you’re not in a creative field yourself and it can be tricky to keep up with the lingo. Here are some tips for improving your feedback process.
Tips for giving creative feedback
Timing is key. Ensure you offer your feedback as soon as possible so that changes can be made before deadlines, but weigh up an appropriate time and place to do so. Feedback is best delivered one-on-one so that you can respond to potentially sensitive questions.
Be specific and come prepared with clear examples. Simple identifiers like "top right" or "second paragraph" will help someone quickly identify the change needed. Bullet points are a great option because they encourage you to be concise. They also allow the person or team receiving the feedback to check off each change as it’s done so that nothing gets missed.
Instead of saying “I’m not sure about that image being the focal point on the page. And can we try a new heading?” to be more specific you could say, “can you please update the hero image on the page to specificimage.jpg
. And can we change the heading to [example]
However, avoid being overly rigid in your feedback. While saying something like “please move the logo to the bottom left corner and increase it by 20%” to a designer is specific and helpful, it is also important for the designer to understand the reason behind the change, as their creative eye may not agree. Instead you could say “please move the logo to the bottom left corner as it is currently covering part of the image, which does not follow our brand guidelines”.
It is helpful to put all feedback in writing and review it carefully before submitting. This keeps everyone on the same page and gives you all a reference to go back to. It also prevents any misunderstandings if the feedback comes across differently to different people involved in the project.
Be respectful and polite when delivering feedback. It’s important not to make feedback personal and instead ensure it’s always about the project and desired outcome. As an example, rather than saying “I don’t like the font you’ve chosen”, you could say “let’s try this one instead, I feel it would work better for the brand and will be more cohesive with the rest of project”.
Tips for receiving creative feedback
It’s easy to get defensive when you’re faced with vague or aggressive criticism about your work, but it’s best to avoid this.
Instead, ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for more specific feedback. This shows that you care about the project and you’re taking time to understand someone’s viewpoint and where the feedback is coming from (even if you don’t agree).
Always consider who is giving you the feedback and adjust your language when asking questions so you’re easily understood. For example, a designer talking to another designer will use technical lingo that a manager or social media marketer might not be familiar with. The goal is to leave the conversation feeling like you have a set of specific and actionable changes to work on.
Ultimately, fostering a healthy feedback culture within your business will benefit everyone. You’ll avoid unnecessary delays on projects because all of your team members will be on the same page – and you’ll deliver some of your best work.
Brittany Daniel, publishing executive
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