How to Give Constructive Feedback Without Frustrating Your Designer
I recently posted to my Instagram, looking for any questions that people may have about freelancing and the world of graphic design. Something that came up a few times was people asking about how they should give feedback to a designer that they have hired, without coming across as aggressive, passive-aggressive, or just mean.
So I’m sure what’s considered a mean response differs from person to person, but here are some general guidelines that, to me, are the best ways of giving feedback:
The Polite Opening
The first thing I say to someone, be it a client, colleague or friend is a simple “Hey!” or “Hi!” A friendly opening like that helps to set a more relaxed tone right off the bat. Also, when it’s a first message to someone, I always ask how they are and how they’ve been. You always want to build a relationship that’s more than just work. Do avoiding asking someone how they are in each and every message though!
Tones & Phrases
I’ve hired other freelancers to do things in the past (yes, we sometimes do that) and I’ve needed things to be changed, that’s natural. When requesting modifications or edits to the work, I always use polite terms. There’s nothing more annoying than a demand, rather than a request. To show you what I mean, there are a few examples below.
Bad: “This needs to be changed.”
Good: “Could we have a few amendments to this?”
Bad: “The colours you’ve used are horrible.”
Good: “I’m not really feeling the current colour scheme. Can we see a few variations?
Bad: “These fonts are just bad. Fix them..”
Good: “I’m not a huge fan of the current font selection. Would you mind switching that out for something a bit more modern?”
You’ve probably seen a bit of a pattern in those “Good” responses. I personally feel that requests phrased as questions don’t feel as aggressive, and are much less likely to frustrate the designer.
It’s also super important that when you’re requesting a modification to a submitted design, you’re very clear on what you don’t (and do!) like about the current version. Hopefully, the designer will be able to get a good grasp of your vision right at the start of the project, but sometimes things are lost in translation, or overlooked. Make sure you say what you’re looking for in the amendment!
Sometimes you’re going to want a bunch of things changed in one go. The best way, in my opinion, is to list these as bullet points, or in their own sections. Again, in a huge chunk of text, sometimes things can be overlooked. For example, something like this would be good:
Hey! I’ve checked out the recent version you’ve sent across, and overall I really like the design! There are just a few things that I would like changed, if that’s okay?
I’m not a huge fan of the colours that have been used, I don’t think the red scheme works for my brand. Could we look at some different variations, maybe using blue or green?
I like the main font that is used for the body text, but I don’t like the heading fonts. Perhaps we could try a bolder, sleeker looking one?
The final thing that I would like is just one more page added to the website, which we’re totally happy to factor into the cost. We need an “about” page. I’ll send the copy across as an attachment to this reply.
Thanks for the quick response, and I look forward to seeing the new changes!
To me, that’s a great change request, and because of the polite tone and language, I’d be completely happy to make the changes. It’s also very clear what the client would like to be reworked.
Don’t Add Things for Free
As you saw in the example request above, the final bullet point mentions the addition of a new page, and that the client said they’d be happy to factor in the cost of this. The designer will naturally respond to this asking for a bit more information, but the fact that the extra cost was immediately addressed will put the designer’s mind at ease.
A common thing that people do is add extras to the job, assuming that they’d be free. This isn’t a call for a client to make. By all means, inquire as to whether or not extras can be put onto the job free of charge, but don’t just assume that’s the case. I’d be willing to bet that a lot of designers will give out some extra bits and bobs for free when the client is polite anyway!
Avoid Using Non-Helpful Terms
Something that’s a bit of a meme in the design world is clients giving feedback using over generalised words, with no real, exact meaning. The one that always appears in discussions like this is the phrase “Can we make the logo POP a bit more?” What on Earth does that mean? Nobody knows!
A Note to the Freelancers
If you’re a freelancer and you’ve been reading this, thinking “Yeah, damn right, “ and other similar things, remember that this goes both ways. It’s on you to maintain a professional and warm tone when communicating with your clients. Keep in mind that they are paying you for a service, not blunt and/or passive-aggressive responses.
Hopefully these give you a bit of an insight into what freelancers expect when receiving feedback on their work, and the best practices when putting together your replies. I suppose the number one tip to take from all of these is to simply be kind when communicating, to both your designer and your clients.