How to Give Feedback to Your Designer – Design Talk for the Non-Creatives

How hard is it when you are busy in your business to stay busy working for your business even when the way you are working isn't working? Wow - that is a tongue twister! Say that five times fast, for me it took an outside person to teach me a new way, as the way I was working was not sustainable or healthy.

I have been in a frustrating position when my client has clammed up on me because she just didn’t know how to explain herself. She got so frustrated she stopped replying to my emails, and calls and the project just fizzled out and it left a bad feeling in my stomach like I had done something wrong.

Do you know who was to blame? Me! It was totally my fault. I sent her a poster design in an email with a short email signing off with “looking forward to your feedback”. I unintentionally put her in a position to be able to articulate what was wrong and right with the design with absolutely no guidance. That’s not fair, she isn’t a designer – she doesn’t know the right design terms to use. 


You will be glad to read I have put a lot of work into client management since that awkward time a few years ago and always give my clients a script to be able to plug their thoughts into. I really haven’t had much of an issue since then. 


How to Give Feedback to Your Designer – Design Talk for the Non-Creatives


You don’t need to know all the terminology to be able to get your point across but a few handy words might just cut through to your designer and then the design magic will happen – when the designer gives you exactly what you were imagining. Let’s get started with some email scripts that will be handy when one of these issues arise, using these should have you sounding like an expert in a blink of an eye.


Issue 1:  The design seems flat and lifeless. 


The worst thing you can do is ask the designer to “make it pop”, please remove that line from your repertoire, instead you could follow this script: 


Script 1: 

“Hi _____, Thank you for this concept design. Can we/I please see some alternatives with different colours, something eye-catching and engaging, perhaps the main focus could be ______ and _____? Just an idea. The design right now just seems to be off slightly, I/We really like the way you have done ______.” 


Issue 2:  The design isn’t fitting the brief, in fact, the designer seems to have gotten it completely wrong 



“Hi _____, Thank you for sending this through. I/We feel like we need to revisit the brief as the design has a different approach than what is needed, I write this with the most respect to you. Can I/we see another version of this with an image more like (insert example) or (insert another example)?  I know design is a process and am willing to work with you on this.” 


Issue 3:  It looks amateur and not a design you would invest in.


Now, remember you get more bees with honey than vinegar so tread gently and show visual examples of designs you like that could work, designers are visual! 



“Hi ____, Thank you for sending this design through. I/We appreciate your efforts on this, however, can I/we see a new version of it?

The message doesn’t seem to be immediately read in the design, so I think in the next refinement, we would ideally like to see:

1. The alignment of the text (left-justified / left justified/centred) 

2. Image – can they be changed to (insert image/link to the Pinterest image)

3. Fonts – here is a design I really like the font they have used (insert image/link to the Pinterest image)


Issue 4:  The message isn’t clear, too much going on in the design. 



“Hi ____, Thank you for the design. It’s really ____ in areas which I/we like. Do you agree that the consumer’s eye isn’t being drawn to anything in particular within the design? Can we have a hero object in the design, maybe a larger call to action or main image and lose ____ and _____. Perhaps a more simplified design is needed? I know I have provided a lot of information/content at the start but maybe there is another way to layout the content without having to strip it back? Looking to you for some ideas on this, happy to take a call tomorrow if it would help brainstorm” 


I hope the above scripts have helped you be able to properly word your feedback to your designer. When I need to send not-positive feedback to someone I try and sandwich the bad in between good things, for example, I like what you did with the colours (a good thing) but I feel that the font is slightly off and could be revisited. (a bad thing) Thank you for your work on this, appreciate your patience. (a good thing)

Good / bad / good.

Good design is very much a collaborative effort between the designer and you, the client. My takeaway: be nice always. Being a designer I know they just want to do a good job and be appreciated. Clients that are easy to work with getting the best results — communicate clearly and politely, it’s ok if you don’t know the proper terminology but if you are open to explaining it goes a long way. 


Good luck, if you have any particular concerns – send me a message via the contact form and I will do my best to answer them.


You might also like to listen to my podcast interview when we discuss how I deal with criticism. 

how to talk to designers 2    

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