Feedback
Process

The Set-up for Receiving and Providing Design Feedback Successfully

We will zoom in on what design feedback is, why this type of feedback is so important for the creative, how you can set set yourself up for receiving and providing design feedback effectively.

You’ve invested you heart and soul in a design solution. Only to figure out that stakeholders or team members tell you that aspects of the design don’t work and could be improved. With a heavy heart, you turn back to the drawing table, implementing the changes.

You enter the second review session with reduced confidence. The cycle repeats itself. After multiple sessions, your confidence goes down the drain. From this point, you look up to every review session to come.

This was me. It felt like all the effort I put into a design wasn’t enough. People always had something to say about my design work.

But eventually, I saw the light.

Every type of feedback revolves around spotting areas for improvement.

We will zoom in on what design feedback is, why this type of feedback is so important for the creative, how you can set set yourself up for receiving and providing design feedback effectively.

Design feedback, what is it exactly?

This is the type of feedback given and received during design review sessions. Also known as design critiques, design crit, design reviews, or just feedback sessions.

The place where proposed design solutions are discussed. Stakeholders, team members, and designers usually take part in these sessions.

Feedback sessions can also be at the coffee corners, short one-on-ones, or informally held between other work related activities. They’re not always planned, 30 minute meetings for example.

The importance of design feedback

Creative work and processes can’t be right or wrong. One works, one doesn’t and the other one works better. Work and processes rely on cross-functional collaboration. In order to gain clear creative direction, it’s crucial to:

  • gain different perspectives on the work you’ve done.
  • collaborate with other disciplines to understand their perspectives, concerns, and needs.
  • make improvements accordingly.

All this information feeds the next design iteration. Information is data. Therefore design decisions become more data-driven. Although with feedback, it depends on how the data is gathered. Which leads us to our next topic.

How you can set yourself up for receiving design feedback effectively

From my experience, I heavily believe that you need to be able to receive design feedback effectively first, before you can give effective design feedback.

Because by this, you’re training yourself to give effective feedback too. Since than, you’re practicing all ingredients necessary to create a tasty feedback serving.

Provide the right, just-enough context

What problem did you solve with the proposed design? Introduce the objective, project or flow you created the work for, summarise your process, articulate important design decisions. Do this short and sweet. This will keep the provider’s attention focused. All set? Then it’s time to ask for feedback!

Specify and ask questions

Specifying what feedback you are looking for, will establish focus too. This practice assists the feedback giver in clarifying their feedback faster. Listen actively. Pay attention to the feedback giver’s insights.

And what if the feedback still stays vague? Dig deeper. Press for examples. Ask for clarification and probing questions when feedback isn’t clear. When the provider elaborates their feedback in more detail, it becomes clear and hidden points of attention might just pop up!

Detach yourself from your work

This is my favourite one. This accelerated my perspective on how to receive feedback effectively.

You are not your work. Consciously separate yourself from your creations. No matter what, the feedback is all about the work. Not about you as a person. Accept the feedback gracefully. It’s invaluable information for growth.

Though, if any emotions arise, acknowledge them. It’s okay to feel them. You’re a person too. You’ve put your heart and soul in your work. It’s natural to feel them. Especially when you’re provided with feedback.

Objective over a subjective lens

Detaching yourself from you’re work allows you to stay more objective. Nevertheless, opinions are always present. We need to ensure the person giving the feedback stays objective as well. We can do a few neat things to achieve that.

  • Keep referring to the project's objectives and target audience.
  • Use research data to steer away from subjective feedback.

Appreciate different perspectives and silence

Embrace the diversity of opinions you receive. Each feedback giver brings a unique perspective. Recognise that not all feedback needs to be implemented, but it's valuable to consider different viewpoints.

Ask in real time, while you give people time

By asking feedback in real time, you start a natural discussion. Be sure to give people time to formulate their feedback. This increases the quality of feedback. So even when design feedback is given at the coffee corner, be sure that the coffee has time to cool down!

Bonus: Getting a grasp of body language comes in useful too. This can communicate valuable feedback in a implicit way. Which is something to anticipate your next questions on.

Detail: A collection of happy little talking clouds. How feedback should be. ;)

How you can provide effective design feedback

These points are very similar from the points mentioned in receiving design feedback effectively. But then from a different perspective. The perspective of the feedback provider.

Understanding of context

Be sure that you understand the context of the project you need to provide feedback at. What’s the project about? Why did they solve the problem this way? What was their process?

Stay objective

It feels natural and easy to speak out your personal opinion about a design. Nevertheless, try to stay objective. Avoid subjectivity. Zoom out. Focus on how the problem was solve. Not your personal bias towards red buttons.

Be clear and specific

The more detailed you describe your feedback, the better the creative can anticipate on your feedback and implement it accordingly.

Give feedback timely

As with receiving feedback, timing is important. Communicate your feedback one by one. Allow the creative time to absorb the provided information.

Final thoughts and recommendations

Design is where creative work gets tangible. It’s easier for people to articulate their perspectives or concerns about something which is tangible. This is part of every creative role.

Takeaways

  • Receiving feedback effectively — Provide right context, specify and ask, objectivity over subjectivity, appreciate different perspectives, ask in real time.
  • Provide feedback — Understand the context, stay objective, be clear and specific, give the feedback timely.
  • It’s so important to be able to detach yourself from your work. You are not your work. This practice allows you to view the feedback objectively.
  • Be sure to care enough. Find balance with this objective view. If you stop caring about your work, the quality suffers. When you care too much, feedback starts to feel personal. Therefore, balance is the ultimate goal.

Research & Resources

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