It’s hard not to take design feedback personally, especially when someone is telling you what they don’t like about your design. That is why I like to keep five simple rules in mind when seeking feedback from a client, team, or boss.
1) Think of Yourself as Part of a Team
Design is a collaborative effort. A client or boss will typically ask you to bring a certain vision to life. However, people rarely have the same taste or idea when it comes to design. The picture in their head and yours may not completely sync up with what you initially produced. Accepting their notes and feedback, when appropriate, is part of the creative process – and human process. When your client/boss sees their ideas implemented in the design then they become more invested in the work and are more willing to help defend and publish the design. Remember, everybody wants what’s best for the project.
2) Keep the Conversation About Design Goals
You should have specific goals in mind when creating your design; therefore, never open up a critique of your work with silence or ask, “what do you think?” Instead, start the discussion around the goals of the site (as an example). Explain how your design achieves those goals and seek feedback on areas where the design could be improved – with those goals in mind. You can use data, prior research, and experience to back up your decisions too. Be mindful that you and your team, or client, don’t forget the macro and micro goals you are trying to achieve with the design. Otherwise, your design will be judged by its aesthetics only which will lead to misdirection when it comes to edits.
3) Don’t be Afraid to Ask “Why?”
“Why” is not a bad word. Unclear feedback leaves everybody frustrated. The art of asking “Why?” actually helps you, and your client, understand the underlying reason why a certain design choice is not resonating with them or other audiences. People often have a problem trying to express their wants and needs so it may take a while to find the right questions to ask; but this will save a lot of time in the grand scheme of the project, and prevent more stressful moments later on. Typically asking why five times will help you find the right answer to an issue.
4) Magic Answers Do Not Exist
There is not a magic answer to make your design better. Most good solutions take some trial and error. Allow yourself some wiggle room to experiment with various solutions. Don’t get mad at yourself if an experiment does not work out, simply use the data and feedback to discover what is working and what is not – remember ask “why?” Ideally, you’ll want to walk away with several solutions to test.
5) Remember, Nothing is Personal
You are not your work. You are not your work. Repeat after me, “I am not my work.” As designers, we tend to bring our own style and pour a bit of ourselves into our work. Nevertheless, any critique on your design or work does not reflect back on you as a person. There is always room for improvement. Save yourself some heartache and do not walk into a critique expecting only high-fives. The goal is to grow. Accept the positive feedback on what you are strong in, and learn from the feedback you are given to improve other areas of your design skills. You are here to get better.