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InsightJun 20, 2023

How to give effective and constructive feedback to creatives

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Effective feedback is only essential for achieving the desired result on a project, but it also helps designers develop new skills and capabilities. Below, senior creative professionals share advice on giving effective feedback.

"We do not like sandwiches. Often when giving creatives feedback, we are either too vague or we smush something negative between two pieces of positive yet superficial praise. This not only dilutes your message, but it also loses meaning, has a chance to be missed and you end up coming off as disingenuous. To give feedback that builds relationships and delivers results treat it as a dialogue between trusted colleagues — a two-way street. Creatives are like scientists looking to solve problems. Try a growth-mindset approach, focus on genuine strengths and offer concrete, specific and perceptible actionable points." — Diana Campbell RGD, Senior Manager, Digital Strategy and Governance, Alberta Blue Cross 

"As a rule, I try to take emotion out of design. Whether designing a brochure that takes a few days or weeks, or an exhibit that takes years, I believe the team should start with a concept. In terms of this core idea, we always use one word (at most two), one sentence (for internal use only) and a thumbnail sketch (the parti pris) that expresses the essence of the project. Designers can design endlessly and strong egos can outweigh reason. For this purpose, it is vital to have an agreed-upon concept. This becomes a critical tool when delivering criticism. The process of always returning criticism back to the question of "how does it relate to the concept" helps to suppress a lot of emotions and loud voices." — John DeWolf RGD, Principal, Narrative Environments Studio 

"First and foremost, it is vital to establish an inclusive work environment that encourages designers to express themselves freely without the fear of judgment. Designers need a safe space for sharing their unique perspectives and ideas, being creative and seeking feedback. This openness paves the way for more direct and targeted feedback. When designers feel supported and valued, they are more likely to take risks, learn from their mistakes and be inspired to continuously improve their craft. By fostering an environment where everyone embraces imperfection and can learn from errors, we enable growth and innovation." — Magued Hanna RGD, Independent UX & Design Consultant 

"Feedback is an essential part of the design process. When working with designers, knowing how each individual handles feedback is important. Some people love it while others are more sensitive to it. If you know a designer is more sensitive, start by highlighting their design's strengths. Your feedback should be specific, actionable and focused on improving the design. If the feedback is significant, point back to the brief. Remember, a strong brief is the key to a smooth design process." — Diego Lopez RGD, VP of Marketing, Creative Compass 

"When giving feedback, I typically frame it as a question — Can we try...? or What if we...? I find that this approach encourages designers to adopt a habit of asking these types of questions themselves on future projects. Additionally, I make a conscious effort to use "we" or "us" instead of "you" when providing feedback. Designers are often emotionally invested in their work and can get defensive, so using inclusive language helps. I also always explain the reasoning behind my comment. By providing a rationale, I emphasize that these suggestions are based on objective considerations rather than personal preferences." — Karl Chen, Freelance Senior Designer & Creative Director


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