Communication is a huge component of the design process. Designers depend on you, the client, to communicate your vision for a project—and, most importantly, to give them feedback once you see the design in progress.
Without feedback and an open line of communication, the designer is working in the dark. Nuances might be misinterpreted and a non-response might be taken as agreement–or as passive-aggressive disapproval.
And even if you’re not sure what to say—saying nothing is the worst thing to do. Ghosting on a project puts everyone in a bad spot.
You need to be able to give quality feedback to move the ball forward. But what does that look like? And how do you communicate your thoughts to someone to make sure the next draft is aligned with your expectations?
Feed'em a Sandwich
Giving feedback can be hard, especially if it’s negative feedback. A helpful tool is the “sandwich” technique, where you wrap the negative feedback between positive feedback. In some circles—ok, most circles—this is called the sh*t sandwich. It helps maintain a positive tone while still getting your point across.
Start by talking about something you liked about the comp you received. Then give feedback about what didn’t work for you. And finish your thoughts with another positive comment.
Simple example: I love the way you’ve incorporated photography into the presentations. I think the text is hard to read on some of the slides. If we tint the photos, we can use all that great photography you found and maybe the text will work better.
Find some elements that you like so the designer can do more of that (and less of what you don’t like). The sh*t sandwich is a helpful way to give your designer a way to move forward—and feel more motivated while doing it. (Just don’t forget the napkins.)
Protip: the sh*t sandwich isn’t a new idea, and a wizened designer will see it coming a mile away. Try hard to make the positive feedback genuine—she might already be tensing up in preparation of the negative feedback.
While designers love great feedback, "I like it" doesn’t get us closer to the final round. And neither does "It's not quite what I was looking for" or "I want it to pop more." To match your vision, your designer needs specific feedback from you—actionable and (preferably) constructive.
What do you love about the design? Note a specific element (font, color, illustration, etc.) and explain why you love it. How does it fit into your brand? How does it make you feel?
As you’re talking about what you don’t love, note details about the design that aren’t quite right. Again, be specific. What needs to be changed in the design? What is it that would make it pop, in your eyes? What about the concept doesn’t work for you?
If you’re writing feedback, take a moment to review it before pushing “send”—double check that a reasonable person, upon reading the feedback, would have clear next steps.
Listen to Feedback
You hired a designer because they have expertise that you don’t have. It’s the same logic you’d use if you hired an accountant to take care of your taxes—because it’s outside your wheelhouse. So, when you’re sitting down with your design for the first round, be sure to give her an opportunity to talk through the design with you. As she’s talking through the work, listen for opportunities to further tighten the communication so the next round is even closer to what you were looking for.
Also keep in mind that your designer might have been down a similar road before with this sort of project. If she’s made a decision that seems unusual to you, give her the chance to explain it before rejecting it outright. Allow her to talk about what she’s learned—it likely plays a role in how she created the concept for you. Ask questions and have some back-and-forth so she understands your concerns and you’re informed about her expert decisions.
Like any professional relationship, keep the lines of communication open and be receptive to follow-up questions from your designer. The more open and forthcoming you are, the closer your designer will come to hitting the nail on the head with the design.
Don’t expect her to read your mind—unless, of course, you offer her some lessons in telepathy.