You finally did it. You put aside all your fears, concerns, and general anxieties about outsourcing and you hired a brand designer to revamp your business identity. You filled out her brief, made it through the kick off call, and then happily sent her off to do her thing. But now she’s back with her initial concepts and she’s seeking feedback on designs. You:
a.) suddenly realize you don’t know the first thing about design and are tempted to just go with whatever she’s sent
b.) have tons of feedback but don’t know how to organize all of it and are feeling self conscious about how picky you are (not to mention you don’t want to hurt your designer’s feelings)
c.) know something feels off, but are having trouble pinpointing what it is
d.) all of the above
As a designer, I totally get it. Providing feedback can be a tricky thing, especially when you feel a little out of your element or you’re worried about how it’ll be perceived.
But your brand sets the tone for your business, kind of like your kitchen sets the tone for your house (if you’re an amateur home chef, like me). Renovating your kitchen is an investment in your home. When you know it’s a place you’re going to be spending a good part of your day, you’re very discerning about the details, everything from the counters and the fixtures to the cabinets and the farmhouse sink.
Your brand should be no different. It’s an integral part of your business and something you will see and use every single day for years to come. So you should be just as critical of the serif font in your logo as you would be of the subway tiles in your kitchen backsplash.
Here are some easy steps you can take to provide helpful and constructive feedback on designs to guide your designer toward the perfect on-brand visual identity for your business.
reframe your mindset
I come from a corporate agency background, where feedback was usually delivered with a heavy helping of patronization and judgement. So I get how feedback has developed a bad reputation. It took me awhile to realize that feedback can be a good thing. It’s a natural part of collaboration and the fuel I need to help me turn a good design into a great one.
If design’s not your thing, you might be hesitant to provide honest feedback because it’s hard to know if you’re right or wrong.
But here’s the thing – if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, your business – and by default, your brand – is ultimately a reflection of you. And at the very least, you know yourself and what you like. So trust your intuition. If your vision is completely out of alignment with your brand, a good designer will tell you. But trust your gut first.
the difference between good feedback and bad feedback
Let’s start with what makes feedback good and what makes it bad. Because whoa Nelly is there a difference, and funnily enough it has little to do with the actual feedback itself, but in how it’s delivered.
Good feedback is:
An example of good feedback is saying something like, “I don’t like how spaced out the letters are – can we try tightening them up?” or “I like the font, but I don’t like how light it is. Could we make it bolder?” It’s clear, specific, direct, and constructive.
Bad feedback is:
An example of bad feedback is, “I don’t like these concepts can I see some new ones?” or “I’m not sure what it is, but I’m just not feeling it.” Vague, wishy-washy feedback wastes your time with your designer, because it doesn’t help her get to the root of what needs to change in order to knock it out of the park.
But there’s an equally bad type of feedback that may surprise you – and that’s when someone says, “I absolutely love it, I wouldn’t change a thing” after they see the first concept. Any Cubbies baseball player will tell you, it’s super rare to hit a home run your first time at bat. So when I hear that from clients when they first see a logo, it can be an indication that they either don’t know how to critique the designs, or worse, that they’re nervous to.
As a first step, I tell people to sit with the designs for a bit and let them sink in. Look at them in a variety of environments – peep them on your phone, print them out and hang them on the wall. Then write down everything you love and don’t love about them. And I do mean everything.
You might feel conscientious about giving a lot of feedback to your designer – you don’t want to hurt her feelings and I get it. But as a designer I can tell you that the right designer will want 100% honest feedback, no matter how much of it there is because she’ll want to deliver something you will love.
Design, like art, is 100% subjective. What one person loves, another person might not. So be honest, while also being constructive.
break it down
Sometimes it’s easiest to provide feedback on designs when you literally break the design into parts, and by that I mean evaluate the different elements separately and then as a whole.
In fact, the more specific you’re able to be with your feedback, the easier it will be to address it. Even if you feel like you’re being nitpicky, tell your designer if you prefer an open-tailed (single story) “g” to a loopy (double story) “g”. Let her know if you’re just not feeling that icon that she designed. It’s all helpful.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to start outlining helpful and constructive feedback for your designer.
- Look at how the different elements (text, icons, lines, etc.) are spaced out. How do they feel to you?
- Note how the different elements are organized or arranged in relation to one another – does it make sense? Is it balanced?
- Similarly, note how different elements are sized in relation to each other. Is your strapline too small compared to your brand name? Is the icon too large next to it?
- Consider what your eye is drawn to. If it’s constantly drawn to one single thing (like that really large space between the two words in your business name) then you might need to make adjustments. Logos in particular should fit together and be cohesive as a single unit.
- Do you like the style of font used (serif, san-serif, script, etc.)?
- Do you like the shape of font used? Some fonts are narrow, some are wide, some are very rounded, some are more square. Each has its own attitude and feel. Does this one work for you and the brand you’re trying to create?
- Do you like the specific font used? Perhaps you like the style and shape but you want to look at different fonts. That’s okay, and a natural part of the process. All you have to do is ask to see some alternatives.
- Do you prefer an all uppercase look, an all lowercase look, or traditional grammar case?
- Do you like the spacing between letters? Does it feel too spaced out or too tight?
- Is it too trendy? Will it be out of date in 4 or 5 years?
- Different colors make you feel different things – how do the colors in the design make you feel?
- Would any of them look better darker or lighter?
- Would any of them look better bolder or more muted?
- Does the icon or illustration fit with the overall tone of the logo?
- Does the logo stand as a good representation of your business?
And here comes the hardest part and the easiest part all at once…
- What do you feel when you look at your design?
- Are those feelings what you want your brand to evoke in your audience?
- Is this design something you feel your brand can grow into for years to come?
- Is it something you’re proud of? Do you want to show it off?
- Does it make you excited to move forward in your business?
- Refer back to your brief and mood board – does it fit?
By answering these questions, you should be able to collect better feedback with more concrete items for your designer to address. As a result, they’ll be easier for her to correct and implement, so the next round of designs will be closer to the mark.
be patient and persistent
It might take a couple rounds of providing feedback on designs before you have exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a process, but one that will pay off big time in your business. Be diligent in sharing your thoughts and patient as you navigate the process with your designer. The end result will be well worth the journey!
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