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How to give effective design feedback…

28th August 2015

Some clients can feel a little apprehensive when giving design feedback. Largely because by not being a design expert they can feel their input may not be relevant. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t need to be an expert in design to give feedback. It’s the in-depth understanding of your business, and your audience insight, that is vital to the feedback process – knowledge that the designer craves.

Focus on the brief

When giving feedback, stay focussed on the problem the design is supposed to be solving. Your feedback should always relate to whether the design is satisfying the objectives in the brief. It’s easily done, but try not to offer solutions to the designer (aka telling them what to do), that’s what the designer is employed to do – Again, your role is to point out any problems that the designer needs to address.

Don’t get personal

Firstly, be mindful of letting your personal preferences sway your decision on the suitability of the solution provided. You may not be a huge fan of the look of the design solution, but if it encompasses the understanding of the business and audience, meets the objectives in the brief, and colleagues and designers are confident in the work, then it is likely a suitable solution.
A great example of the above can be seen in the below video. It takes a look at the design approach of legendary designer Paul Rand. While he was working for IBM, the only way he would change his design was if the problem his design was answering changed. For example, if the client simply didn’t like the use of the colour blue in the work, well, that was tough. Blue was what Rand had given them, so blue was what they got. Rand always supplied work that he felt best answered the problem, if you didn’t want the blue, you would have to change the problem or give him insight into why blue had to be changed.

Secondly, don’t get personal with the designer. Be sure to make the feedback about the work not the designer, but do be honest and upfront when doing so. Don’t worry about not saying things at the risk of thinking you’ll upset the designer, feedback comes with the territory, and all designers know that. Just be sure you can back up and explain your feelings. Constructive criticism is key.

Listen to your gut

Often your gut feeling is right, so go with it, and then provide meaningful reasons as to why. But you have to be specific. Designers will struggle to change something if they don’t know what it is that needs changing.

Try not to give feedback by committee

Unfortunately this happens all to often. The client that the designer is dealing directly with, may say something like

‘that looks really great! Let me just run it past a few colleagues first’.

What can ensue are all the subjective views of others turning the proposed design into a compromised and safe version of it’s original self.
It’s very likely, the others who the design is being shown to will have not been exposed to the projects history. So even though they may have a clear understanding of the business and audience, they most likely will not know the objectives of the project or the reasons behind the design choices. Most will simply ask their colleagues “what do you think of this?” without providing much background to the project.

Talk it through

Whenever possible, feedback should be in the form of a discussion, face-to-face if possible, although failing that a phone call will suffice. Do try to refrain from providing feedback in the form of bullet points within an email.


Designers take great pride in their work, and have a real sense of ownership. It is important that feedback therefore recognises this, showing how you value the designers role in achieving the projects goal(s), and continually recognising how it is the designers decisions informing the work, is important. The moment the designer feels like they have lost ownership of the work, their level of pride, and in turn commitment to the cause, can be damaged.

Frame of mind

Finally, something that can be easily overlooked, is determining whether you are in the right frame of mind to deliver feedback. If you are having a particularly stressful day, or have issues that could affect delivery of your feedback, then refrain from doing so at that point in time. You’d be surprised on how your state of mind can affect feedback, and ultimately the final project.
Hopefully you are now clear on how best to give design feedback. And not only will employing the above make for an easier more enjoyable design process, but it will also lead to improved outcomes.
Until next time…


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