We use a lot of squishy words when describing creative—cool, fun, authentic, clean—because how we react to words and images is visceral. Trouble is, those words can mean very different things to different people. Is “cool” dark and brooding or sleek and modern? “Edgy” for a bank is very different from “edgy” for a spirits label. Meanings change from brand to brand, audience to audience, and person to person.
To complicate things further, it can be hard to explain why you like one thing and dislike another. So here’s a look into what works especially well for the team at FATFREE.
Finding the balance between too vague and too prescriptive.
On the one hand, “I’ll know it when I see it” or “just make it more interesting” doesn’t give a creative much to go on. Conversely, mandating specific changes can undercut the quality of the final product.
Just be honest. We’re professionals. We’re using creative to solve a problem. And we’re here to make you, your company and your products look good.
In copy, if someone gives me an edit, I look at the rest of the text to ensure the word hasn’t been repeated, the rhythm still works and so on. If I accept changes as provided without considering the potential domino effect, or a designer makes one image “pop” without thinking about how it interacts with everything else on the page, the finished product suffers.
Focusing on goals over execution.
The best feedback generally goes back to the brief. We start any project with a well-defined problem to solve, but sometimes new reviewers aren’t 100% read-in or the conversation shifts to the execution.
Rather than trying to convey creative direction, it can be easier to look at the strategy or talk about what you want the changes to achieve. What are the priorities for the piece? Is the work aligned with the brand’s personality and voice? How is it falling short of these more objective measures? Will these changes positively impact response?
Once you know why you need revisions or where you want to end up, be open to alternative ways to reach that goal. I’ve been a creative director and copywriter for nearly 4,000 years, and even today, what I think I want is rarely as good as what a designer will come back with, given a clear problem to solve.
Most important, don’t forget to tell us what you liked or loved. We need to know what we’re trying to retain, too.
Four more tactical creative feedback tips to keep in mind:
- Paint a picture—or show us one. When you say you want “cooler,” add more words, like “futuristic” or “graffiti” or “Kardashian.” (No, I don’t think that’s cool, but that’s the point. We want to know what you mean.) Or point us to something that means “cool” to you. We start design projects by exploring graphic approaches you like and don’t like and creating mood boards, so we tend to get pretty close. But it’s a great idea to return to as new reviewers enter the picture or words alone don’t quite do the job.
- Consolidate the team’s feedback. Disconnected feedback puts us in a tough position. If, for example, reviewer C wants to change a headline reviewer A loved last week, how should we respond? We don’t know the hierarchies and politics, or how to answer questions posed in the comments.
- Separate preferences from objectives. A majority of men and women say that their favorite color is blue. As it turns out, that’s also the most popular color for corporate identities. Coincidence? Nope. But it’s a good example of how important it can be to set your own likes aside if you want to, say, stand out from the crowd—or if you want to connect with an audience that doesn’t look exactly like you.
- Just be honest. We’re professionals. We’re using creative to solve a problem. And we’re here to make you, your company and your products look good. So if you don’t like something but aren’t sure why, spit it out. We’ll probably ask follow-up questions to make sure we’re on the same page, but you may not know the answers. Say so. Don’t feel like you have to have the solution. We’ll work through that together.