“What do you think?”
If you’ve worked on any project that required a visual, you’ve probably been asked this question. It’s so open you can fly a plane through it, and you’ve probably had a moment when you had nothing to say in response. That’s normal; giving good design feedback is hard. It’s not unusual to feel obligated to weigh in on something even when you don’t have anything to say. Here are some tips you can keep in mind the next time you’re asked for your opinion.
It’s okay to look at something and not like how it looks. But “I don’t like it” isn’t usually feedback a designer can work with. To give better feedback, start with the goal the visual is trying to accomplish.
For example, look at this picture of signs:
The signs had one job: to tell you if you can park here or not. Unfortunately, there are so many signs that it’s difficult for anyone to tell, at a glance, if you can park here. Do the signs accomplish the goal? Technically, yes. Do they accomplish the goal well? Of course not.
It’s not often that designers 100% miss the mark. Instead of making a blanket judgment about a visual, it’s more helpful to point out what it is that you like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t. Designers put a lot of time, effort, and soul into our work. Sometimes that work misses the mark. It happens. As professionals, we usually understand that a critique of our work isn’t a critique of us. One way that you can make sure your feedback isn’t taken personally is by keeping your language objective. Instead of saying “You’ve done something confusing with the way this information is laid out,” try “The way this information is laid out is confusing.” Avoiding the word “you” focuses the feedback on the work itself.
Trust designers to solve the problem.
People become designers because they enjoy visual problem-solving, and they’re good at it. If there’s something in a visual that you don’t like, or that isn’t working, it’s more helpful to point out what it is and why it’s getting in the way of a goal. Let the designer solve the problem. For example, you might have a lot of pieces of text that you want to be emphasized. You might think the best solution would be to put them in big, bold, red font. Unfortunately, this creates a problem where so many things stand out that nothing truly does. Designers are often much more experienced in solving these problems, so let them do it. Trust that they’re able to deliver results you need. It’s okay to give suggestions, but don’t be hurt if your suggestions don’t make it into the final product.
Next time someone asks you what you think, don’t fret! Use these tips and your feedback will help improve the product—and accomplish your goals.
Graphic by Christina Wagner