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How to Give Design Feedback & Manage Designers

Nobody likes micromanagers. Still, giving valuable design feedback & managing designers effectively is no easy feat. Discover how you can get better at it!

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September 24, 2023
12
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If you manage a team of designers or even one designer, it can be pretty tricky to track their progress effectively. How to give feedback to designers and get better at managing them? We're sharing some tips!

Revisions are a necessary part of the design process. But, in order to get to the finished result faster, it’s your job to give effective feedback to designers. It’s fine to give both positive and negative feedback, so long as what you’re saying can actually help and steer further design decisions in the right direction.

Here are some tips on how to make the feedback process more effective

How to give design feedback?

Ever gotten a terrible haircut? Ever lied about liking it when the stylist asked you? Then you've experienced the struggle of giving constructive directions, be it good or bad feedback (blond was not a good look on me, people).

Hair grows out eventually, but fortunately, graphic design can be remedied much more quickly. Of course, just as a simple "I don't like it" wouldn't help a hairdresser, it provides equally little guidance to the graphic designer.

Here's how to give feedback to designers like a pro.

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Be specific

If you want to know how to feedback graphic designers, this is the most vital piece of advice we can give.

Don't just say, "I don't like this," or, even worse, "Can you make it pop." Instead, point out particular aspects of the design that you (dis)like, such as colors, fonts, layout, images, proportion, etc.

Of course, nobody expects non-designer to communicate in professional terms or even understand exactly what the issue is sometimes. But at the very least, you should be able to identify the root of the problem.

Focus on the problems, don’t offer solutions

Speaking of problems, another essential reminder in learning how to give design feedback is to remember whose job it is to design.

Trusting that your designer can do the job well is the foundation of a healthy designer-client relationship. Although it's natural for us to try to think of design solutions while presenting problems, you should make a conscious effort not to become prescriptive.

Not only does this waste a lot of time it can also harm the process. If you have a particularly compliant designer, they might receive design feedback and follow it blindly in order to appease you. More often than not, this leads to common design mistakes, such as cluttering the design since clients often don’t understand the importance of white space. 

Ask questions

Another way to avoid coming across as an annoying micromanager is to keep asking your designer for their input.

If there's something you don't understand (and I guarantee this will happen), it's perfectly fine to ask for some professional guidance. This will create a dialogue between you and the designer, which is usually much more effective than them simply receiving feedback from you and doing exactly as they’re told.

Remember that a professional graphic designer should always be able to explain their creative process. Asking designers to explain their creative decisions can help you get a good idea of what makes effective design. And it can also point out easy solutions to problems you've identified.

Stay objective

Personal tastes play a significant role in graphic design. However, great design feedback means staying as objective as possible. 

It’s also one of the main reasons why you should avoid DIY design: non-designers often get led astray by their personal tastes. Remember that professional design should always fulfill a specific purpose and appeal to a predefined target audience.

Sometimes, your target audience will have the same background and issues as you, but that may not necessarily be the case. Keep feedback grounded within a predefined context (the subject matter of a great design brief).

Offer praise and critique at the same time

We can all stay as objective as possible, but when you feedback graphic designers, you'll likely ruffle a few feathers.

Ultimately, you're in a situation to criticize someone's creative work that can hardly be assessed with a mathematical formula. Of course, professional designers know that criticism is an integral part of the creative process. Still, there's no harm in delivering criticism in positive circumstances.

Use every opportunity for giving design feedback as a way to both praise and critique, if needed. Start by pointing out things you like about the design, and then move on to discuss the issues.

It's not even just about courtesy or being kind. Providing positive feedback gives designers a better understanding of your wishes and style preferences, which aids them in making more focused and effective revisions.

Tips for tracking designers' progress more effectively

Great design feedback is only one part of effectively managing designers. As you probably know the graphic design process is often lengthy and complex. Still, there are a few things you can do to help it run smoothly. 

Looking over their shoulder constantly isn't going to make any designer more efficient. However, you can do a few things to ensure your team members work to their full capacity.

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1. Hire vetted designers

There's only so much you can expect from an inexperienced designer or a total newbie. If productivity and fast design are priorities for you, then it's really worth paying a little extra for a vetted professional.

Still, this is easier said than done, especially if you hire freelancers. Many freelancers talk a big game about their skills but have little experience to prove it. If you decide to hire through a reputable platform such as Fiverr or Upwork, pay attention to things like:

  • Rating: Although it isn't the sole source of truth, it's a good indicator of the designer's ability to deliver on the client's wishes.
  • Customer reviews: Take time to dive deeper into these and see if the clients raised legitimate concerns or highlighted positive aspects of the collaboration which are significant to you.
  • Previous work: Don't forget to look up their portfolio on platforms such as Behance and Dribbble. If you can't find enough examples of previous projects, you can ask designers to provide some.

2. Set expectations and rules

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

As an employer, it's your responsibility to create a setup for success. If you don't work in the same space with your designer (which, thanks to covid, is becoming increasingly common), ensure that designers know what's expected of them.

Here are a few things you'll want to define:

Timeframes and deliverables

Deadlines help us work better. When setting up deadlines and goals, make sure they are SMART (specific, measurable, relevant, and time-bound). Don't expect creative work to be automated, but make sure specific deliverables have a deadline.

You can always opt to define hard and soft deadlines, as this will help the designer prioritize work and keep the process smooth.

Contracts and agreements

Yes, professional graphic design can be a matter of a few clicks. But that doesn’t mean formal agreements are obsolete in all cases.

If you've hired a designer in-house or gone with a freelancing platform, it's understood that some agreement is in place. This is a necessary precaution for both clients and designers.

The part where it gets tricky is terminating contracts if you're unhappy with the work. Frequently, clients attempt to terminate contracts early without paying designers for the work done because it doesn't meet their criteria.

Agreeing on the number of revisions, deliverables, and time frame gives you the right to terminate the contract if the designer doesn't adhere to these stipulations. Alternatively, if you want a hassle-free solution, find out more about unlimited design services. No contracts or admin; you pay a flat monthly fee and can cancel your subscription anytime with no additional charges.

Means of communication

Speaking of agreements, one of the vital things you’ll want to define is how and when you communicate with your designer.

Say you've emailed a designer directly with some feedback, but you'd previously only communicated through feedback software found on freelancing platforms. It's perfectly fair for the designer to say they've missed your feedback, which may cause delays in delivering the final result.

If this isn't a method of communication you'd formally agreed on, you'd have no case against the designer. And honestly, it's also possible they've missed your message.

3. Provide a brand style guide

A brand guide can save designers a lot of time and help you get to the final result much quicker.

Aside from the design elements (colors, fonts, images, etc.), brand guides help designers establish a tone and fitting style.

So, even if you have to make some last-minute changes to the copy, designers will be able to create graphics that communicate your key messages. Brand guides also minimize the time designers spend researching, as it helps them better understand what the brand is all about.

4. Have daily meetings/ETA updates

This is the part where it gets tricky. How can you have regular meetings and still avoid coming across as a micromanager?

Well, the key is consistency. The main problem with micromanagers is that people don’t know what to expect: they fear being tripped or questioned before every step. And this can be incredibly counterproductive in a creative process, such as graphic design.

On the other hand, regular check-ins that everyone plans and prepares for can be a tremendous asset. There are several ways you can keep everyone on the same page:

  • Daily stand-ups: Short daily meetings of up to 30 minutes for everyone to share their progress and plans for that working day.
  • ETA reports: Depending on the progress so far, designers should always give an updated estimated completion time for the current project.
  • Weekly/biweekly meetings: Our team finds this frequency helpful, as we can bring significant progress to the table and discuss further steps accordingly.
  • Monthly review: This is an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the design and make strategic suggestions/decisions for the next period.

5. Break down tasks into manageable chunks

For most non-designers, the design process can be a bit of a mystery. For example, most people I know still don’t understand why a high-quality logo usually takes weeks to develop and design.

So, to effectively track a designer's progress, you need to split design tasks into smaller tasks with a firm deadline.

Although it’s most applicable to UX design, here are a few steps that can help you break down design tasks into stages or smaller chunks of work.

  • Functionality: What is the purpose of the design? Even if it’s a simple social media post, it may have a different purpose (to engage people, to share information, to build brand awareness, etc.). Design-wise this relates to research tasks, where you decide on a style and overall feel of the project.
  • Information Architecture: Which is the most vital piece of information, and how will it be presented? In design terms this section will concern the layout.
  • Interaction Design: This is the time to consider the user or viewer of your design. If they are going to interact with it in some way (e.g. website pages, ads, social media posts), how will you ensure that the interaction is smooth? This is where you want to make tweaks to the layout and perfect elements such as CTA buttons.
  • Visual Design: If you follow the previous steps, designing should be a breeze. With a clear direction, style requirements, and a polished layout, skilled designers can churn out graphics in no time!

6. Outsource your challenges

Want to manage designers effectively? Start by giving them tasks they're actually able to do.

This happens a lot with in-house design teams. In the interest of saving time and money, designers are asked to tackle tasks that are way outside their original scope of work or it's something they never have or never claimed to have done before.

Outsourcing design has numerous benefits:

  • working with designers with specialized skills
  • getting high-quality work
  • faster turnaround time
  • cutting costs
  • expanding your offer

There are several fantastic ways to outsource graphic design. However, we believe there's no match for unlimited design services regarding the cost-quality-speed ratio.

7. Give regular feedback

Want to get quality design fast? Don’t expect designers to read minds.

It's the designer's job to provide regular updates and ask for your feedback, but it's on you to ensure this design feedback counts. Don't wait to see if something will "eventually turn out alright." When you feedback design, ask questions, and allow the designer to explain their decisions. If you still don't think they're hitting the mark, give them helpful feedback that they can translate into revisions.

An easier way to get design done

We hope this sheds some light on how to give design feedback and manage designers more effectively. 

Whether you hire a designer in-house, or find a talented freelance designer, knowing how to give every type of feedback will certainly make the design process smoother.

However, the best way to ensure designers work more efficiently, is to hire dedicated design project managers. These people know exactly how to feedback graphic designers, and spot issues with design. They possess both the technical design skills and managerial expertise, so they are able to give good design feedback and ensure it’s applied correctly. 

I know what you’re thinking. That’s another person on the payroll. So, is there a way to get both professional designers and project managers on board, without breaking the bank? 

Yes!

With an unlimited design service, such as ManyPixels, you can access a whole team of graphic designers as well as dedicated project managers. You can make unlimited requests and revisions, all for a flat monthly rate

Once you submit your design request, we'll make sure to assign it to a designer whose experience and skills best fit your needs. If you've previously worked with one of our designers, you can also request that they work on your graphics.

Our project managers are also there to oversee the design process and ensure that designers consistently deliver their 100%. We also have a rigorous quality control process in place. This ensures you get high-quality work that usually requires very little design feedback.

Keen to know more? Book a free personal 1:1 consultation to discover how we can help your business thrive with stunning design. Already sold on the idea? Choose your monthly plan and get started today!

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.

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