10 steps to mastering design feedback as a freelancer

7

Min Read

CJ Haughey

Creativity thrives with collaboration. When people work together and share design feedback or use design feedback forms, incredible things can happen. With open communication that encourages feedback in design projects, even captured in your agreement template or contract template, it’s much easier to bring a creative vision to life.

Consider this: In the online world, first impressions are 94% design-related. So, if you want to make the best first impression, you need to embrace feedback in design and integrate it with your freelance design contract.

In this article, we’ll see how clients and designers can collaborate to make design feedback a more productive process that benefits the project, and the team.

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How to get better design feedback

Getting paid for your work is important when you send freelance invoices. However, if you want to progress in your career, you need more than money. 

By welcoming design feedback from your clients and supervisors, you get valuable insights that help you improve your skill set. 

The problem is that many people are hesitant to share their thoughts, as they may fear offending freelancers. 

So, what can you do to take the reins and smooth the process?

Here are five tips to get better feedback in design projects.

1. Set the stage

Don’t take clients by surprise. 

Instead, give them some notice so they have a little time to think about things. When you create your freelance contracts with Bonsai, you could include a clause that states feedback will be requested at certain points in the project.

Whenever you want their opinion on something, you should provide as much context as possible so your client is well-informed.

For example, let’s say you have a working prototype of a new asset. Explain the core aspects of the design to the client, such as:

  • Goals
  • Use cases
  • Constraints

Every design element has a purpose. The same is true when it comes to reviewing work, so your feedback system should be set up with clear goals in mind.

With the additional information and some time to process it, you set the stage for better design feedback.

2. Ask open-ended questions

When you ask closed yes/no questions, your client has little scope to give their real opinion. Instead, try to make your graphic design feedback questions more open-ended, so that you probe for more input. 

Here are some examples:

  • What is your opinion on this section?
  • How do you think we can improve the call-to-action?
  • Which elements do you think enhance/hamper the user experience?

Knowing the right types of questions to ask will help you get the feedback loop moving in the right direction. Be prepared to respond with follow-up questions too, just to clarify any points the client raises. 

3. Keep your focus on the problem

Once the discussion does begin to flow, it’s easy to veer off-topic. 

Whenever this happens, remind everyone of the goals mentioned at the beginning, and ask specific questions to keep things on track.

Sometimes, the feedback may become too subjective, with clients simply pointing out elements they like or don’t like. Use guiding questions to hone in on problems and unearth possible solutions.

4. Stay positive and gracious

Occasionally, freelancers may take offense to some of the design feedback that comes their way. This can quickly put people off giving feedback again. 

You should remain gracious when people are providing feedback, thanking them for their business, and their input. 

Try to understand that they have a vision in mind for this project. It is only through open communication and collaboration that you, as the designer, will be able to bring their vision to life.

By adopting a growth mindset, you can view all design feedback as an opportunity for learning and improvement. 

5. Don’t forget to take notes

It may be tempting to simply sit and listen when people are providing design feedback, but you might not remember everything. If you’re truly going to learn from this experience, you should take plenty of notes. 

You can do this with InVision comments, audio recording, or the good old-fashioned pen and pad. Whatever option you choose, make the most of these valuable feedback sessions to develop your career.

If you're also looking to get better at managing your freelance career, you should consider using tools that streamline the workflow and save you time. You can sign up for a free trial of Bonsai today and see how easy it becomes to create proposals, contracts, invoices, and more.

design-feedback-form

How to give better design feedback

Whether you’re a client, project manager, or just another member on the design team, it’s inevitable that you will need to give some design feedback at some point.

Keep these things in mind when providing feedback in design projects.

1. Understand the need for clarity

Remember that your goals will already be established in the design brief, so the designer will understand the initial objectives before they commence work on a project. 

However, during the process, the defined goals of each individual design element will become apparent. Designers will need clarification on certain pages, sections, or minor elements to be able to deliver the best possible product.

2. Deliver feedback quickly and regularly

For designers, there’s nothing worse than spending days or even weeks working hard on a mock-up or prototype, only to be told that the whole project isn’t moving in the right direction. With clear goals defined from the outset, this shouldn’t happen – but sometimes, it still does.

This can be avoided if feedback is provided from the early stages. This way, the project gets off on the right foot. After that, perhaps you can have weekly meetings or get in the habit of sending a design feedback form to make regular critiques.

3. Focus on one aspect at a time

For designers, it’s not easy to have your best efforts picked apart by somebody. You may not take everything onboard as the criticism flows, which makes the whole exercise of giving feedback counterproductive. 

Everyone should focus on one aspect at a time. Give feedback for that, then allow the designer a chance to reflect and offer some solutions.

4. Assess the design, not the designer

Studies on the psychology of feedback show that almost 60% of people welcome corrective feedback about their work, rather than simply getting praise for doing something right.

The important thing to remember is that you should direct your feedback towards the design, not the designer. By maintaining focus on the work, there’s less chance that designers will take your comments personally.

5. Get specific

When designers ask you questions, they want to know what you really think about things. Responding with short answers will not offer people the insight they need.

Get specific with your design feedback by explaining what you want to see in very precise detail. If possible, use visual examples from other brands, and describe what you’d like the designer to do.

design-feedback-session

Create a culture of feedback in design

“Feedback is as much art as it is science. Like any other form of communication, it is not as much about what is said, as what is heard, understood, and acted upon.”

For many people, it will be a little unnatural at first, but over time, designers, project managers, and clients can work closely to nurture a culture that encourages feedback.

To get the ball rolling, your team can have a ready-to-use creative feedback form, like this one.

Remember that feedback in design is not a one-way street – it’s a discussion, so keep things flowing back-and-forth to dig to the core of every issue.

As people ask more graphic design feedback questions and actively critique the project, people will get better at giving feedback, and also at receiving it.

It’s important to keep things in perspective by recognizing it is a collaborative growth process aimed at improving the quality of work. Better yet, when done right, a feedback culture will help designers develop their skill set, and also strengthen working relationships and productivity going forward.

Join Bonsai today to learn more about taking your creative freelance career to the next level.

CJ Haughey
CJ Haughey is a creative copywriter and self-confessed digital marketing nerd. This shaggy-haired Irishman is currently shaking off the last of the travel bug in his adopted home of Colombia. In his spare time he tries to avoid being sick at kickboxing training.

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