How to give feedback on design work

Sam Hodges

When feedback is objective, considered and based on the brief it’s more likely to get the results you need. But don’t ignore your gut instinct.

Providing feedback is an essential part of the design process. It helps the design team refine their work and deliver a final product that meets your needs, and is fit for purpose.

But the style and timing of feedback can have a big impact on results. Here are five key points to keep in mind when reviewing design work.

React, then reflect

Your immediate reaction is a great indicator of how others will experience the work. But take time to digest and reflect on it too. It’s our job to push beyond what you expect, so we make a point of putting a couple of scary ideas in our early reviews. It’s important you tell us when that work has gone too far, and why. Sleep on it and make time to come back to it later. Does your initial reaction still stand?

Remember the strategy

Reviewing creative work shouldn’t be about personal preferences. Instead, consider whether it reflects your business goals and our strategic response. The brief we agree on at the start is the yardstick we measure the work against. Look beyond individual tastes and think about how your audience will respond, as the work we’re creating is primarily for them.

Reviewing creative work shouldn’t be about personal preferences. Instead, consider whether it reflects your business goals and our strategic response.”

Share your feelings

Is the work what you expected? Are you clear or confused? What insights will the team need to refine their work? Making and fixing is simple enough — but the feedback session will help us work out exactly what to make and fix. It can be hard, but try to avoid jumping straight to a solution with your comments. Give everyone a chance to understand the problem you’re seeing, and the right solution will emerge.

Break it to make it

It can be useful to take the proposed designs and let your team try them out with live examples. Test-driving the work like this is an effective way to get insightful feedback. It also highlights quickly where the system may break, and builds ownership among internal teams. While not everyone chooses to do this, it’s been a key feature of successful projects for Cuckoo, Mixcloud and Mindgym.

Gather consolidated feedback

It’s important to align all the stakeholders when giving feedback. Incomplete, or even conflicting, opinions can burn the budget and drag out the timeline. We offer a feedback template to help you gather clear and organised feedback from your project team. Give us both a summary-level and specific detailed review, so the design team really understand your thinking.

Any thoughts?

Hopefully there’s something helpful here, whether it’s when to share feedback, what to focus on or how to package up your thoughts effectively. Consider test-driving the work in progress within your team, to uncover limitations and give us new challenges to solve. The best work comes from thorough feedback and the feeling of working ‘in the weeds’ together.

Have you got any tips on giving feedback? Let me know.

Sam Hodges

The experience of very different studios gives Sam (he/him) a unique perspective. As Digital Design Director at Output, he brings experimental thinking together with a deep understanding of product usability, to ensure the experiences we create are as functional as they are beautiful. He shares the ‘how’ behind our work, while exploring the potential of technology, sustainability and creativity.