A Designer’s Worst Nightmare

As a designer, sometimes the toughest part of the job is figuring out what the client wants. Being able to properly critique artwork and provide actionable feedback can allow you to better convey exactly what you want in a design. This will save time and also significantly improve your working relationship with the designer.

I don’t like it.

Other than bluntly expressing your dissatisfaction, this does little to help the designer. Instead, try to pinpoint what specific elements in the design you don’t like. The fonts? Color scheme? Sizes? All of the above? We don’t expect you to be able to critique a design like you’re an art critic at the Louvre, but the more detailed you are, the better. In some cases, showing examples of what you want from other pieces can prove useful.

You know what I mean, right?

We are all guilty of providing vague feedback in hopes the designer will use telepathy to create exactly what we want. The truth is that critiquing artwork requires your complete attention and some serious thought. Some phrases to avoid: “I want to take this design to the next level,” “You’re the professional, whatever you think is best,” and “Feel free to be creative.” These are what I call ‘empty phrases.’ They really don’t do anything to help create or further the design. Phrases like these imply that the norm is not to be creative.

Encouraging your designer to be creative and go wild is not necessarily a bad thing, but rarely is that what you really want. If clients are able to provide more specific direction in place of empty phrases, this will aid the designer in creating what the clients have envisioned.

Can you make it pop?

This phrase is the all-time champ when it comes to things that keep designers awake at night. In other words, they’re wanting to add greater emphasis to something in the design. Sadly, most people think that the solution is to add ugly colors or cheesy effects that have been around since Windows 95. Not all elements can “pop,” but you can add greater emphasis on a specific element through hierarchy, contrast, hue and even white space.

The most important part of critiquing is to be honest and constructive. The goal is to make the best design possible. It is best to avoid opinions (ex. “I like that” or “I don’t’ like that”), as that is not valuable feedback and does nothing to help the design better achieve the design goals. If you have a lot of feedback on a project but don’t want to sound too harsh, start with the positive. In the end, take the time to put energy and thought behind your feedback – it will save you time and money and, more importantly, keep the designer’s sanity intact.


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