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Growing your business is hard enough without trying to DIY your brand and website alone. 

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Brand Quizzes

How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Brand & Website Designer

Design & Aesthetics

Reviewing creative work can be tricky. Especially if you are not well-versed in brand and website best practices, as most of my clients aren’t. Yet receiving effective feedback is critical to my design process and ensuring we arrive at the best possible end product together.

In most cases, “I don’t like it” is not effective feedback. To be effective, creative feedback needs to be respectful, descriptive, and aligned to the strategic creative direction we’ve agreed upon at the start of the project.

The following feedback best practices will help guide you as you consider any creative work that is sent for your review. These may or may not have been pulled from real life. 😏

Best Practice 1: Take a moment to absorb the work before providing feedback.

I’ve heard this time and time again. “When I first looked at it, I really wasn’t sure. But then I thought about it, and now I love it.” For most of us, our brains are hardwired to reject change when we see it. If you have an existing brand or website and your new version looks totally different, you’re likely going to experience a bit of a shock when you first take it in. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong.

One of the best ways to combat this phenomenon is to take it all in. And then walk away before you start jotting down notes. In my business, I work in sprints — meaning, over the course of 3 days I strategize, develop, revise, and deliver a completely custom brand or website. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for pondering. But what I like to do is send my clients a Loom video walkthrough of the design, wherein I provide context and rationale for my design choices. I ask my clients to review this video (usually about 20-30 minutes long) as soon as I send it over in the evening. Then walk away and sleep on it. Come back fresh to their computers in the morning and provide me with their clear-eyed feedback before we jump on a call to discuss it. When clients heed this advice, they always provide much more thoughtful notes.

  • DO: “After sleeping on it, I’m concerned that the mobile navigation might be difficult for my students to navigate. How could we make it a bit easier to get from point A to point B?”
  • DON’T: “I stayed up all night providing feedback. I’m exhausted and I’m sure some of it doesn’t make any sense. But we can talk about it later.”

Best Practice 2: Keep your clients and the creative direction in mind.

“I just don’t like it.” This phrase is ineffective for a lot of reasons, but one of the most important things to consider if this phrase starts to bubble up during your review is . If your immediate reaction is that you don’t like the look of the “L” that’s being used in your logo, stop and pause for a moment to consider whether that one detail that you “don’t like” is making the logo less effective.

Your designer will be paying close attention to details like this but will also be looking at the larger picture of your entire brand identity to ensure that everything is balanced and in alignment. In the end, your feedback that you want to use a lowercase “l” might throw off everything else you love about the logo.

The goal for the designer is to meet the creative brief and ensure they are delivering work that is intended to fit a certain, very specific criteria that the two of you agreed upon in advance. If you want to understand your designer’s thinking behind a choice, just ask! But know that in the long run, your personal distaste for a specific letter or element may not be a good enough reason to break the entire design. An effective design is about more than your personal preferences.

Your designer does this for a living and is constantly looking at inspiration and examples. If you don’t feel like you can trust your designer to deliver high-quality work, you probably shouldn’t hire them in the first place.

  • DO: “I see why you made the decision you did in the color palette. While it’s not what I would have put together myself, I think it looks great together and will be really appealing to my clients on Instagram.”
  • DON’T: “My immediate reaction is that this is way too different from my original brand. I know we talked about [XYZ] in the creative direction, but now that I’ve seen it, I just don’t like it.”

Best Practice 3: Trust your own gut.

That said, if there is feedback to give, try not to outsource it. For many people — especially those who don’t trust their own instincts — it can be very tempting to ask for outside input when reviewing creative work. Some people want to know what their mom, sister, next-door neighbor, or significant other thinks about the design before they sign off on it.

This approach is problematic for a few reasons. In most cases, these very well meaning folks are not involved in the day to day work of your business and may not fully understand the audience you’re trying to appeal to. Even if they do understand your business pretty well, they likely don’t have a background in entrepreneurship. And almost certainly don’t have experience in brand or website design.

Plus, asking everyone you know (including your uncle’s brother’s nephew’s cousin; I’m exaggerating, but you get the point) what they think about your new brand messaging or website design is a surefire way to get yourself (and your designer) real confused. It can be really hard to find your own voice in the cacophony. You’ll get drowned out. Trust your gut, and if you do have doubts or questions or concerns, your designer is always your best first point of contact.

  • DO: “I was really tempted to share this with my husband, but I know he has terrible taste. You should have seen the couch he had when I met him. So, I reviewed everything myself. It’s hard to make these kinds of decisions by myself, but I do it all the time in my business, so I’m going to trust myself.”
  • DON’T: “I showed the website draft to my business coach, and she thinks that we should change the background color on the about page to be brighter.”

Best Practice 4: Try not to provide solutions.

This can be tricky for a lot of entrepreneurs. We are problem solvers, and for many of us, our instinct is to go in start solutioning. The same way someone without a pilot’s license might not be the best person to troubleshoot with when you’re in a mayday situation, you may not have the best possible solution just because it’s not your zone of genius.

It is much more important to focus on being able to articulate accurately, descriptively, and fully what you see as the problem with the design or the way it’s not meeting the creative brief. And many of my clients struggle with this. So during sessions, you’ll likely hear me probe on feedback — Can you explain why you don’t like it or what feels off? The why behind the feedback is much more helpful to your designer than a list of ideas for fixing it.

  • DO: “I’m worried the logo might no contrast well enough over top of my brand photography. What do you think?”
  • DON’T: “The logo is too thin. Let’s swap out the font for this one my friend sent me.”

Best Practice 5: Be as specific as possible and give examples.

Try to avoid emotional responses or using subjective words like “weird,” “edgy,” “sexy,” or “bold.” These can mean very different things to different people. Using more objective words like “spacing” or “alignment” or referring to the parameters set out in the creative brief can help ensure you and your designer are on the same page.

Examples are a great way to really hone in on what you’re talking about. If you have something really specific in mind, share it with your designer. We’re not mind readers!

  • DO: “I was really hoping we could do something like [this brand that is not in my industry or market] does with their type treatment. Do you think that could work here?”
  • DON’T: “That part isn’t bold enough.”

Best Practice 6: Don’t copy anyone else, especially your competition.

For a lot of business owners, especially those that are struggling to find their foothold in their industry, there can be a huge temptation to copy what someone admire or who is a bit ahead of them is doing. Resist this temptation! Just because it works for them doesn’t mean it will work for you. Your offers, your business, your clientele, your vibe are all unique to you. And piggybacking on someone else’s success is never going to feel right to you or your audience. It’d be like trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. Frustrating and ineffective.

Instead, think deeply about your business and brand before entering into any major design project. Make sure you understand your secret sauce and what makes you different so you can articulate that well to your design, who in turn can determine how best to bring those attributes forward in your brand and website design.

  • DO: “I’ve done all my prework and a lot of soul searching about what makes my business unique. I’d love to talk with you about how those things might manifest in my new brand and website.”
  • DON’T: “My business coach says she’s had success in my industry doing exactly this, so I want to make sure we stick with her proven approach.”

Best Practice 7: Be respectful. It goes both ways.

Regardless of your industry or niche, we’ve likely all had clients who have failed to listen to your advice, not shown up on time for calls or meetings, or not completed their prework/homework by the deadline. For many of us, especially women, we’ve also likely had clients who have felt the need to drive the process or be the “boss” and muscle their way through the project.

Yet, when working with a brand or website designer, mutual respect can go a long way. I always strive to bring my best to every client interaction — do my research, come with ideas, deliver when I say I’m going to deliver, overcommunicate, and be on time to all calls and meetings. And the best projects happen when clients commit to the same standards. Treat your designer they way you’d want to be treated by your own clients. While, of course, you are paying for a service, being a good client will go a long way toward fostering collaboration and creativity throughout the process.

  • DO: [one week before prework is due] “Hey there. It’s taking me a little longer than I thought to complete my prework. I had to go out of town suddenly to deal with a family emergency. Would it impact your processes too much if I asked for an extra day to complete everything? If that doesn’t work for you, I totally understand and I will get it done. Thank you for considering!”
  • DON’T: [the day prework is due] “I went on vacation last week and my prework isn’t done. I’ll probably have it to you next week.”

It’s important to know that your designer has your best interests at heart. They want to design something that you, your audience ,and your clients are going to love. It’s in their best interest, too. So, when they make a suggestion or deliver a design, remember that it’s coming from a place of expertise and the best intentions. Communication is so important in a major design project like a rebrand or a website upgrade. By using the best practices outlined above, you can make sure to do your part to create a collaborative, respectful, and supportive environment that encourages the best creative work.