Feedback is the cornerstone of great design. Design is a process, not just a final deliverable. It takes collaboration from both sides to hone in on a final product.  

Nothing is more painful than seeing a project stall for lack of communication. It’s understandable: giving direct and effective feedback while staying compassionate is a tricky tightrope walk.

At some point, we’ve all delivered less than perfect feedback. But that's okay. We're here to help. We took a few tips from everyone's favorite mentor, Tim Gunn, and came up with some solutions to common ways feedback can miss the mark.

Problem #1: The stone-cold freeze 🥶  

What it sounds like: “This isn’t what I want.”  

End of story. Okay… well now what? If a design misses the mark, don’t just say it sucks. That leaves the design team without tools to move forward.  

What you can do instead: Be clear about what you do want, and give as much detail as possible. Compassionate but direct feedback is helpful. For example, instead of saying "this color makes me want to puke," say, "can we change this color? Our brand emphasizes more muted tones.” Point out the elements you like and dislike about the design. Be diligent about finding things on both sides, it gives the designer a firm place to kick off the next round of design.  

Problem #2: The sunshine and rainbows 🌈  

What it sounds like: “Mkay, this is fine. Let’s wrap it up.”  

That’s what you say, but not what you mean. You know that the design isn’t right, but don’t address it with the designer. Feedback can be tough, but pretending everything is sunshine and rainbows will leave you frustrated and asset-less.

What you can do instead: Don’t shy away from giving real feedback just because it’s awkward. If you aren't sure how to balance critique with compassion, then remember these three words: clear, firm, kind. Embrace your inner Tim Gunn and deliver honest feedback with poise and grace.

Problem #3: The silent ghost 👻

What it sounds like: *insert cricket sounds here*...  

I get it. Figuring out how to deliver feedback is hard and sometimes it can be easier to just say nothing... ever. But don’t let the fear of an awkward conversation keep you from getting what you want. Speak up! The designer wants to give you the best work they can, they just need to know what you need to see next.  

What you can do instead: If giving direct feedback makes you want to run for the hills, then try this trick: send the design team links to websites, Pinterest boards, Google search images, mood boards, or anything else to give them some inspo. Remember that what seems obvious to you, might not be obvious to your designer. Examples are an easy way to give them a peek inside your brain.

💖 That’s a wrap for this time. When it’s time to deliver feedback on your next project, I think you’ll be able to make it work.