One of the perks of bringing on an agency for creative services is that they can provide thoughtful solutions that the company itself couldn’t see from the inside looking out. The most innovative ideas come from challenging the tried and true; from the battle of differing opinions. Employing an agency’s help in developing your marketing provides an outside perspective. Sometimes, though, that outside perspective just doesn’t quite seem to see your brand the way you do or the way you want your customers to. What do you do then?
You would think the answer is simple. You tell them what is and is not working, and then they make the necessary revisions. Right? Surprisingly, good creative feedback is difficult to come by. Blogs dedicated to horrible feedback are not unheard of. Creatives attempt to decode clients’ directions on a daily basis. The ANDERSON Interns sat down with our creative team to understand the fundamental issues that make bad creative feedback bad, and how to make it better.
What Makes Bad Creative Feedback Bad?
Creative Director, Aaron Castiglione, admits that giving feedback isn’t easy. “It’s hard to give creative feedback, even for us, who live and breathe it every day. Asking [a non-creative] to give great feedback is asking a lot in the first place.” Still, it’s a necessary skill to learn in order to find better solutions in collaboration with your designers. Our creative team agreed on several common issues they find when receiving client feedback.
One such problem is the tendency to suggest specific changes without pointing out the perceived issue first. “The client might not know how to [execute the changes], but they have the solution to what they don’t like about the creative,” Junior Art Director, Dustin Perrotti, says. When a client suggests to make the text bigger, it isn’t clear whether they are asking due to an issue in legibility or because they feel that the message is not emphasized enough. When giving feedback, clients should avoid offering specific changes and instead point out their perceived issue with the design.
Another obstacle is when personal biases take priority over campaign strategy. Our Motion Graphics/Video Editor, Justin Gagen, advises clients to take a step back and think about what is motivating their feedback. “Taking the subjectivity out is really important. You look at something and you’re like, ‘I don’t really like green…’ Is it because I personally don’t like green, or is it because green isn’t a part of our strategy or brand colors?” Personal preferences regarding colors, fonts, or verbiage may not align with the intended message.
How Do We Make It Better?
If you want to make a conscious effort to give better creative feedback, there are a few steps you can take in the right direction. Not only will your designers appreciate it; it will ultimately lead to a better final product.
To start, go back to the brief. When you’re questioning why a deliverable doesn’t look quite how you envisioned it to from the beginning, look to the brief to make sure that you properly identified the campaign’s goals from the start. Justin elaborates: “It’s important in design to have a clear and stated goal. Otherwise, it’s just art. When you have clear goalposts and objectives to reach, it takes a lot of the subjectivity out of design work.” When giving creative feedback, it should be with those objectives in mind. Aaron also notes that clients should try to see through the lens of the target audience. “Our intention is not to talk to ourselves or the client, but to speak directly to the target audience.”
Another way to improve creative feedback is by giving it face-to-face, if possible. Emailing can lead to misinterpreted feedback with less opportunity to explain complex ideas and the potential to misread tone. If your designer creates a revision based off of feedback that wasn’t clearly explained, that’s time and energy wasted. Working with a designer should be a collaborative experience, and having the opportunity to discuss back-and-forth in real time fosters a better experience.
On the subject of working together, the entire creative team agrees that clients should aim to collaborate–not command. “Clients that have less experience working with agencies and designers, will typically dictate exact, precise changes of what they want without consideration of asking if this is feasible, realistic or if it makes sense,” Justin says. When giving creative feedback, clients should seek to make it a conversation where both sides are working towards the best solution, rather than one side executing the other’s demands without getting a say. While the designer is a service-provider being paid by the client, clients benefit from letting designers lend their strategic expertise rather than just technical skill.
Project Manager, Kate Gangel, sums it up well by pointing out that “it’s important to remember the why is more important than the what.” Don’t be afraid to give your creative team feedback, especially if it is pointing out fundamental issues with the meaning of the design and not simply your personal issues with a certain color or font. Design is meant to be functional, and if you feel that the work you’re asking for does not serve the purpose it is intended for, have that discussion with your agency. Your creative team works for you, but should also be considered a peer and ally in your marketing efforts.