We received an email from a designer that was having a rough go with a client. He had produced several rounds of designs for a postcard and none of them were making a great impression, and he wanted to know how we procure good feedback from clients. Certainly it’s a skill that serves any designer well, and is something that can take a little time to get the hang of.

We all come across design design cycles that prove difficult. The client may be looking for something specific, but isn’t able to communicate exactly what they want. It’s not uncommon to hear things like, “I don’t know. I just know I don’t like it.” The reality is, that’s okay. That’s why they hired you! They’re not able to formulate the visual solution to the challenge in front of them, and they need you to make that happen. Here are a few tips to help you get great feedback:

  1. Call rather than email. Pick up the phone and have a conversation. A lot of times a client will reveal a great deal more through casual conversation than they will in an email. Plus, it’s another chance to build a sincere relationship.
  2. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask as many as you need. I’ve never had a client express any concern over asking too many questions. In fact, this probably shows a level of care and concern for the project that will help build trustworthiness. A real good general question to ask is, “what things do you like; what things don’t you like?” Sometimes they’ll reveal they do like most of the design, but just hate an image.
  3. Talk about end-goals. This is something you should always talk about during the beginning of the design process. Talk about objectives and what the thing needs to achieve. But, feel free to revisit later and re-assess. I’ve found that revisiting goals can illuminate what’s really needed and/or what’s missing.
  4. Don’t get frustrated or snippy. Remain calm and collected, and speak with kindness and respect. If necessary, start the conversation with something like, “Hey, I wanted to call and discuss the last round of designs so that we can better understand what to do on the next round, and do our best for you.” Above all, don’t get defensive or nasty. All feedback is good, regardless of how it comes across.
  5. Take notes. Even if you only have one client or project, write everything down. Not only can this spark additional questions during conversation, you’ll have the necessary information to review later, ensuring you’re not forgetting something important…or some small detail that must be on there.