We can always count on our colleagues, friends and family to offer feedback, but we can’t always guarantee its usefulness. If you want informed opinions, you need to ask informed people. But what if you’re, say, a freelance designer or a marketing agency and your client isn’t sure how to offer the feedback you need? After all, if they had the expertise they needed to respond appropriately, they wouldn’t need you in the first place.

As a designer, you’ve probably received vague answers such as, “I don’t like the blue,” or, “It’s too traditional.” And, if you did your due diligence and asked the client what they meant, they probably simply repeated their opinion or said they didn’t know. And who can blame them? You’re the expert.

The truth is that you can’t ask a client to give graphic design feedback if they don’t know graphic design. But what they do know is their brand. So, the good news is, together, the two of you know what you need to know.

Help Your Client Help You

To avoid the guesswork, and to avoid putting your design workflow on hold, you need to give expert guidance. Although every client, person and project is different, these seven questions can help you help your client offer useful feedback on your work.

1. Is this on brand?

Yes, in theory, you are supposed to know your client’s brand as well as they do, but ultimately they are the authority. The Catch-22 to this question is that the client may not be able to articulate their brand in all the ways you can. If necessary, break down which parts of the brand on which you need feedback:

  1. Does this reflect our core values?
  2. Does this use our correct colors?
  3. Does this use our correct typefaces?
  4. Does this use our logo properly?
  5. Does this use our established tone of voice?

2. Does this appeal to the correct target audience?

In my experience, clients spend a great deal of time thinking about their audiences and how to appeal to their interests, but they often forget to put themselves in their audiences’ shoes on a micro level. As a designer, part of your work is to wonder what the audience wants and then to deliver. Sometimes, companies are so intent on telling the world that their product or service is A, because it took a lot of leg work to achieve, but what the audience really cares about is B. If you focused on B, be ready to articulate that strategy so the client understands how to answer this question properly.

3. Is this factually accurate?

It sounds obvious, but sometimes the easiest fixes are the easiest to miss. Plus, if the client sent you incorrect copy or data that became obsolete while you were working, you have no way to know. You need to rely on the client to confirm the validity of the content. A final check for factual correctness never hurt.

4. Is this missing crucial information or elements?

Imagine this: you create an incredible event invitation that’s on brand, targeted to the right segments and factually accurate. It hits mailboxes and, after a few days with no response, you realize that you left off the date, so no one knows whether or not they want to RSVP. In addition to being thoughtful, you need to be thorough. I believe we often focus so much on what we see that we neglect to notice what we don’t see. Check for the basics: who, what, when, where and why.

5. Is this solving our problem?

When it comes down to it, designers are problem solvers. A client presents a need, and the designer discovers a solution. In my opinion, the difference between a good designer and a great designer is critical thinking. Say a client commissions you to create a website. You build a mockup that’s on brand, you target the graphics to the correct audiences and you include thorough, thoughtful and accurate content. The client asked for X, Y and Z, and you delivered. But “everyone else has one” isn’t a good enough reason to have a website. A website—and any design work—must act as a solution to a specific problem or set of problems, such as gathering data, driving revenue, correcting misconceptions, establishing thought leadership, etc.

6. Is it clear what the next steps are?

Although clients may want your work to be beautiful, design isn’t about beauty. As John O’Nolan of Ghost.org puts it, “Good art inspires. Good design motivates.” At its core, good design encourages action. It directs a viewer’s decision-making: where to look, what to think, what to do. Focus on information, layouts and calls to action that achieve the desired result. Would you click the “call us” button? Would you purchase the product? Would you share the post?

7. Is this in line with what we have done and said before?

It’s entirely possible for two different designs to both be on brand. This is a good thing. A brand should be a guide that focuses your messaging rather than limiting it. But if your client’s campaign, for instance, calls for consistency, it’s best to know what’s already been done. Visual cues are crucial to directing audiences’ decisions, so if you defy your audience’s expectations, you may cause confusion or frustration. On the other hand, your client may want to switch it up from time to time. Defying expectations can, in itself, be an effective strategy in visual storytelling. Therefore, the answer to the question doesn’t need to be “yes,” as long as it’s “no” for a good reason.

Choose Your Questions Carefully

Your inclination may be to ask all seven questions, but it’s best to be economical. If you’re confident that your work is exhaustive, skip #4. If you’re confident that your work has a strong CTA, skip #6. Don’t ask the client too many questions, or else you may make them feel as if you’re shifting the burden to their shoulders, but also don’t ask too few, or else you risk racking up fifteen rounds of feedback. And always read between the lines; the answer to #5 may be hidden in the client’s answer to #2.

EnVeritas Group is an award-winning, full-service agency with more than 20 years’ worth of global marketing experience. Our business is built on truth and trust, and we accomplish that by building relationships rather than simply selling services. We are exceptional storytellers, but we’re also exceptional listeners, and we know how to work with our partners to elicit the best feedback. If you’re in need of design, marketing or content solutions, contact us today!

Cody Owens – Account Manager & Lead Designer

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