2 min Read
September 25, 2009

Feedback that Doesn’t Screech Through the Loudspeakers Episode IV: A New Hope

We’re sure that, if you’ve picked the right creative team, what they present to you will be glorious. That’s certainly true if you’re dealing with work done by the two of us. We’re tremendous. But what if it’s not? What can you do to keep from pissing off these temperamental weirdos, sitting so expectantly in front of you with their precious, precious work?

You already live the three tenets explained in our previous post:

  1. Your expectations are realistic.
  2. You respect the talent before you.
  3. You’ve been honest to this point and will continue to be so.

Good. Well done. Now the specifics. Here are a few recommendations to help guide a productive discussion:

  1. Start with the good. Even if you’re disappointed overall with what you’re looking at, try to find something positive to start with. State it. If there are a lot of positive things to say, say them. Creatives like having their fragile egos stroked, it sets a collaborative tone, and it keeps the meeting positive.
  2. Think objectively, not subjectively. Judge the work sitting in front of you based on the goals outlined before creative work began. Refer back to the project brief. This helps keep the conversation objective. “Red reminds me of pigeon blood” is not actually a relevant comment because red won’t remind most people of pigeon blood.
  3. Focus on the why. Comments such as, “I like it” or “I don’t like it” aren’t helpful because they don’t educate the creative team. Get in the habit of saying, “I like it because…” and “I don’t like it because…”. (Fill in the blanks, too, please.) The interesting, and most useful, part of any conversation is always in the why.
  4. Defer to the experts. By all means, point out your concerns, but try to avoid offering solutions. Although you’re the expert about the organization, a writer might find a new way to tell your story, and a designer may express your organization in ways you’ve probably never thought of. Once you state the concern, let the creatives come up with the solutions–or propose your ideas but leave room for alternatives.
  5. Avoid “Frankensteining.” This is related to the point immediately above. Elements from concept 1 and concept 2 can’t necessarily be combined effectively.

    An overheard example of Frankensteining: “I like how the donation button in design #1 is red, which calls a lot of attention to it. But I like design #2 better overall. So just make that donation button red.” Some things cannot be interchanged. Red might clash with the colors of design #2. Instead, consider this approach:

    “I like how design #1 calls out attention to the donation button. Is there something you can do to design #2 to make the donation button more prominent?”

So keep the roles clearly defined in the project. Offer thoughtful, respectful feedback. If you play your cards right, you’ll end up with an unexpected–and successful–final project.

And hey, after it’s all over, you might even still be able to have a friendly drink with the creative team.

Of course, as we stated in the first post of this series, the two of us aren’t actually physically able to drink alcohol. But we really like coffee. And barbecue. Not necessarily together.

And this concludes the series Feedback that Doesn’t Screech Through the Loudspeakers! Do you have any horror stories about working with creatives? What about any romantic comedies or coming-of-age stories? We’d like to hear them all.

Dan Gunderman

Dan Gunderman is the Former Creative Director at Big Duck

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