Shipshape Studio
Creative Studio - Los Angeles, CA
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This One Simple Trick Will Help You Get the Most Out of Your Creative Team

Getting the best creative for your buck from the designer or copywriter you've hired comes down to one thing: feedback. The way you give feedback has a huge impact on a creative professional's ability to understand and solve your problem.

Contrary to popular belief, good feedback has nothing to do with being overly nice in order to avoid bruising egos. In fact, the best creatives don't attach their personal egos to their work—th ey simply want to give you the best solution for your goals. To that end, your best bet is to offer clear, concise feedback that follows this one simple rule:

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Make it descriptive, not prescriptive.

Describe the problem that isn't being solved, instead of prescribing the solution. That's it. What does this look like? Consider these two different versions of the same piece of feedback:

  1. "I don't think the user will instantly recognize our brand."
  2. "Make the logo bigger."

Number 1 clearly identifies and describes the creative problem that needs solving. Compare that number 2, which only prescribes the solution.  

It may seem like a silly way to reword what you're saying. But in giving descriptive—rather than prescriptive—feedback, what you're actually doing is allowing the creative professional you hired to arrive at a solution that you may not have thought of. Maybe you don't actually need to make the logo bigger, but instead need to incorporate brand-approved colors, photography, or messaging into the piece. Maybe there's some other way to reinforce your brand that's much more delightful to the user than a giant logo.

Descriptive feedback allows the creative professional you hired to arrive at a solution you may never have thought of.

Either way, to get to the creative solution you're paying for, allow the creative to do their job. Think about it like this: You wouldn't stand over a plumber and say, "This is good, but can you use the bigger pipe?" 

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Having trouble figuring out how to apply this principle to a project you're working on?

Here are some more helpful tips for giving descriptive-not-prescriptive feedback. 

  • Refer back to the creative brief. Hopefully your creative professional is working off a document that you two put together that describes the project, the problem, the opportunity, and the goals. Using this big-picture document, ask yourself what isn't being solved with the solution they've presented, and build your feedback notes around that. 
  • Avoid using the phrases "I like" and "I don't like." Instead, think about how your target audience might react to a piece. Feedback like this usually takes the form of "Our target might confuse X with Y" or "This feels too trendy for our target" or "This seems off-brand because our brand is X and this solution is Y."
  • Ask questions. A great creative will always explain their choices to you, but if you're still confused by their choices, ask why they made the decisions they did. You might just be missing some of the thinking, and once you have that context, you'll see the solution they presented more clearly. This could even save you a round of revisions. It happens all the time—creatives speed through hasty edits only to, in the end, have the client circle back to the first solution presented, or some iteration of it. Being inquisitive can save you time and money. 
  • Sleep on it. Sometimes business owners are a little close to the project, product, or service, and quick to judge something when it doesn't hit the nail on the head right away. When you receive a draft or mockup from your creative team, look it over, take some time and space to ruminate, and come back to it with fresh eyes. Then put together your feedback. In the end, you'll save time and money this way, versus firing off hasty feedback minutes after something lands in your inbox. 
  • Find what you do like and start there. The age-old cliche, start with positive feedback first, really can help. Not because artists' egos are fragile, but because doing so can help you explain the right direction, and where to go from there. 

Here are some more examples of good, descriptive creative feedback, versus their too-prescriptive counterparts:

Instead of: "Let's make the offer two times bigger on the top."
Try: "In order to accomplish our goal, we might need to be more direct with our offer."

Instead of: "Can we add some pink somewhere?"
Try: "Since our target is gender-neutral, we believe this design is a little too masculine."

Instead of: "Lets copy the 'How It Works' language from the other project."
Try: "Do you think our value propositions are clear enough for first-time users on the site?" 

    Of course, as with any rule, there are exceptions. Sometimes you just need a quick tweak to something to get it off the ground. In those cases, more direct feedback works just fine. But remember: you hired creative professionals you trust, so you want to let them do what they do best. Put the heavy lifting on them by taking a step back and just giving them the problem—and not the solution. They just might wow and surprise you.

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