How to Give Constructive Feedback to a Creative Team
Because marketing needs to be both creative and strategic, any successful marketing agency has to employ both right-and left-brained associates. (Right-brained individuals tend to be creative and artistic, while left-brained folks are often more analytical and methodical.) The only problem is that it can sometimes be challenging for these two personalities to communicate well. No matter which side of your brain is dominant, here are five tips for giving constructive feedback to a creative team.
1. Be specific with your constructive feedback
No one benefits from vague feedback, and creative types can be even more frustrated with a lack of direction. Here are some examples of the vague feedback we’ve received over the years:
“Make it pop”
“Jazz it up”
“This feels off”
“Let’s take it to the next level”
“I’ll know it when I see it”
“I’d like something fresh”
Take the time to think through what’s really “off” or what your personal definition of “fresh” is before you pass on some potentially frustrating feedback. If you aren’t sure how to articulate what you want, look for some examples that demonstrate what you’re looking for and decide what you like about them. Alternately, don’t just say “no;” make sure you have an explanation of why something doesn’t work. Providing specifics is key to giving constructive feedback.
2. Ask questions
The creative process is often about opinions and expectations. If you receive a piece that doesn’t meet the expectations of what you thought it should, instead of providing feedback right away, take a second and ask your writer or designer to walk through their reasoning. Asking why specific colors, fonts, words, or photos were chosen can give you some insight into the creative team’s mindset. The answers may broaden your own perspective or can open up a dialogue for constructive feedback.
3. Be direct and honest
When giving constructive feedback to professionals, you should be kind but direct. Don’t treat them with kid gloves, and don’t worry about them crumbling under your critique or taking something personally. This is a good place to point out what you do like about the piece — or what you think is working — in order to arrive at a resolution of the parts you dislike. But don’t shower them with compliments or fake praise. Being passive will only serve to frustrate you both. Facilitate an open conversation and follow professional etiquette, and you’ll be able to work better together.
4. Consolidate constructive feedback
If multiple stakeholders are involved in a project, make sure you consolidate them and have one person running point on providing feedback. Receiving a pile of feedback, especially some that may contradict each other, can be extremely difficult for creatives to sort through. The point person should speak with all the stakeholders to ensure that everyone’s opinion is being documented from the beginning then translated the constructive feedback into a concise document. This small step will help keep the creative team on track.
5. Remember the main objective
The key to providing constructive feedback is to keep in mind what the main objective is. Sure, a creative piece might not meet your personal preferences, but does it accomplish the main objective — and perhaps in a fresh way? Keeping the goal in mind can help eliminate emotions and personal taste. Here’s an easy way to work through whether something is accomplishing your main goal:
a. What is the main objective?
b. What design elements are absolutely necessary to accomplish the objective?
c. Are all the design elements in this piece effectively working to achieve the goal?
d. Why are they working / Why aren’t they working?
No matter if your team has been working together for two months or two decades, they can keep these tips in mind for providing constructive feedback to help everyone work together more efficiently.