Getting and Receiving Good Feedback as a Designer

Regardless of what type of designer you are, to create quality work, giving and getting feedback is an essential part of the collaboration process. Quality feedback helps both designers and teams grow, work faster, and create and launch better solutions.

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” - African Proverb

As a remote designer, how can you help your team go far and achieve your goals? Regardless of what type of designer you are, to create quality work, giving and getting feedback is an essential part of the collaboration process. Quality feedback helps both designers and teams grow, work faster, and create and launch better solutions.

Here are a few tactics and things to consider when both giving and receiving feedback:

Getting Feedback

1. Give context

Set the stage at the start of the meeting before asking for feedback. Asking people for thoughts on something, especially in-front of a group, puts them on the spot. Give reviewers the information and allow them time to think through what you’re asking.

Try sending out work and communicating the context in advance. Early feedback, especially for complex work, can really help guide the next meeting and save teams' time. If people do go in beforehand and share their thoughts, awesome! If they don't, still have a plan for the meeting.

2. Make feedback fluid, but centralized

With online tools like Figma and Notion, getting feedback has become easier, quicker, and something teams can do async. This is great because it enables teams to give feedback early, as well as give teammates/stakeholders that couldn't attend review sessions the opportunity to comment as well.

One thing to be weary of though is dispersed feedback. Imagine getting feedback via Slack, Figma, and Notion. That's likely a pain to synthesize and confusing for your team. It’s important to centralize where you keep your team's feedback for visibility and to ease your workflow.

3. Ask targeted, yet open-questions

‘So, do you like the layout of the buttons in the navbar?’ Closed-questions like these are limiting and likely don't get to the root of what you’d like to explore. Try asking open-ended questions so you can get more valuable insights into your designs. Try something more along the lines of: “What are your thoughts on the 2 concepts/approaches to the redesigned navbar I walked through?” These kinds of questions are still focused, but allow for teammates to give you their full thoughts and ideas on things you may not have thought of otherwise.

4. Recognize efforts to move the team/designs closer to the goal

Recognize your teammates and colleagues for feedback! Sharing thoughts, collaborating, and speaking fearlessly is something we want on teams, so it's important to encourage and reward that. Giving feedback can also be a tough thing sometimes, so It’s important to create a space where ALL relevant feedback is encouraged. Regardless if it’s positive feedback or more critical thoughts, teams need both in order to create and deploy great products and designs.

5. Remember, it’s not personal!

In a healthy work environment feedback shouldn't be personal. Good feedback is focused on the work at hand and processes to create and implement the feedback. At the same time though, we are humans, and as designers we take pride in our effort and work. When receiving feedback, try to remember that your work isn't necessarily a reflection of you, nor you of it. That can be a hard thing to grasp for some, but is something that usually develops with time and experience! If you feel like feedback you’re getting may be targeted or personal, you may want to bring it up with your team or manager.

Giving Feedback

1. Listen, ask, and understand before speaking

When giving feedback it’s important to first understand the context and what’s being asked of you before making any suggestions. It's a terrible feeling when you’re walking through your ideas and thought-process, only for someone to interrupt you before you’ve finished or they ask you to repeat everything you’ve just explained. In feedback sessions, I suggest practicing ‘being here now’ and absorbing everything the presenter is trying to communicate before chiming in. Take mental (or physical) notes while they are presenting, and then share your questions and thoughts when they are done. They may even answer some of your questions as they progress through their presentation!

2. Focus on how they can reach the goal: it shouldn't be personal or focused solely on what’s wrong

Earlier in this post I mentioned the importance of not taking feedback personally. The reverse is true for giving feedback. Feedback should never be aimed at the designer or presenter and shouldn't be a ‘trashing session’. The input that is most helpful are comments that move the team or designs closer to the goal at hand. Regardless of how you may feel about what’s being presented to you, try to share your thoughts in an unbiased way that encourages rather than discourages.

3. Put yourself in the user’s shoes

It's natural to think and speak based on your own experiences. However, when collaborating, remember who you’re designing for and try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand their mindset, motivations, and struggles, and speak from that point of view.

4. Understand and embrace when your feedback is subjective

Similarly to the point above, most of our time is spent thinking from our own experiences and perspectives. Due to the subjective nature of creative work, it is easy to give feedback in terms of our own preferences. That’s okay! Sometimes the idea that comes from a designer's intuition is actually the best path forward! That being said, it’s important to acknowledge when your thoughts are subjective. We don't want to be to constrained when giving feedback. I often find it beneficial to be up-front about the type of feedback you're giving. For example: Let’s say you find the color palette of an application jarring or distracting. You don't have data to justify your thoughts, so maybe you comment something along the lines of “This is a more subjective comment, so feel free to take it or leave it, but I feel like the current color palette we’re using is a bit harsh and distracting. Is there a way we can check if it follows xyz guidelines and that our users don't feel the same?”

5. Give feedback regularly

To foster a truly collaborative culture, teams need to be communicating, collaborating, and giving each other feedback often. Making feedback sessions a regular exercise also improves the quality of feedback teams give over time. It also becomes easier over time 😉.

I hope these tips help you and your team the next time you all come together to review or ideate!

Written by

Zahr Lyttle