Communication is a skill that every designer at any level must possess. Design is fundamentally a form of communication.
Every designer should be able to explain why they made certain decisions and when delegating need to be able to explain what they need from their peers.
What is Feedback?
This is the return of information about the result of a process or activity. This article is going to be solely focused on the importance of Feedback in the digital product design process.
Feedback is the lifeblood of a healthy design team. It reminds the team that design is a craft or process, it gives you a fresh perspective, it helps us grow as designers and ultimately it leads to designing better products. Even for designers who freelance, if you make receiving feedback from your clients an essential part of your design process it is bound to improve the quality of products you create.
Feedback can either be good/constructive or bad/destructive and often you are either giving or receiving it.
Fortunately enough the team I am a part of are committed to making feedback a vital part of our process and look to improve upon it every chance we get. Having been on both sides of the feedback spectrum i.e giving and receiving feedback and choosing to approach or start this article from an effective communication standpoint it is only right that I write about giving useful feedback.
Design teams where feedback/critique sessions are already part of their process have their ways of approaching this.
As designers, it is pretty difficult to not attach ourselves to what we create. My aim of writing this is to help us be aware of this attachment and improve how the designer individual approaches giving feedback to their peers or people they report to.
Approach to giving useful feedback
Seek first to understand
This is the most important step to take when offering to give feedback. You need to give the person who you're offering feedback room to explain and communicate to you what they need from the feedback session, why they made certain decisions and the overall context of the design if you are unaware of it. Take this step before doing anything else.
Be specific and stay focused on the topic
If the person receiving feedback is clear and has provided you with enough context it is only right that you do the same and not let it become open-ended. Focus on what is asked of you.
Remain Curious about the other perspective
You should not write-off the person receiving feedback's approach to a design problem. Throughout the feedback process, you should remain curious and open-minded about the person's design solution. This will make the receiver more trusting and feel safer during the feedback process.
Speak to the good stuff they do
When giving feedback you should always give credit to the good of the entire project. Sometimes it could be the most useful form of feedback. I found myself feeling less defensive of my work when I got comments about how I did something right.
End on a question
In an interview process we are often told to ask questions at the end of the interview I think it helps change the dynamic of the interview and transforms it from interview to conversation. If we use that same approach when giving feedback by asking a question about something in the design and why the designer chose to approach that problem we often see it taking the same effect.
Offer to help/Follow up after the feedback session
One step that I see often overlooked during the feedback process is following up on what was discussed to see if the receiver understood you and to see whether you were clear enough. If this is done more it will greatly improve the feedback process.
What to avoid when giving feedback
Do not use things like emotional/personal words
When giving feedback try as much as possible to keep it strictly focused on the topic and not bring personal relationships into the situation.
Your expectations are irrelevant when critiquing design
Saying things like "I expected more from you" has no place in a feedback process and should be avoided entirely.
In conclusion, I honestly have been on the receiving end of the feedback spectrum more times than I have given but every great feedback session I have ever experienced has had elements of the tips listed above. We all respond to these things differently, following these steps focuses on creating a structure-based approach in a situation that could get very personal very quickly.
I believe following these steps or taking some elements from them will greatly improve how you give feedback to your peers and even superiors.