Step back and ask questions
Before mindlessly shooting off negative feedback, take some time to marinate on what they sent you. Let them know you received the proofs and are putting together some notes. Then, go through the examples and guidelines you provided your designer. What varies from what you asked for? What’s in line with what you asked for (even if it’s not your favorite)?
Put together a list of questions to better understand where your designer is coming from. The answers to your questions may change your mind on a certain concept or help you distinguish the direction you want to go.
Creating an open dialogue will go a long way in helping you both understand each other’s point of view.
Be professional, calm and controlled
We know it can be hard to stay calm when you feel like a project isn’t going right – but like any other professional situation it’s important to stay calm. Keep your communication -- whether it’s over the phone or on email – calm and clear is key. Be sure to politely explain why what they’ve produced isn’t quite up your alley.
Just saying “I don’t like it,” “it’s not what I asked for,” or “it’s not for me” isn’t constructive, and it doesn’t give your designer a fair chance to fix it. So, be as specific as you can so that they can understand what does and doesn’t work. That way they’ll be able to take your feedback and turn it into a stronger second draft.
If you can, show them examples of the kind of thing you dolike from other organizations, so that they have a solid idea of the kind of design they need to be working toward.
Explaining the why
When you’re highlighting elements of a project you’re not quite keen on, explaining the why is super important. Whether it’s because it goes against the guidelines you sent them, it’s too similar to what you’ve done in the past (and found to be ineffective), or it aligns too closely with one of your major competitors, give them a bit of context to help them understand the thinking behind your rationale.
Keep in mind, your designer has probably spent a lot of time on what you’re seeing – if you don’t like it, there was clearly a miscommunication – and it’s on both of you to fix it!
Keep it in perspective
Perfection takes time. Just because they didn’t deliver exactly what you wanted the first time around, don’t hold it against them, patronize, or start micro-managing them. You hired a designer because you don’t know how to do it yourself – so stand back and let them do their work. Keep in mind they are an expert at what they do – just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not quality work.
Their job is to bring your vision to life. Your job is to equip them with the information they need to understand your vision.
Put your personal preference to one side
When you’re critiquing their work, remember that design is often a personal preference. Be sure to separate your personal taste from your brand image. A designer might be able to see the bigger picture in a way you can’t – so just because it doesn’t connect with you doesn’t mean it won’t connect with your target demographic. The taste of your audience is probably going to be different than yours, so be sure to talk through your designer’s rationale before shooting down a concept – they might know something you don’t.
Balance negatives with positives
It’s the old compliment sandwich trick. And this tip isn’t just to make them feel better! As we touched on earlier, the positives will help them really get a feel for what you dolike so that they can keep developing quality concepts.
If there really aren’t any positives, you can still be complimentary about their work, but just be clear that it’s not right for your brand or this particular project. If this is the case, be crystal clear you’d like to see a totally new direction – don’t try to sugar coat it too much or they probably won’t realize that what they showed you is a complete wash.
Keep in mind what you agreed too
Be conscientious of when you’re asking to go above and beyond the terms of your contract. If you agreed to three rounds of revisions, you may need to pay an additional fee to go beyond that.
Both parties of this contract are on equal footing – it’s not an employee/employer relationship.
You can’t expect free revisions just because you don’t like something. If they’ve met the terms of the contract and you still don’t have something you like you may need to renegotiate. Keep in mind the contract is in place to protect both parties.
Checking in on time and expectations can go a long way in demonstrating that you respect a designer’s time. It’s a great way to show you value their work, even if you haven’t come to a final product yet.
Rome wasn’t built in a day -- if you want a rushed job, give a rushed timeframe. It’s important you give your designer time to go back to the drawing board and really take everything in you’ve said so that you can keep working toward a high quality final product.