Working Relationships

How to give honest feedback without frustrating your designer

You’ve chosen your designer, you’ve briefed them on your needs, reached an agreement on terms, and you’re eager to see what they’ve come up! Then, their name lands in your inbox along with the much anticipated attachments – but then you click to find that...they’re not quite what you were after. Now what?

If you do it right, giving feedback won’t be perceived as negative. In fact, it’s an important part of the design process – and it’s something that your designer is anticipating. But giving feedback in an unproductive way can lead to an overall unproductive relationship between you and the creative you hired. 

As designers, we’re here to let you know that we’re used to feedback – we even enjoy it because it helps us do our job better. But, it can be frustrating when clients are constantly giving you negative feedback and not giving you the information you need to do your job properly. 

It’s easy for miscommunications to happen – especially if you’ve never worked with a designer before. But with just a few small tweaks to your approach we believe you can communicate with your designer better than ever – and land on a superb final product! 
 

How to give honest feedback to your designer  |  Hue & Tone Creative

 

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. 

 

Remember...

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. 


Hue & Tone Creative: Your creative team

Let us help you get your project designed right! We're ready to communicate with you on your marketing needs -- whether they're big or small. To take a look at what we've done in the past, be sure to check out our design portfolio. Don't see the type of samples you're looking for? Get in touch, we can email you additional work samples! 

15 Questions to Ask Your Designer Before Hiring Them

15 questions to ask your designer before hiring them   |  Hue & Tone Creative

“You’re hired,” maybe two of the greatest words ever uttered. These babies mean rising employment rates and new beginnings and additional human resources helping to further your professional dreams. The human resource in this case being the much sought-after web designer.

Entrusting your business’s online presence to a trained professional is an excellent choice.  However, before journeying any further, there’s something you must consider: you’re the boss. Like with any other hire, it’s your responsibility to find the right talent to perform the task. Here are 15 questions you should ask a designer before shouting, in boss-like fashion, “you’re hired!”

 

1. What are your qualifications/professional background?

Your designer will work for you; at least for a time. It’s not unreasonable to seek more information about this person or the company in question. Inquiries regarding past work, training, and experience are all fair game and a good start.

 

2. How are your services priced?

This may not seem like an important matter upfront, but it’s one that you want to clarify early. The designer probably can’t provide a complete quote at this stage, especially if you haven’t yet articulated all the specifications for your site. This question pertains to how the designer arrives at the total. Does she prefer to work hourly or is the work charged as a flat-fee? Are some items only available a la carte, such as a logo design, or are packages offered? Understanding how the project will be priced will allow you to decide if you’re comfortable with the arrangement and moving forward, and may help you to more knowledgably consider the final quote later.

 

3. What services do you offer?

The web landscape is changing. While having a professional website is better than not having one, web design is more than just domain names and eye-catching pages. Maybe the designer is qualified to perform analytics once the site has launched or search engine optimization. There may be functions and additions that you’ve not considered. Asking what a designer can do is a great way to discover your options. It can also highlight what services aren’t available.

 

4. Who owns what?

Once you enlist the assistance of a third party, it’s best to get clear on ownership. If you don’t already own your domain name, who owns it if the designer or company obtains it as part of the web building process? Who maintains possession of any graphics, artwork, content, and the website as a whole once the site is built? What about when your professional relationship ends? It’s best not to assume the answer to these questions and prudent to ask during the vetting stage.

 

5. What platform will you be using?

Assuming that your designer is constructing a site from scratch, the building medium is key. Are they partial to using a blank slate platform like WordPress or do they favor Squarespace which offers beautiful templates? (If you’re unfamiliar with the latter, see our helpful post, To Squarespace or not to Squarespace?).

The answer to this question will affect everything from costs to curation options.

 

6. Do you outsource any work?   

The answer here is neither good nor bad. It’s just essential that you know who is working on your project. Being informed helps you better assist in the process and it’s good to know what to expect along the way.

 

7. What are my hosting options?

Hosting is basically where your web files are kept on the net. You may not want to get this technical, but the answer, depending on how much traffic your site experiences, could mean the difference in site speed, SEO, and accessibility. Also, if the designer self-hosts, questions regarding future accessibility can be discussed here.

 

8. Do you provide content?

Websites need a consistent flow of updated or new content. If you’re interested in having someone else do this for you, your designer may be your solution. Web design and content production go hand in hand and some designers have begun offering this special service.  Be sure to ask if this is an option.

 

9. Will I be able to update my site’s content?

Say your company wins a prestigious award, as it should, and you want to add the accolade to your site right away. Will you be able to access the intended page and update your site yourself or will you need to contact your designer each time? Having the ability to easily add and update content is something you definitely want, and knowing if it’s possible is super important.

 

10. What kind of clients have you worked with in the past?

Your similarity to past clients may mean a more seamless move from building their websites to creating yours. If your designer is used to working with much larger or far smaller companies, this isn’t an indication that they can’t perform the work, but similar practice makes perfect.

 

11. Do you have a portfolio or examples of previous work?

Taking a gander at a designer’s portfolio can communicate much more than words. Asking to look at completed sites is a quick and easy way to familiarize yourself with the designer’s capabilities.

 

12. What is your design process?

Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou and Eat, Pray, Love author, Elizabeth Gilbert, all expressed very similar writing processes. These masters having like methods is less the point, but there being a process at all is what matters. How does your designer get from point A to point Z? Is there a plan? As stated earlier, knowing what to expect allows you to better assist in your site’s development and eliminates unnecessary uncertainty.

 

13. What is your timeline?

Will the site be up and running in 3 weeks or 3 months? Get clear on how much time your designer needs to complete their plan. With this info, you can design a marketing campaign around the launch date or if you’re having an existing site revamped, you’ll have a timeframe for maintenance and testing; either way, you’re in the know.

 

14. What happens if I need additional work once it’s complete?

Your site is not static. It’s a living, breathing organism that will require changes and maintenance from time to time. You may need future support from your designer and working out the logistics now is certainly the way to go.

 

15. Can you help me, help you?

Designers are usually pretty busy. Juggling several clients and multiple projects with strict deadlines isn’t unusual. While they essentially work for you, they probably aren’t able to be at your beck and call.

You want to understand their best forms of communication and best times to be contacted. This simply allows them to be as responsive to you as possible while allowing space and time to build an amazing product. Openly and honestly communicate any concerns or needs like you would with any other part of your team. Professional courtesy goes a long way in a situation like this and treating your designer with due respect may result in a better product. Asking questions could certainly aid in you confidently uttering those two special words, “you’re hired,” they may also lead to you hearing the beautiful response, “I happily accept.”


WEB MARKETING CONSULTANTS  |  GREENSBORO, NC

We're happy to answer all of these questions...and more! Hue & Tone Creative will take the stress out of developing a new website. Check out our design portfolio to see clients we've helped in the past, and then give us a call -- we can't wait to get the conversation started. 

Your guide to design jargon

Your guide to design jargon -- Hue & Tone Creative

Feeling more then a little confused when you're trying to communicate with your designer? We get that. As designers, we do our best to explain things to our clients -- but it's easy to make assumptions or run through things a little too quickly. 

We put together this handy to guide to help cut down on client + designer relationship miscommunication. There's seemingly no end to the amount of technical terms out there -- but these 39 terms will give you a solid footing to get the conversation rolling. So... get studying!  

 

Alignment: Can refer either to the position of elements within the margins, or the idea of placing items so that they line up in an organized way.

Ascender: Any part of a letter that extends beyond the rest of the word. Examples: “b” + “h”.

Descender: Any part of a letter that drops beyond the x height/baseline of a character set.

Asymmetrical: A design in which the graphic elements or text on each side of the central line have unequal visual weight. One visually large element could possibly be balanced out by a grouping of smaller elements on the other side. Asymmetrical balance is typically more interesting.

Bleed: In printing, the bleed is what goes beyond the margin of the edge of the sheet of paper before trimming. A full bleed design means there is no white border/margin, and the color/images will go all the way to the edge of the paper.

Branding: The collection of language, ideas, principles, and visual elements that represent a company or business to clients and consumers.

Body copy: The main text in an advertisement, brochure, or website. Body copy is longer than headlines and is meant to be easily readable.

Body font: The text formatting for the main content of a magazine, website, or other printed material. Body fonts will contrast with the headlines, and is typically easily readable.

CMYK: A color mode used for print purposes. CMYK stands for ‘Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key (black)’.

Display Type: Fonts with distinctive personality that often sacrifice some readability for the purpose of being unique and eye catching. Typically used for headlines.

DPI: A measurement of resolution for a printed image. Stands for dots per inch.

Element: Individual parts of a logo or design. An element can be a flourish, a border, or something like a headline or image.

Favicon: A small icon that’s associated with a specific web page or URL. A favicon is displayed in the browser's address bar or near the site name in a bookmark.

Hero image: A common term to describe an oversized banner image -- usually near the top of the web page.

Kerning: The process of adjusting the horizontal distance between letters.

Leading: The process of adjusting the vertical distance between lines of type.

Letterpress: A printing process that results in an impression/indented design being left in the paper.

Logo mark: A graphic symbol or emblem that represents a business, organization, or individual.

 
 

Logo type: Also known as a wordmark, a logotype is the name of the company designed in a visual way.

Lorem ipsum: Latin text that’s used to demonstrate the graphic elements in a document or visual.

Margins: Only shown in computer layout programs, margins are the space around the printable area of a document.

Mobile responsive: A web or email design that automatically adjusts it’s sizing, layout, and proportions when viewed on a mobile device.

Negative space: Simply an area on the page that doesn’t contain any design elements.

Opacity: An object's degree of opacity. The lower the opacity the more transparent an element is. 0% = completely invisible, 100% = opaque/fully visible.

Palette: A set of cohesive colors you use for a design, brand, or campaign.  

Pantone Colors: The Pantone Matching system (or PMS) is a set of over 700 standardized colors used in a variety of industries.

Pica: A unit of type size and line length equal to 12 points (about 1/6 inch or 4.2 mm).

Pixel: A minute area of illumination on a display screen, one of many from which an image is composed.

Printer-ready (or camera-ready): Files/artwork is ready to be printed.

Proof: Can refer to either a “concept proof” or “printed proof.” A concept proof is a rough drawn, incomplete, or early stage preview of a project that demonstrates the concept to a client. A printed proof is designed to demonstrate the exact final product -- and is great for catching any last minute mistakes!

Raster files: A raster image consists of a dot matrix structure. Most of the images you see on your computer are a raster image. They can easily be scaled down without a loss of quality, but not scaled up without looking pixelated. Common formats like JPEGs, PNGs, and GIFs are all raster images.

RGB: A color mode used primarily for web. Colors are mixed from red, green, and blue (RGB).

Sans Serif: Typefaces that don’t have serifs at the ends of the stroke (aka the little feet). In print sans serif fonts are typically used for headlines (not body text). Sans serif fonts are popular for display or web fonts.  

Serif: Short strokes that extend from the top or bottom of the long part of a letter.

Slab Serif: A thick, block like serif font. Can be either blocky or rounded.

Typeface: A set of letters, numbers, etc. all in the same style.

Vector file: Created using illustration software (like Adobe Illustrator). Creates clean, camera-ready art that can be scaled up infinitely and still maintain a clean look.

Visual Brand Identity: The collection of all the individual logos marks, graphics, photos, print collateral and web graphics that make up the visual appearance of your brand.

Wireframe: A rough outline used for planning a website’s structure and functionality. Outlines all functional elements of a website or web page.

 

Feeling more prepared for your next meeting? The next time you give your designer feedback, break out a few of these terms and watch the look on their face as they realize what a pro you are!

If you're looking for even more advice on how to work with a designer we've got these 8 tips to help you create a smoother working relationship

Create a smoother working relationship: 8 tips for working with a designer

Bringing a brand to life is no small task, and a bad working relationship can steer a project off-the-rails before it even gains momentum. As designers, we know that understanding a client's business and personal taste is key to being able to properly brand a business. In order to appeal to potential customers, we need to have all the right information to create effective logos, websites, promotional materials, and social media posts.

If you’re nervous about working with a designer for the first time, or you feel like you aren’t on the same page about a certain project, these 8 tips will hopefully get you back on the track to a stellar end result:

  1. Make sure you’ve found the right fit. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a few different designers -- grab coffee with them and make sure you find someone that’s easy to talk to, is willing to listen, and understands your business goals.

  2. Explain in your own words. Communication is key -- don’t hold back from expressing yourself just because you don’t know what the technical term for something is. Your opinion is crucial to creating a quality final product -- and one skill no graphic designer has is mind reading.

  3. Provide examples. Bring pictures, prints, ideas, drawings, mood boards, color palettes and more to help your designer get a feel for what you want. Lacking inspiration? Hit up Pinterest.

  4. Be specific with your feedback. Ask questions, tell your designer how you feel, and explain what it is you like or dislike.

  5. Trust the process. The first draft is just the beginning. Do not get discouraged when it is not “perfect.” Your graphic designer is there to work with you through rounds of revisions to reach a finished product you love.

  6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re ever unsure about why something was done, don’t hesitate to ask. Your designer wants you to have the best final product possible and is usually happy to explain their creative process.

  7. Think about it like a partnership. If a designer explains a technical reason for why they did something chances are you should listen. You hired a designer because you needed help -- acting like you’re the boss might land you with a less than effective final product.

  8. When you love a piece, say it! There’s nothing better than being acknowledged for your hard work and designers want to hear when they're on the right track. When you love the final result be sure to speak up so that they can get you more of what you love!


Have any additional tips? Encountered a particularly difficult situation you'd like advice on?  Share with us in the comments below!