Giving effective creative feedback

Feeding back on creative work is not an easy task. On the one hand you have to navigate the emotional minefield of evaluating somebody else’s hard work. On the other you are feeding back on something that in many cases you are probably less qualified to comment on that the person who did the work.

It’s not the simplest of tasks and for many it is something they find a challenge.

There’s always a fine line, you don’t want to be too critical and thus demotivate the team but also you need to get your point across, after all, you’re paying, it’s your brand and you have to be happy with the work.

We’ve put together some helpful advice and some pointers on how to give solid creative feedback that gets you the website, strategy or design that you want without the pain.

Avoid reaching for the red pen

Most creative people are doing their job because they are passionate about the field they work in. A red pen, or red mark-ups will subconsciously take most of us straight back to being in school. Of being told we got it wrong, we failed, we missed the mark. It’s an instant de-motivator.

The colour red means danger, warning, or hazard.

A much better option is to use green or blue, non-threatening colours that visually imply constructive feedback rather than failure or solid criticism.

Consider the best time to share feedback

We’ve been working all day and just as we are ready to go turn off our machines, an email comes through with a list of changes that need to be made. Most creatives will read it, but they’ll be reading it after a long day and won’t be in the optimal frame of mind to start re-evaluating the project.

Unless it’s super urgent and must be done straight away, it’s much better to share feedback first thing the next morning when everyone has a fresh pair of eyes.   

Unless it's simple, talk it through first

We’ve all been there, you’re running late, have a million tasks to do and one of them is to feedback on the latest round of creative work. It’s easy to quickly ping of a list of bullet points and email them over to the team who are working on your project.

It might save you time in the short-term but it will probably in the long-run cost you more time and effort.


Bullet-points and short-snippet feedback are super easy to misunderstand, especially in the body of an email. A misinterpreted comment can double the work and an email back and forth can end up being much more time consuming.

Unless you’re asking for real basic changes like – ‘change this word to this’ or ‘use this font,’ then it’s much better to talk through it on a call. 30 mins of talking things through will lead to much clearer feedback and understanding of your requirements meaning you get what you want sooner.

Be honest, clear and direct about what you want

If something definitely needs to change make sure you spell it out. A lot of time and effort can be wasted when things are implied rather than actually asked for. If you 100% want something doing- spell it out clearly so the team knows it must be done.

Example: If you definitely want the font colour of a section of design changing to green make sure you say ‘Make this section green’ rather than ‘This might look better in Green’. The first is a directive, the second allows creatives to explore the idea rather than telling them to make the change.

Consolidate the feedback first

This is crucial when there are multiple stakeholders, make sure that it comes through in one go and there’s only one person delivering it.

Drip feeding amends can be much more time consuming and lead to misinterpretations. It takes time to go into servers or log into website back ends, open up page edits and save down PDF’s. By giving the team a clear run at making the amends in one go, you save everyone time.

It’s quicker to make one big set of changes in a day than it is 3 small set of changes.

Finally, ask yourself this: am I being objective or subjective?

Most marketing & advertising people have had a similar experience to the following story. A CEO/Business Leader is asked to feedback on the final round of his company’s latest ad campaign. He comments “I absolutely hate it…… it’s great, I’m sure it will perform brilliantly.”

When looking at creative work, we can all too easily fall into the trap of giving subjective feedback, that is feedback that is grounded in personal opinion and taste rather than objective facts.

A classic example is the person who wants a red button on a website because they like the colour red. The reality is that for most, red means warning or danger, people subconsciously don’t want to click red buttons. Whilst subjectively a red button may look nice, objectively it’s simply not something that would be appropriate in most places.

To cut to the chase, when feeding back on creative work, my personal opinions and preferences (subjective views) always need to give way to objective views- is it right for my audience.

At Divergent Path, we provide training sessions on how to get the most out of your creative work. We can provide specific sessions on delivering creative feedback. Get in touch with us to find out more.

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