How to Give Meaningful Feedback to Your Designer

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Cynthia Bartz • August 31, 2015

Sometimes it can be hard to find the right words to communicate with a designer. This is especially true if you don’t have an art background or spend your days buried in words. I want to give you the tools to help break down the barriers between you and your designer by walking you through my proofing process.

Before Opening the Proof

Read first. Often designers will include an explanation of the design choices they made when they send a proof, as well as raise any concerns they have. I work with my clients in Trello, a project management system, as you can see in the sample below. But your designer may send you an email, set up a meeting, or include their description in the proof.

Whatever the system, it is important to read the explanation in it’s entirety before opening up the proof. You have an expectation of what you are going to see in the proof. You may have expected the designer to choose a particular photo out of the ones you sent or use colors in a particular way. If you haven’t read the designer’s notes before opening the proof you may find yourself disappointed without any reference or reassurance. It’s a bit like opening a present without reading the card. They go together.

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First Glance

The first pass at a proof should be for the “Big Idea”. Does the design meet our goals? Look back on the materials that were sent to the designer: images, text, logos, etc. Is everything there that needs to be? Don’t get too knit-picky at this stage. You want to savor the first impression, because that is the lens that your audience will be seeing through.

If you can, print out a copy of the proof and write down what you think is awesome and anything that you think might not be meeting the goals of the project.

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Check the Copy

Read every word on the proof. Every word. Does everything make grammatical sense? Are there any misspelled words? I like to read copy through three times. Once for grammar and comprehension, once for spelling, and once for spacing and flow.

Sometimes you will miss things when you are reading in your head because your mind will fill in the blanks for you. My trick is to read out loud. Reading out loud forces you to process the information three times, because you have to understand it in your head, form the words with your mouth, and hear them read back to you. I catch the most errors by reading out loud. In fact I read this post out loud to myself before hitting publish.

Proofreading Checklist

  • Spelling
  • Correct Contact Information
  • Grammar
  • Spelling of Names and Places
  • Dates & Times
  • Correct links
  • Is text formatted consistently?
  • Is the Copyright correct?
  • Are page numbers correct?
  • Are there any weird gaps or spacing?

Identify Problems

I ask all my clients to phrase difficult changes as questions, rather than trying to fix the problem themselves. When you phrase your concerns as problems your designer has more opportunity to make an informed design decision and the end product will come out better.

For example: In the proof above the client thought that the text on the front was too difficult to read on the first proof. Her original suggestion was to put a box behind the text. While this is an easy solution, it was too strong and competed with the star on the front of the post card, the cutie taking a photo. I took the client’s feedback and “blew out” the corner to look like the white was part of the original photo. The end result was awesome and way better than a white box.

If you are worried about readability or color choices, voice those worry rather than giving changes to fix those concerns. A good designer will be able to hear what you are saying and address the problem. You are awesome at what you do, let the designer be awesome at what they do.

Document Changes

Note everything you catch in a list. Most designers will request that revisions be typed out, and for good reason. It is really, really easy to miss changes on a “marked up” document, like what is pictured in the featured image. It is a good practice for you to print out and write all over a proof, but it does not communicate well to a designer.

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I ask all my clients to make a list of revisions with each bullet being a separate change. Listing changes is a good reference for both you and the designer to check that all the required changes were made. The ultimate goal in this process is a beautiful, error free final product.

 

If you approach every proof this way you decrease the chances of shipping a product with errors and hopefully build better communication between you and your designer. What techniques do you use to facilitate better communication? Hit me up on Twitter, I’d love to hear what works for you: @cbgraphicsatl

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