I'm a creative director at Laughing Samurai. I bark orders. Sometimes people listen. Sometimes they don't. When they play nice, I pay with pizza. And sometimes with Nachos. Hell, sometimes even Beer. Wanna work with me? Let's do this.

Learn how to interpret feedback as if your job depended on it… because it does.

Make the logo bigger. Make the logo smaller. Increase the font by half a point. Make it pop. It doesn’t do it for me. I don’t know what I want, but I will once I see it.

We’ve all heard it at least once. Feedback from someone that either doesn’t know how to give feedback, or from someone that has no clue what goes on in design. The availability of desktop publishing and design software, both good and bad, has led to many people thinking that by learning how to use the software they are, in turn, learning how to design. We know thats not necessarily true, right? I mean, we do know that there are other things to learn before one can attempt to design anything. Things like Typography, spatial relationships and negative space, concept development, creative ideation, color theory… even simpler things like learning how to draw, are all crucial to becoming a good designer. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Let’s get to the matter at hand. That is the fact that bad feedback is NEVER going to end. No matter how many training sessions, or hair pulling nervous breakdowns you experience, bad feedback is part of your reality. Get used to it. And the faster you get used to it, the faster and easier it will be for you to become a more successful designer or creative. Not just because you are good at your craft, but because learning how to interpret, internalize and execute on feedback are key to delivering killer creative, and making your clients happy.

The following are a few definitions I have so gracefully compiled for you to help you during these tough times. I cannot guarantee that they will successfully translate the reaction or feedback you’re getting, but they can help in crafting a list of your own. Let it be noted that this list bars any existence of assholery from the persons personality, or any clients from hell.

Make the logo bigger.

This simply means that – to make it bigger. I mean, I know in school they told you “less is more”, but the reality is that they probably don’t teach that at marketer camp. In marketing, more is always more. What they probably meant is that the size relationship between other things on the layout compete with the logo. You can try to remedy that by making other things smaller, and keeping the logo as first in the hierarchy of items. Or just make the damn thing bigger, and move on.

It doesn’t pop.

There is not enough contrast on the page to make the item stand out. They want it to stand out more. You can either choose a more contrasting color palette to fix this or brighten the item while darkening the background.

I’m not a designer. I don’t know what to do.

Yes. They are correct. You are the designer. So, when requesting better direction, never ask “how do you want it”, rather “what are you trying to do or say”. The latter will better help you understand what the intention was, and can better inform the next round of creative.

It’s too designed.

It means you over-complicated the assignment. They wanted something simple, and you spent hours ideating and sketching. Bring it down a notch.

Can we fill the empty space.

As designers, we tend to design to gain acceptance from the design community. Designing for other designers. We feel compelled to take advantage of empty space, and keep design elements to a bare minimum. The reality is that laymen don’t understand that. They don’t care when a font was designed, or that you used a style relevant to whatever. Design for the masses, because that’s who it’s intended for in the first place.

I don’t know, what do you think?

This might be on the top of most annoying pieces of feedback one could get. As if presenting the design isn’t enough for the person to know that you like it. You did create it. The reality is that they probably just cant decide whether they like it or not. This is a good opportunity for you switch hats and take on a sales role. You have to defend and sell your design by providing reasoning. Usually, if your reasoning is sound and is based on actual experiences or data, they will lean towards your decision.

I could have done that.

Now, don’t get your panties in a bunch. Breathe. Count to ten. All they were trying to say is that you didn’t spend enough time on it. You sent them back something very close to what they sent you. Hunker down, maybe request better direction, and get to work.

I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know when I see it.

This is not something you want to hear when getting feedback. This basically means that all the work you have done has not answered the clients requests. It means that the data you gathered at your initial meeting wasn’t enough. It could also mean that you mis-interpreted the data and gatherings from your client research and failed to answer the assignment. I suggest that, if you want to keep the client, you get better information and get back to the drawing board.

It is probably good to mention that it isn’t always the feedback that’s bad, but our reaction to it. Remember that not everyone is as emotionally invested as you are on your work. They don’t necessarily mean to be hurtful, and it is probably a bad idea to take any negative feedback personally, rather look at it objectively, understand what they are trying to achieve, and make them happy. At the end of the day, that’s what we do. We make people happy.

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