How To Give Feedback To Creatives


Giving feedback to a creative is not easy. Remember, this guy or girl has worked on something with a combined effort of dedication and skill and are not emotionally ready to hear something like: “This sucks. I expected something different.” It’s not constructive or instructive, only destructive.

And what is good anyway? And what sucks? Is it always up to the client to decide? After all, they’re “paying” for it. Shouldn’t the creative just do what the hell we tell them to do? They don’t know sales!

I would say this kind of attitude is not only stupid but also wrong. Remember that a designer or a copywriter might not always bring you the gem you’ve been looking for at the first go, after all – they’re creatives – not mind readers. But with some guidance they can use their skills to find out what you want.

Can they also give advice? Yes, they can! So don’t box them in with exact mock-ups and stuff like: “Tilt the shade to the right and create a yellow rainbow behind the man, could we maybe also add a flying chipmunk and some gold coins somewhere?” Or what the copywriters might recognize: “Write the text exactly like this. Oh, I already wrote it like that. Mine was better then! I’m the copywriter here, yippii!” To which I like to say: no, you’re not the copywriter. Writing is about a whole lot more than forming letters into words and words into sentences. Let the professionals be professionals and do your own thing goddammit.

The best creative process is a collaboration of minds. If you bring the correct facts in the brief and some bullet points on the feeling you want in the image or even something as “vague” as the goal of the image/campaign, you could find a way to interpret it together.

The major ingredient for healthy collaboration is constructive, concise and well thought-through feedback. Try to limit the amount of communication to one to two meetings or one to two e-mails. The road to hell is paved with feedback e-mails going: “move that there, aha, now I see it’s not good, maybe if you put the text in bold, okay, that didn’t work, so what if we move the player to the right? It doesn’t fit with the other elements? Well then maybe we should redo it, or if you somehow could…”

Here are a few tips:

  • Look at the image/concept/draft/mock-up/copy and write down thoughts and feelings about it. Make sure to really spend some time on this (out of respect if nothing else) because in most cases the designer or copywriter has spent quite a bit of time on it and I promise you the process will be much smoother if you try to gather all your feelings at once. Try to be a bit positive too, nobody likes a grouch.
  • Book a 15-30 minute meeting, in real life (IRL for you who are close to underage), or on Skype to go through it. It’s easier to give feedback like that and it shows you pay attention to the result. A sloppy e-mail after glancing for 30 seconds won’t cut it because imagine the result if the creative glanced for 10 seconds at your feedback and spent the remaining 20 seconds on amending your image.
  • If you can’t book a meeting, write everything down, as clearly as possible to avoid misunderstandings and make sure you’re not missing anything before you click that red hot send-button. We’re all dying to send more e-mails, I know. If you do this properly the creative will be happy to receive feedback and will try to accommodate all the proposed changes if possible without cursing once.

I want to reiterate not to give it a quick glance, send a thought or two and then when you look at it the second time to come up with completely new or different feedback. This will make the process longer and more frustrating and if you ever happen to stumble on the creative now working as a waiter in a restaurant as a result of wanting to split his head open from all the destructive feedback rounds, there will likely be something slightly unusual in your food.

Let the creative process be imaginative, respectful, efficient, collaborative and straightforward and we will all lead more fulfilling lives.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but you know what I’m saying.

The Daily Carrot Principle

I’m currently reading a book about recognition as a powerful management tool on my Kindle. It’s called the The Daily Carrot Principle and it’s written by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton (where do people get these cool names?).

Quoting from AmazonFrom the authors of the smash bestseller The Carrot Principle comes an inspiring and lively page-a-day guide to harnessing the remarkable power of the carrot—taking yourself and your team to new heights of success in work and life.Based on their twenty years of experience teaching leaders at Fortune 100 companies, as well as one of the largest research studies ever conducted on workplace satisfaction, Gostick and Elton share a wealth of wisdom about simple but amazingly effective ways to boost your productivity and work satisfaction by setting clear goals, communicating effectively, building trust, and offering recognition in ways that make others feel appreciated and motivated.

I really enjoy the book and it’s easy to understand the value of recognition and to be specific, concise, and generous with the feedback to your employees.

I’ve been reading a lot of management books over the years and many of them do trend to drag on and on without really saying anything new. The Daily Carrot Principle focuses on a topic that can be used as much in your daily life as in the business world and does it in a very reader friendly and constructive way. The book truly demonstrates recognition as the accelerator to the four basics of leadership; goal setting, building trust, communication, and accountability.