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How to review design work if you're not a creative

October 5th, 2022   |   Gareth Llewellyn

Reviewing design work can be difficult if you yourself are not in a creative role. The desire to get things perfect can lead to a paralysis where there's endless rounds of 'tweaking'. This increases the risk of wasting time, costing money and more often than not, making no real improvements. The worse outcome is the effectiveness of the design is diluted - taking it from brilliant to bland.

This is our guide to getting a great design.

Start at the beginning

The best way to get a good design is to start with a good brief. Aim to provide your designer with as much information as possible, but most importantly, tell them what you're trying to achieve;

  • What message are you trying to convey?

  • What do you want to visually communicate?

  • Does your image need key information like dates or times

  • What's your CTA (call-to-action)?

You’ll also need to explain to your designer what images you’ll need for what purpose. Share if the designs are going to be used in a paid or organic social campaign (will they be posts or Stories?), in a blog, as out-of-home placements, or as web banners.

If you have brand guidelines, great! Share them with your designer. If not, don’t worry, but make sure your designer understands your brand, from simple things like logos, colours and fonts through to who your target audience is.

Keep communication open. If your designer has questions concerning the brief, they should feel comfortable clarifying it with you.

Your designer should provide you with some early concepts to choose from, so you can assess if the overall style is something you’d like to move forward with.

The best way to get a good design is to start with a good brief.
Gareth Llewellyn, Managing Director at Brew Digital

You’ve received the first draft of the design - now what?

So you’ve received the first draft of your design(s). Hopefully you love it, but maybe you want to make some changes, so how do you approach it?

In the excitement of seeing your ideas come to life it can be tempting to start feeding back changes straight away, but an incoherent stream of unstructured comments probably won’t be very helpful, so take a breath.

Give yourself time to take the design in; think about your brief - is it achieving what you wanted? Does it have the CTA that you need? Are they effective? And is it 'on-brand'?

Should I ask others to review it?

It can be very tempting to ask colleagues or friends for their opinion of the design, especially if you don’t feel very confident or qualified to do it yourself. But beware! Invite too many opinions and you risk getting into 'design by committee' and that rarely turns out well.

Aim to have no more than one other person help you review a design - and make sure they understand what the brief was.

Rounds of amends

When planning and pricing design work, it’s common for agencies to factor in two rounds of amends - one to address any significant changes, and then the second round for any final minor details. Of course, there may be times when further changes are required, but they should be the exception.

We’ve heard stories of our clients going through over 20 rounds of amends for a given asset - a clear sign that something has gone very wrong with the design process. If this is happening to you it's time to take a step back and have a frank conversation with your designer/agency, and maybe have a bit of a reset.

If you find yourself stuck, don't know where you're going with your design, or have conflicting opinions amongst stakeholders, talk to us about Decision Sprints. Reach an agreement and get things moving.

Giving your feedback

Once you’ve taken time to consider the design, if you want some simple changes - great! Compile these into the format agreed with your designer and share them. However if your changes are a bit more involved or fundamental, then talk to your designer.

Gather all of your comments together and provide them in 'one hit' - drip-feeding feedback means the designer doesn’t know when you’ve finished reviewing, and worse-still they may have to re-do things multiple times if later comments have an impact on earlier ones.

Tools for giving feedback

Providing feedback via email, a Word document, or verbally can work, but is often problematic. Are you talking about the exact part of the design that the designer thinks you are? There often isn't an easy way to check if every comment has been addressed and it's very easy for the written word to be misunderstood.

Annotating the design (drawing/writing over the top of it) can work for simple changes, but can get very confusing if there are many comments.

At Brew Digital, we share designs with our clients using an online tool InVision. It has lots of benefits, but its review functionality is particularly useful - you can pinpoint where your comment is, add whatever text you want, @-mention other people if you need someone else's opinion, and then your designer can respond, ask questions, etc. When you're happy that your comment has been addressed, mark it as resolved.

Don't hold back

At times you might feel nervous telling your designer or agency that you don't like a design that they produced. This is natural - it's difficult giving someone negative feedback, especially if it feels like they have poured their heart and soul into it. But, if they are professional, they will understand that what they produce won't always be the right thing for the customer, will accept the feedback, and will take it on-board. So have that dialogue with them, and be honest - after all you are paying for the work, so make sure it is what you want.

When done right the design process can be hugely satisfying and rewarding as you see ideas that you had only imagined come to life. The review process is very much part of that - taking something good and making it great.

In summary

  • Produce a thorough brief - it will pay off later.

  • Work closely with your designer or agency and have open communication.

  • Be honest and expect honesty (and expert advice) in return.

This process is a partnership to produce something that you can both be thoroughly proud of.

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