As an Art-director, giving feedback on designs is an important part of my job. And at the same time, one of the most difficult aspects of it. Writer and speaker Scott Berkun wrote an article about this. Since everyone who works with a designer will have to deal with this sooner or later, I'm listing the highlights:
01.Ask questions first, shout something later
Have you been asked for feedback, but don't really know what the objectives are? Then it's quite a good idea to ask first. Unless you want your own personal preferences (taste) to be leading, and only people similar to you are going to use your product, of course 😀.
Protip: Ask "What are you trying to achieve here?" first.
02.Good / bad is not the same as beautiful / ugly
There is (unfortunately) no objective way yet to determine whether something is beautiful or ugly. Therefore, judge something on what it should do and not on what it looks like.
If you judge a fryer on its ability to play MP3s then there is a mismatch between what we are trying to achieve and how we judge it.
03.Get frameworks in place beforehand on which to judge something.
It helps enormously to think about the principles against which you can assess designs before starting a project. For example, you can define a Definition of Success, or set targets in the form of KPIs.
Example: At Pixelpillow, we always first define Design Principles at the beginning of a project, which provide guidance during the design process.
04.Point out not only what is wrong, but also what is already right.
We tend to focus on what is not working well. Pointing out what does work well makes it easier to determine what still needs to be done.
Talk as much about what is, as about what is not
05.Not all feedback makes things better
Be aware that changes made in response to your feedback can potentially make the product worse on other aspects.
Example: if the feedback is to strengthen the brand by making the logo bigger, the 'ordering' falls as a result
Assume that the other person has done their best and put a lot of time and energy into the design. Therefore, take your time in giving feedback and don't do it in a hurry in between. Also, giving feedback is not a competition in coming across as smart and critical. So always ask yourself: does my feedback make this design better?
Good criticism must be an act of respect: an act of communication with the intention of helping the other person do better work, or understand their work better.