6 ways to better understand and handle client feedback

Peter Vukovic

“We love it! Don’t change a thing!”

When was the last time you heard that? If you’re like me, you probably don’t remember. No matter how good of a designer you are, clients always have a thing to say about your work and it’s not always pretty. Knowing how to handle different types of feedback can take a lot of stress away from your shoulders. It all comes down to problem solving and some common sense.

Here’s how to deal with some of those typical client scenarios.

1. “Okay… let’s move this over here. Put that over there…”

edit

Photo: Nic’s events (via Flickr)

It’s a big red flag if your client starts rearranging the layout for you. You need to stop and investigate because nothing good will come out of it.

When you get this kind of feedback, it usually means two things: there is something very wrong with the layout and the client is trying to fix it himself (easy to solve), OR you’re dealing with a rare case of a client-designer who likes to take all designer things into their own hands (start running).

To figure out what is going on behind the scenes, say something along these lines:

“Thank you very much for your feedback. Can you please give me your general opinion on the design, what you like and dislike, in addition to the specific changes you requested? This will help me do a better job next time.”

9 out of 10 times, this will make the client think again and give you some high quality feedback you can really use to take your design to the next level. If not… hey, at least you tried, right?

2. “Looks nice, but it’s not really our style”

In other words, you’re a good designer but you missed the point.

When this happens, you need to figure out what really makes the client tick and what their style is. Before asking questions, re-read the brief and see if you missed any important points – there’s nothing clients hate more than designers who ask questions already answered in the brief.

If this doesn’t help, try some of these strategies:

  • Find examples of two to three design styles which might work for the project, and ask the client for feedback. Usually, one of them will strike a chord and you’ll get a new sense of direction.
  • If you’re dealing with a client who is a good communicator, ask them to describe the style in terms of personality — things like serious, funny, excited, mysterious, glamorous, or easy going can be extremely helpful in pinpointing the style
  • Have the client tell you which popular brand or company has the similar style they’re after. They’ll usually find two to three great examples you can draw inspiration from

In any case, be prepared to work on a completely different proposal from the one they saw – changing the style usually means changing the concept.

3. “We just don’t like it / understand it”

wrongway

Fantastic! Believe me – this is probably the best feedback you can get, apart from “We love it!”

When client tells you he hates your design, it usually means you had a very strong idea which simply did not resonate well with them… it bounced off. Their feedback will probably give you plenty of other insights, such as “it’s too dark / bright”, “doesn’t look serious”, “sends the wrong message” and so on.

The message here is clear – just flip their negative comments in the mirror and you’ll know exactly what to do. Looks to dark? Make it brighter. Doesn’t look serious enough? Tighten it up a bit. You get the idea.

Never let the negative feedback ruin your motivation. Yes it hurts like hell but at least you know exactly what NOT to do – an advantage many other designers don’t have.

4. “We love it! Could you just replace apples with oranges?”

apples

This is a double-edged sword situation. The client loves your work but wants to make a significant change to the part which makes it so enticing, or worse, to the part which makes the idea work in the first place.

In most cases, you should listen and make the change – not because it will be better but because you want the client to see that the design actually looks worse now.

If that doesn’t happen, however, do your best to convince them to go back to the original idea they liked, or if that’s not an option, convince them to work on a new idea. There’s nothing worse than seeing a Frankenstein design – a good idea made from all the wrong things.

5. Silence

nothin

Yes, silence is feedback and it’s the worst type you can get.

Unless your client suddenly went on a 2 week vacation in Tibet, silence means you did a poor job and your design simply isn’t worth commenting on. When this happens, take a deep, long breath and accept the reality.

Did you really do to the best of your ability? If yes, move on and keep learning. If not, think long and hard about how you’re going to fix things, then create a completely new design. Whatever the case, understand that silence means just one thing – work harder.

6. Understanding client feedback

collab

Knowing how to take and handle the feedback you get can mean success or failure in the design industry. For that reason, make sure you understand different types of situations and that you are handling them like a professional.

Scenarios described above will help you identify most common cases but over time, you’ll identify some of your own. When you do, or if you already have, make sure to let us know!

Do you have your own rules for handling client feedback?

The author

Peter Vukovic
Peter Vukovic

Peter Vukovic is a seasoned designer & creative director with 10 years of experience in worldwide advertising agency. He is a proud member of the 99designs community. You can view his 99designs profile here.

Related articles

10 time management tips for creative people: how to get shit done!

10 time management tips for creative people: how to get shit done!

Time management. Cringeworthy words if you’re the creative type that procrastinates on every project. Do you burn the midnight oil to complete all your deadlines in the nick of time? Maybe you’re a morning person who manages to put everything off until you’re working way past bedtime. Either way, creatives can benefit from practicing good…

The design apps you need to know about

The design apps you need to know about

The number of design apps out there is simply staggering. Think of any handy tool—calendars, sketch programs, color palette generators, font references—and you’ll find a dozen apps for it, each with slightly different functionality. What is more, almost all of them are well designed (they are made for a demanding market, after all). So how do…

Current Design Contests

Designers, check out these contests so you can start building your career.
0%