Just Got Some Negative Feedback? Here’s How to Turn It Into a Positive.

If there is one thing we can fortunately joke about among our fellow designers, it’s the negative feedback we receive from our clients.

After all, these references are all over the web and who can’t relate to these? (All images by http://sharpsuits.net/)
Negative Feedback Graphic Design
Negative Feedback Graphic Design

Sometimes, behind the laughter, the feedback does sting. How can we turn this into a positive? Here are some suggestions from our Project Manager, Suzanne Naftanel, who has absorbed some negative feedback for our team a time or two…

Schedule a face-to-face meeting.
If at all possible, schedule a face-to-face feedback meeting versus having your client communicate their feedback via email. This not only breeds increased and more clear communication, but develops a more trusting designer/client relationship overall. This is a perfect opportunity to get on the same page with your client again and show them how much you are invested in getting it right, whatever it may be. Ask the client to come prepared with what he/she was hoping for that they are missing and the honest details about what they were opposed to about this round. Make sure your whole team is scheduled for this meeting and ready to listen to whatever message your client has to deliver.

Reflect, Validate.
When a client provides negative feedback on a design project, make sure you and the team are really tuned into the conversation. If you are face to face (or on a conference call), take this opportunity to rephrase back to them what you’ve heard and give them the opportunity to confirm or correct the statements. Simultaneously validate their feelings and opinion. Ensure you are both on the same page so that the work you are doing in the future is reflective of this conversation. You are working to make their design dreams come true, so do your due diligence to listen, really hear them and show them that you can take action on their desires. That being said, you are the design professional, so make your recommendations and give advice to ensure the end result is stellar.

Check your ego at the door.
Your client wants their design project to be perfect. Their focus isn’t you, but instead the project and getting it to where it needs to be. So, let’s focus on that. Don’t hung up on the negative feedback or take this personally, because it’s not about you, who you are or what you’re worth. We all know you’re awesome.

Explain the process, improve yours.
When you’re working through the design process, gently remind the client that the creative process has just begun, or is still happening. In fact, there may be more rounds to come. Encourage them to consider that there’s still room for exploring further designs. Excite them about the possibilities, then knock them out with a killer next round.

Internally, use this opportunity to improve your process. Was their something you missed during the kick-off – a series of questions you should have asked the client that would have made you better understand their beliefs, motives, mission, wants, needs? Meet with your team and review. You can only benefit as a result.

Check-in and show ’em love.
If your client is feeling as if your last round was less than they’d dreamed of, make a point to follow up with the client once the next round of proofs are presented by the designer/team to ensure they’re on the right track and feeling taken care of.

Acknowledge which feedback is / which clients are worth keeping.
Having said all of this, some feedback is just plain mean and crappy. Over the past 15 years, we have only come across only a few truly rude clients. Unfortunately they’re out there and fortunately we’re a lot better at sniffing them out now. Clients who dole out hurtful, unactionable feedback and cannot have a decent conversation aren’t worthy of your time.

Anyone else who gives feedback that makes you grow should be seen as a teacher. Thank them all.

Good luck everyone!

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