Outsourcing is filled with benefits. Everyone can't do everything, and it is often senseless for an organisation to try and hire every potential skill-set. As a design agency, Mäd gets the opportunity to work with talented individuals, teams, and businesses from a wide range of industries—and finding the designer to client harmony can be an art. Just as finding the perfect agency can be a dream, for us finding the perfect client makes processes heavenly.
But what do we mean by 'the perfect client'? Surely the client doesn't have a 'job', and instead is paying the agency for a service instead? Well, we believe this is the wrong attitude. Agencies are not simply an external team, but a team that collaborates with your business to make your aims, hopes, visions, and goals, a reality. That's why we believe the client still has an active role in success, and thoroughly believe that certain positive attitudes and thinking can propel projects to success.
Once a project begins, the design team will spend meaningful time getting to grips with their client(s) to fully understand the problem needing solved.
Depending on the agency, some form of reporting structure is usually put in place. At Mäd, we'll work with our clients to find the most suitable option, typically this may be a weekly or biweekly project meeting—but we'll also have real-time updates and progress available via our online project management tool, bloo.
This is where the subject of feedback appears.
Is there a right way to give feedback, and is there a wrong way? If a client loves a design... is there anything else to say but 'yes'...?
We believe so.
Designers are always looking for feedback from their clients. Feedback is important because it informs the designers about what they're doing well, what needs work, and if a design solution should be pursued further or not.
We love this analogy of aeroplanes: When an aeroplane flies, they're constantly readjusting their course because even being off by a couple of degrees would take the pilot thousands of miles off course over time. This is true for the design process also.
It's key for clients and agencies to check in with each other and ensure that they're aligned. Steering a project in the right direction is often a front-loaded process; By spending a large amount of time at the beginning to map out the desired route, designers can more confidently perform deep work meaningfully, at pace.
When it comes to project meetings and responding to ongoing work, here are some ideal approaches for great feedback:
- Ask questions
- Communicate problems, not solutions
- Keep the focus on strategic goals
- Consolidate feedback with other team members
Even if a design looks brilliant, or especially if it isn't to your immediate liking, asking for clarity—or asking questions, in general, will often lead to more fruitful conversations and a better understanding of the design's intent.
If you're feeling uncertain, take a moment before responding in order for your thoughts to become clearer. You'll be able to articulate what bothers you about something while still keeping an open mind.
By all means, we're not advocating for clients to simply be 'naysayers'. The focus here is on the agencies purpose...an agency is hired to solve the problem, to use their expertise to create meaningful and impactful work. When a client hires a creative agency but simply wants things done 'their way', they're not leveraging the expertise that they've hired, instead it becomes micromanaging and reduces the potential strategic output.
It can be difficult to fully trust a designer, especially if you don't have a design background yourself and feel unsure about some of the technical decisions being made. But trust is important. Trusting your designer will lead to some of their best work, what James Victore calls 'God Work'. The concept of God Work is that the designer views their work as a gift, something to be proud of and pour their soul in to... rather than simply 'money work' that they rush to complete just for the paycheck.
However, as the work is for you and your business, communicate any problems and allow the design team to digest and address this feedback.
If your favourite colour is blue, that's fine...but don't base your decision making on personal preferences without strategic goals. Your feedback shouldn't be based on what you like and dislike, but what is best for the business. Some clients may possess truly brilliant ideas, but if they're not appropriate for their brand and the strategic goals of their organisation then it is important to be able to move on from them.
It can be really difficult to abandon personal visions. Perhaps you aided the design for the original branding or website for your business...if it's being critiqued and changed it is easy to feel attached to the original designs and take criticism personally. We always advocate standing proudly by good work, so we sympathise with this issue entirely. It's ok to be proud of old or unused content too, but being part of the strategic development of a project is key—if everyone stays focused, then together something truly brilliant can be made.
Feedback can vary wildly from person to person, especially if the task at hand has subjective elements. Collaboration and consensus are two key things to consider. To reach such consensus, and collaborate effectively to consolidate feedback as a team, we suggest the following:
We've all heard the phrase 'too many chefs'. Trying to get 30 people to shape a piece of work can be brilliant, but more likely it'll be messy and counterproductive. The main reason is that you can't please everyone and you can't value everyone's feedback at the same level.
When you're consolidating feedback, it is important to define roles and decision makers. Stakeholders tend to have more sway, and related experts should be highly regarded in the discussions too—for example, your marketing team should have a more valuable opinion about the website layout than your human resource team.
Yet, influencing power shouldn't be exclusive to a small section of the team. Getting everyone together can help ideas flow and aid better decision making. When you've gotten everyone's feedback, arrange a meeting to talk through it and plan the next steps... whether that's internally (which feedback you're submitting and hoping will be pursued) or alongside the agency team.
Vague feedback leads to vague improvements, or misdirection. Take time to dig deep into team member thoughts and ideas to get an extra level of clarity. Having probing feedback conversations early means you can save additional rounds of revisions which can be costly both in time and money.
Again refering to 'too many chefs', find a feedback process that works for you. When you're consolidating a collection of feedback, it helps to establish a logical flow for handling it. Whether you wish to run decision making workshops to quickly and articulately reach a consensus, or if you're passing around documentation and want to ensure the last reader is the main decision-maker to tie up any loose ends—and reach a conclusion to the discussion aptly.
As with any consensus building and consolidating processes, it helps to collaborate in all directions. Proactive communication and reminders help keep everyone on the same page, and don't be scared to ask people to elaborate on their feedback to help you, and others, understand better.
Harnessing your feedback effectively will lead to better output. After all, you've approached an agency for great work, and have a vision you want fulfilled. The Agency wants to work with you to produce great work that will help their experience and portfolio, and importantly they want to form positive relations with clients. Great feedback can turbocharge a project and help everyone reach a truly inspirational conclusion.