I came up with this concept about a year ago, while managing projects for my previous employer. I was on a call with a client and our designer. The client was saying things like “move the two words closer together” and “make that line a little thicker.” We’ve all seen The Oatmeal’s post about how a design goes straight to hell, and I wasn’t about to let that happen to us (if you haven’t seen it, ask any designer, they'll know). We weren’t getting the kind of feedback we wanted, but I couldn’t tell her not to give us feedback altogether. What exactly did we want?
That’s when I had a little idea on how to differentiate useful feedback and counter-productive feedback. I told the client that design works best when we get general input, rather than directions. If you talk to your designer using directions such as “move this element here” and “change the texture of that letter to this” or “put a dropshadow on that text”, you completely remove the designer, along with their creativity and years of experience, from the process. You put yourself in their place, which we can assume, given that you are paying them for design, is probably not a good idea.
So how do you talk to them then? More to the point, how do you help the designer get you what you want? I always ask for general input that states what you like and don’t like. This would be in the form of comments like “I like that the design is clean, but it feels to dark” or “it feels closed in” or “I don’t think this element is given enough prominence.” The idea is that you state the problem with the design as you see it, and it is up to the designer to solve the problem.
I should say that many designers don’t like the type of “touchy-feely” feedback I listed above, but a good designer will use that as a starting point to draw out more details about what the client is seeing until they feel confident about making revisions. When done right by both sides, the result will be a great looking, on-target design, sans the multitude painful revision cycles. Everybody wins!