How to get good feedback from clients and colleagues

Still from a 3D projection by Leviathan for US car site Kelley Blue Book

Everything you do is brilliant, right? If only that was true, but any creative who really cares about producing exceptional work knows that it requires analysis and criticism from a wide range of sources: colleagues, end users, customers and clients.

“Client feedback is vital to the creative process,” says Jamie Fleming – head of copy at London-based design agency Purple Creative. “Clients see a project from a different perspective, and understand the business objectives in a way that a creative never will. We have been known to get too close to a project to see it objectively.” 

It’s a similar story at Golden Square Post Production. Creative director Harry Jarman believes that the team on a typical VFX project knows the story so well they don’t have the advantage of coming at it fresh.

“This means they often read things into the story that wouldn’t be obvious from a single viewing,” he explains. “So it’s important to dig out a few people to view the spot that are not VFX artists and don’t know the project. I find their feedback invaluable.”

Mike Lythgoe created A State of Flux for a Ministry of Sound flyer

Internal feedback between team members is equally important. But our interviewees believe it has to be more well-rounded than just a top-down senior-to-junior appraisal system.

“All creative agencies have team critiques, whether formal or informal,” says Jamie. “What sets some apart is how they’re conducted. Some places can be creative dictatorships – designers simply doing whatever the creative director tells them to – but the best are creative democracies.” 

“We hang work on a large wall in our studio,” says Scott Matz, a director at New York’s Thornberg & Forester. “Each designer speaks about his or her design decisions, and the group reacts in a constructive manner.”

The timing of critiques is key. “Thoughts and opinions given early in the process creates a wider catchment of ideas of how the project should be taken forward,” argues Johanna Drewe, design director at creative agency Studio Output. “In contrast, feedback given just before a project goes live or to print should be localised and specific.”

Critiques at global creative agency Attik are informal and fairly frequent, occurring about once or twice a day depending on the phase of a project. “Work is printed and posted onto blackboards, and each designer reviews his or her ideas, followed by input from fellow designers,” says Paul Wang, creative director – design. 

Igniting Ambition Festival 2012, Arts Council England. The publication was created by Studio Output

“As a chance to step back from one’s work and hear a range of feedback, these ‘crits’ are where our projects often take a big leap in thinking and quality of design.”

The studio of experiential design and production house Leviathan has an open floor plan, so any work-in-progress can be seen on all monitors, which sparks spontaneous collaboration and commentary. Impromptu critiques are common.

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