Feedback Loop

We’ve all been there… designing our guts out, presenting our very personal, very heartfelt work, only to have it burned in front of us. Back to the drawing board. Again.

So you go back to your office and the thoughts begin… “How dare they attack my work.” “Why can’t they see the wisdom of my solution?” “I’ll bet they just want their nephew to do the work.” You know the voices… c’mon, be honest. We’ve all felt the disappointment.

Let’s re-think this a little… maybe the feedback isn’t personal. (It’s not!) Maybe you didn’t have all the facts you needed before you jumped to a solution. (You probably didn’t!) Maybe, just maybe, they’re right. (Well, is it possible?)

Here’s a few do’s and dont’s to help you make the most of the joy that is feedback.

Do listen to the feedback. God gave us all two ears and one mouth, use them wisely. You may have thought your work was amazing, but maybe you missed a key factor that would’ve turned it into a big win. Listening is the start to understanding.

Don’t get discouraged. I can’t tell you how many times I felt really down about the fact I didn’t nail it. Honestly, most of the time, the folks giving feedback usually have a point. If you can learn to navigate through this barrier, you’re gonna do some good work.

Do ask questions. One of our project managers who’s new to the team has learned an important part of the process when starting a project. Ask questions. Who’s the audience? What’s the intention of the piece? How will it be produced? What’s the budget? Who’s got the final “say” on approvals? The answers will usually give you the boundaries you’ll need to come up with a successful piece.

Don’t get defensive. I’ve worked in the creative business to know that this is possibly the single hardest thing to avoid for creatives. Great creatives are emotional fools. And one of those emotions is pride. Cut it, and you’ll be way further ahead. I promise.

Do work through the feedback. And don’t be afraid to push back (respectfully, of course). Just because someone is asking for your work to be changed, doesn’t mean you have to change it exactly as they’ve asked. Dig into the feedback… as “why” they rejected your initial pass. Maybe they’re asking for “this widget to be bigger,” when really what you need to do is change the other elements around it. Think beyond the obvious reaction to the feedback… solve the problem.

Don’t lose interest. It’s easy to get discouraged, get defensive, and want to pack it up. If that describes you, maybe design isn’t the perfect fit for you. But if you really feel a calling to this craft, then stick with it. To get better requires spending time to hone your talents. Don’t give up.

Do learn how to pitch your work. Study folks who are excellent presenters. Watch as many Steve Jobs keynotes as you can find. Listen to great speakers and learn how they convey their points. Presenting your work properly is often the first step to getting your work into production. It’s not about “convincing” as much as it is about “answering” the needs of the problem. Creativity is an art, not a science, so learn the craft of pitching.

Bonus tips:

In every critic’s perspective, there’s a shred of truth. Learn to find your way into seeing their point of view. You’ll be better for it.

Loyalty to the idea can kill you. While you might be convinced that your idea is sound, always be willing to be open to hearing other input.

Share often, before it’s too late to change. It’s easier to be nimble with the “idea” when it’s constantly changing. That’s a lot of how we do things here.

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Greg Vennerholm
Design Director
Venny serves as the Design Director for Church on the Move. He brings his passion for crisp, clear design to everything he works on at COTM, which includes interactive and print projects. His 25 years in the agency world did not, however, prepare him for the ridiculously fast pace of Church on the Move.