The Secrets to Reviewing Creative Work
8 simple steps to reviewing creative work as a client
I've realised recently in my quest to find an accountant and photographer, how difficult it is to know what questions to ask when you're making an enquiry, reviewing a proposal or chatting about the work to be done. When it's not your industry, you're left feeling a little bit lost. You don't know the lingo. You don't understand the process. You're not an expert.
Which is good, because you rock at doing what you do. There's no reason (nor should there be any desire) to excel in everything. But it has made me question the way I guide my clients through their journey with me, realising they're not design nor branding experts.
Am I using redundant designer jargon that holds no weight for them? Do they understand what I mean when I ask "Will you be going with 4 plate process or spot colour print? What about a matte spot UV over your logomark? Would you have the budget to print your cards on 400gsm cotton paper with a slight tooth? Ooh, what about letterpress?"? Do they know the difference between a primary logo and a monogram? How could potential clients even understand why my services are valuable to them if I'm stuck in a world where I assume everyone knows the difference between CMYK and RGB, hot and cold press, and digital and litho?
To me, those are perfectly normal questions (and sentences, and words) but I've been realising not only could it make me sound rude and arrogant, but could scare my clients into simply being agreeable in fear of looking ignorant.
So I decided this needs some real addressing. I have been working on my communication skills, a thorough welcome packet and a few guides for my clients to go through and digest before the overwhelm sets in and they're simply frustrated.
Instead of assuming they know what I'm doing and in which order, I'm trying to share as much of my process as possible, without boring them. Instead of assuming they understand what I need them to do, I'm guiding them with one page PDF's which are quick, to the point and easy to pull up when they need it.
Today I want to cover how, as a client, you should be reviewing creative work. For me, most of the frustration a client experiences is during the reviewing phase of the project. They want to give feedback, share their thoughts and ideas but have no idea how. On the flipside, the creative behind the work gets defensive, annoyed their well-thought-out designs aren't met with the excitement they imagined. No one wins.
I can already feel how this guide is helping my clients give me feedback that's useful and allows me to develop great solutions. It's pushing me to deliver a refined concept with each round of revisions because I can understand exactly why they just aren't "feeling it".
1 | READ THE RATIONALE BEFORE REVIEWING THE ARTWORK
Go through the rationale behind the artwork before viewing it. This will give you a better understanding of why certain elements or colours were used and how this addresses the objective of the brief.
2 | ALWAYS REVIEW FROM A PRINTED DOCUMENT
This is a great place to start. Design work takes on a new and different life on paper and can give you a real-life Feeling of its applications.
3 | LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
If you must, cross your eyes a little and just phase out all the details. Gauge the overall feel, tone and moods. Look at the broad colour palette (where applicable) and shape. Is it memorable? Does it stand out to you? How does it make you feel?
4 | CHECK THE WORK AGAINST THE BRIEF
It’s a great idea to go back to your brief, mission statement and brand words. Pull out your inspiration board and determine whether the artwork addresses the objective of the brief successfully.
5 | TAKE A STEP BACK
You know your dream clients better than anyone else. Does the message connect with them? Will they see the value of your brand through this artwork and would it engage them in a conversation or draw them to a product?
6 | FOCUS ON THE DETAILS
Look at the individual text and graphic elements. Review the way they are used together and aligned. Does the text work without the use of imagery? Likewise, do the graphic elements make sense to you without the assistance of the text?
7 | IS IT EASILY PLACED IN ITS INDUSTRY SECTOR
Does the artwork make clear which industry your product or service falls into while still maintaining originality?
8 | IDENTIFY THE PROBLEMS
Give feedback on what doesn’t resonate with you and the reason. What elements aren’t working for you and why do you feel that way? Try to be as specific as possible. Give your designer the 'problems' and let them develop a solution. Forcing your hand with recommendations to make it better could lead to a designer backing down and allowing a sub-par design to pass through their studio. Taking orders minimises creative freedom and usually doesn't result in something that you and your designer are insanely proud of.
I hope this 8 step guide gives you a bit more insight into both the client's and designer's needs and how a great design can be collaborative, with a little effort. What good/bad experiences have you had giving or receiving feedback on creative work?