Insights, please! How do you give PRODUCTIVE feedback?

Hey there.

Imagine you are presenting sketches, renderings, models - anything visual - to your coworkers or clients.

You want them to react on it to take your work to the next level.

What is it, that makes their feedback productive?
(you can name unproductive examples too to explain your thinking)

Thanks a lot!

I think any feedback that isn’t personal is productive. For example:

Personal = “This kind of work won’t fly around here John!”

This kind of feedback only beats people down, and in the end makes them afraid to innovate or show their ideas.

Productive = “The forms on all of these designs are not following our product plan”

This doesn’t attack the person, but let’s them know that their idea was outside the project parameters. Criticism, combined with positive feedback, can move a project closer to its objectives.

I always try to find the good aspects of work, and talk about those first. People usually know where they screwed up, or didn’t do enough work, so why rub it in? Butter them up with the positive, and then tell them to bring the rest up to that level.

Make sure you can articulate “WHAT” and/or “WHY”

you don’t get to say

I like it.
I don’t like it.

You always need a “BECAUSE”

If you can’t expand on point, how do you validate it?

The worst type of feedback is ambiguous feedback. I had a boss once who kept saying:

“It’s not right, but I’m not sure why…”


Feedback is productive if it’s about the mission at hand. Does it satisfy the consumer and clients needs and wants? Is it the correct type of statement, etc…things that can be discussed and adjusted to make the designs more appropriate. Other stuff like “I like” or “it just doesn’t do it for me” is just subjective and doesn’t help much. Some like karim, some don’t, you can go on forever trying to promote and defend work like that. Questions to ask and topics to consider should be about how appropriate it is to the specific mission.


Also, always start with the positive, no matter how small. This will let the person know what they should continue to do, and help them listen seriously to what they should no longer do.

Refrane from trying to lighten it up with jokes. They can be taken wrong, and a cavileir attitude can be insulting when someone is really trying.

The comment about not masking it personal was great. The same rule applies to you. Take your ego out. Never say “well, I would do this”. Make it about what We need to do to acheive. Be humble and it never hurts to be a little self-effacing.

Eliciting good feedback can be just as hard as giving it. Any tips for getting someone on track, out of their personal opinions? Or out of vauge comments like “I’m not feeling it”, I hear that one slung around at my company a lot.

The “I’m not feelin it” defense, gotta go back to the consumer boards. Remind them who you’re designing it for and show the consumer taste/trends, etc to back it up.

Designers can too easily get into the habit of trying to make every product an award winner and designing to satisfy “designer” taste and logic. Sometimes the consumer is just regular ol Joe Tractor and won’t see or appreciate that refined design language that we can create. They’re the ones that are going to decide whether the product is a market success and whether the client is going to hire that design firm again because of it.

Keep remembering and reminding everyone of who the target consumer is if reviews start going in the “personal taste” direction. Most of us wouldn’t be caught dead with a lot of the stuff we have to design because we’re designing mainly for mainstream consumers, we don’t fit in that group.