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6 ways to give (and receive) constructive criticism


Source: Karl Horton, Flickr

I’m a big believer in feedback – without feedback we wouldn’t change. I’m also a big believer in encouraging people to be the best they can be. Sometimes this can require some diplomatically-phrased criticism.

However there is a difference between constructive feedback and destructive feedback.

In my line of work I deal with a lot of writing and design – hey, that’s what I do! I’m not the world’s best writer nor am I the world’s best designer but I know what I like and what I don’t like and I am happy to give (and receive) it straight-up if I (or my client) don’t like something.

Open feedback is the foundation of all creative relationships. Every assessment of creative work is subjective. The problem with this is we all have different taste and opinions.

So…. How do you give feedback to your writer / designer?

1. Be constructive. The phrase “I don’t like it” must always be followed by a “because” and not “I just don’t”. Why don’t you like it? What don’t you like about it? If it’s something as simple as the colour, then suggest which colour you’d like it changed to.

2. Get perspective. Before meeting with your writer / designer sit down from the perspective of your target audience and assess the work. I always write / design for the audience, not the client.

3. Don’t only focus on colour. Please focus on the design, not the colour. Everything comes in a different colour (unless you’ve inherited a strict style guide), designers want you to focus on the design, not the colour! In saying that I have designed logos in many different colours and ultimately the colour combination has come down to the client’s personal taste – I am merely a guide on their colour journey.

4. Be realistic. If you give someone a budget don’t expect champagne results on a beer budget. Design and writing take time, sweat and inspiration (and in some cases beer and champagne) but we’re not miracle workers.

5. Re-visit the brief. If you have clearly briefed your writer / designer the expectations should be marked out in the brief. It is up to the writer / designer to interpret that brief (following a discussion with the client). Identify the parts of the brief that have been misinterpreted and explain what you meant in your brief.

6. Don’t make it personal. Although I’m friends with many of my clients I never take their criticism personally. It’s a business transaction. As long as the client isn’t saying they don’t like it because of one of my personal traits their criticism isn’t directed at me, it’s directed at my work (although at times it can be difficult to separate the two when you work in creative).

How do you give / receive feedback?


About Jane McKay @janemckaycomms

I’m Jane. I write. I design. I create. In 2009, following a tree-change to sunny East Gippsland, I realised a dream and started my own business through which I have freelanced my marketing services ever since. I understand that marketing your business can be overwhelming, overcomplicated and often overlooked. That’s why I’m here. With a range of expertise built on a Masters in Media and Communications and derived from more than 8 years’ industry experience working with small companies as well as large multi-nationals, I help businesses grow. A creative soul with a strong geek side, I combine my love of wordsmithing with an interest in all things design- and tech-related.The perfect combination of skills for my career in creative marketing.


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