The Importance of Good Feedback

by Laura Elizabeth


Recently I was on a chat with Marissa Louie from BearBear.

Marissa has a strong background in design boasting clients such as Apple and Yahoo but decided to pack in the more corporate lifestyle and focus on her passion: making and selling teddy bears!

During our chat Marissa said something that really stuck with me.

“All designers suck in their first two years of designing”.

It’s good to know it wasn’t just me that sucked in my first two years!

The thing is, 2 years is a long time to be practicing design before you can consider your work good.

What do you do if you’re just starting your design journey but you already have clients that expect (and pay you for) good design work?

At this stage you’re probably still learning with a mixture of basic knowledge, trial and error. You can’t simply ‘learn faster’ or quit your job to focus on the subtle nuances of typography full time.

So what can you do now to make your designs better?

Get feedback from people who have already been there.

Seriously. They won’t bite.

In fact most designers love to be able to make a few comments and help transform someones design from mediocre to pretty darn hot.

But where do you go to get this feedback from? Maybe you work from home and you’re finding your dog isn’t giving you the detailed critiques you’re looking for.

Luckily a bunch of places have been popping up recently that are seriously amazing for getting feedback on your work. I am truly humbled by the helpfulness of the design community.

Slack

Slack: All your communication in one place, integrating with the tools and services you use every day.

If you haven’t heard of Slack yet, where have you been?!

Slack is a channel where people can form groups and chat.

There are Slack groups popping up everywhere and it may take some time to find the sweet spot between one that is so big and active it’s almost impersonal and ones that promise good things but are completely dead with nothing but the odd promotion going on.

My favourite Slack group is a modest sized one that you get if you sign up to Nusii (a beautifully simple proposal software service).

I feel like I know everybody in there really well and they are all amazing when someone has a problem or needs a bit of feedback.

It’s not content chatter every day, but I like that because I’m busy and I bet you are too. It can be so easy to turn Slack into a black hole of time wasting.

(By the way, if anybody has any links to some great — ideally free — Slack groups, leave a comment here and I’ll put them up).

Hunie

Hunie: Connecting designers, founders and developers for design feedback.

Hunie is my favourite tool for getting specific design feedback as it is so efficient.

All you have to do is upload your design, write a brief comment about the kind of feedback you want and you will get designers from all over giving you helpful, insightful feedback on your work.

Because Hunie is made for critiquing everybody on there gives actionable advice and it is fantastic to see the transformations in people’s work just from critiques made in Hunie.

Sometimes it is the smallest things that can let a design down. One critique I seem to give a lot is to increase the leading in paragraphs (leading is the space between the lines, or the line height). You’d be amazed what a difference this simple task can make.

Hunie is currently invite only but if anybody wants to join I still have a few invites left, so feel free to email me and I’ll get you signed up.

Find a Friend or Mastermind Group

If you know somebody who is in the same boat as you, why not form a mastermind group with them. Nathan Powell writes a great post about mentorship groups here. It can be a really good way to keep yourself accountable, especially with side projects, to set up a specific day and time every week to get together and talk about what you’ve been working on and ask any questions.

I do this with my good friend Richard Child of Grid North Design. I keep an (Ever)note handy and jot down anything I want to get his opinion on. “What do you think of this colour scheme”, “Which of these two concepts do you prefer” and we can get some really good feedback going that way.

We schedule a time once a week, every Saturday to go through our work with each other. It’s a great way of getting another pair of eyes on your projects — Richard will always spot important things I’ve managed to miss.


So if you’re a new designer, or a seasoned one stuck in a rut I urge you to try one of the above techniques and you’ll see not only your designs improve, but you’ll get to v’meet some like-minded people in the process.

Just remember when you’re a shit hot designer to come back and give others feedback too.

It’s just the circle of life.