How to Receive Feedback on Your Creative Work

Receiving feedback for your creative work can be confronting. We inject a lot of ourselves into our creative work, and it can be challenging to see whether the work is measuring up to our client’s expectations. At the same time, receiving feedback is one of the best opportunities available to improve the work prior to releasing it into the world. I have found the following process helpful when receiving feedback from clients on my creative work:

Try to arange a face to face meeting

While feedback can be delivered via the phone, web, email etc you will receive superior information when meeting face to face. So much of our communication is nonverbal. By meeting in person,  you will receive valuable information through intonation, expression etc. You will also have a better opportunity to enter into a dialogue.

Set the agenda and frame how the process will work

Take the opportunity, prior to presenting the work, to frame the context within which the work was created. Briefly describe the brief you were presented with, and how you responded to it. Why you took the approach that you did. Empahasise that you value feedback, and invite your client to be open and forthright with their response.

Make sure you can easily take notes

It’s the only way you will be able to remember all of the feedback

Be conscious of the client and their reaction when presenting the work.

Sometimes you will see the work in a whole new way when presenting it to someone who was not there when it was being created. Their presence will magnify certain aspects, and draw your attention to others. So tune in to the presence of your client while they are looking at the work. If you are presenting something on screen, try to position yourself so that you can see their reaction in the reflection of the screen.

Invite feedback. Listen. Don’t interrupt.

It can take time to formulate feedback. Resist the tempatation to interrupt or to provide further explanation. Listen, and give your client the opportunity to respond.

Ask questions

This will help to deepen your understanding of the feedback, and to test out whether your understanding is correct. It will also help you to get more specific information about their response.

Avoid being defensive

It can be tempting to try to defend yourself if the work is not received well, or you feel the work has been misunderstood. Remind yourself that you have invited feedback, and that it is a valuable opportunity to improve the work, and to better serve your client. Not all feedback should be embraced without questioning it. But now is not the time to make that type of decision. Now is the time to gather information and be sure that you have a clear understanding of the infomation that is being presented.

If you don’t understand, or disagree, start a conversation about it

Approach the conversation from a place of curiosity and openness. Try to understand the idea from your clients point of view. Keep returning to whether the work is responding correctly to the brief, as opposed to arbitrary personal preferences.

Read the feedback from your notes back to the client

Make sure that you have clearly understood what has been fed back to you.

Let your client know what happens from here

e.g. What changes you will make based on the feedback, when you will next meet etc.

By approaching the feedback with a spirit of openness, curiosity, and positivity, you will give yourself the best opportunity to further improve the work, maintain a good relationship with your client, and ensure that the most effective and fully realised creation is umleashed on the world.

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One Response to “How to Receive Feedback on Your Creative Work”

  1. On 07/10/2010 at 9:48 PM Damian responded with... #

    All great points. As a programmer then print then web designer, with more of a technical (not human) background, what I find interesting is how to teach, facilitate, or otherwise encourage the typical “designer” or “creative” to be able to deal with clients on this “human” level.

    Now I run my own creative agency, it seems there is a constant disconnect between clients (either technical specialists in their own domain, OR sales/marketing types — i.e. people persons) and those doing the actual “creating”. As a business owner, I look at the above and see a recipe for success — but damn, putting it into practice aint as easy as it seems!

    Maybe that’s where account managers come into play!!!

    Another thought provoking post nonetheless 🙂

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