Please Stop Loving My Work

A guide to giving helpful design feedback

A graphic designer in the proposal industry is often met with the reality and complications of being a team of one. Even more, the designer is often surrounded by professionals far outside the creative world who believe they have minimal creative ability or understanding.

When noncreative types critique a proposal graphic, the general feedback tends to be, “Looks great, I love it!” To a designer, however, this is not helpful feedback. It cultivates skepticism as to whether or not the team has actually read and understood the graphic’s message. Designers are looking for constructive feedback in order to create a successful graphic—a component that could contribute to your proposal team’s win.

Proposal designers understand the proposal’s priorities and know that every aesthetic decision has a purpose. As a lone designer on a proposal team, I don’t expect others to understand the design process, but I do expect to receive constructive feedback.

Designers are looking for constructive feedback in order to create a successful graphic—a component that could contribute to your proposal team’s win.

Unfortunately for designers, when we do get real feedback, it often sounds more like a harsh or nitpicky criticism, even if the intent is to improve the final product. Giving harsh critiques can be almost as bad receiving a “Looks great, I love it!”—causing designers to stop putting their creative genius to work and to start putting out uninspiring, messageless graphics as they tire of their work being rejected. No matter whether you have positive or negative feedback, it should always be constructive and follow these basic guidelines.

Give Objective Feedback

Focus on the end goal. Subjectivity is not invited. The end goal is the deciding factor on what feedback to include and what to ignore—not what you like and don’t like.

Rather, point out what works and what doesn’t. Having an objective look at a design will not only lead to a more successful review session but it will also help the team think critically instead of emotionally about the design and strategy of a proposal graphic.

No: “I don’t like the green circles.”

Yes: “I think our company’s brand is strong, so we should stick to our brand standards on color.”

Present the Problem With a Solution

Teamwork makes the dream work, right? Designers are so close to their work that having a fresh set of eyes could expose a problem with the messaging. Designers want to feel that their knowledge and skills are valued, so, when giving feedback, explain the reason you may be struggling with a design and present an alternate solution with it. This should be a collaborative discussion that leads to the best possible graphic for the proposal.

No: “I don’t think a linear flowchart is right for this.”

Yes: “This process really keeps going after the last point. Perhaps something circular would be more appropriate.”

Discuss Your Feedback With Designers

Designers are not mind readers. A spreadsheet or bulleted list of changes could be (and most likely will be) misunderstood. Instead, make it a priority to thoroughly explain your thoughts, whether in person or through email. This clear communication makes the feedback more of a discussion with room for the designer to request clarification, if needed.

No: “Make the graphic on page 12 smaller.”

Yes: “The graphic on page 12 looks great, but it is a small part of the message for that page. I suggest we make the graphic smaller to allow room for a callout with our main message.”

In the end, graphics are vital to a successful proposal, and while you may see your designer as a wizard who produces the “best designs ever,” designers are constantly critiquing their own work and searching for a better solution. It’s really helpful for them if others take a step back and look critically at their work. Providing constructive feedback will improve not only the designer’s morale but that of the whole team, as well as reduce confusion and ultimately lead to the best possible solution.

Jenna Bradford is a junior art director at Spencer + Company, an office space planning and furniture design solutions company in Dallas. She can be reached at

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