Everyone has an opinion on creative work. Whether you’re reading a tagline or looking at an advertisement, you know whether it feels “right” or not—although you might not always know why. However, as any creative professional will tell you, understanding the reason behind your reaction is crucial for implementing changes.

Here are some tips to help you give actionable feedback:

Revisit the Brief

When critiquing design or messaging, remember: It wasn’t created for you. Instead, its job is to communicate a specific idea to a defined audience. Look back at the brief, persona or other background material so you can evaluate how it will perform. Ask yourself: What is the goal? What is it trying to convey? Who is it targeting? Put yourself in your audience’s shoes—Will the message be clear to someone seeing it for the first time? Does it hit on their pain points? Pulling your own personal taste out of the equation and empathizing with your audience will allow you to give feedback that leads to more effective work—not just something that looks or sounds better to you.

Ask Questions

A strong creative team will be able to back up their choices with solid rationale. So ask them: “Why did you choose this image?” “How does it fit the brand guidelines?” “Did you think of alternate headlines and if so, how did you land on this one?” Asking probing questions allows you to see the creative from the creators’ point of view and tap into the thinking behind the work. Plus, engaging their perspectives (which are probably different from your own) is a great way to understand the work from different angles so you can gauge how it will be perceived in-market.

Find Problems, Not Solutions

Your role is to help the creative team understand what’s working, what’s not working and why. It is not your job to figure out how to fix things. So, if the color palette used for a graphic reminds you of a competing brand, let the creative team know. Don’t take it upon yourself to suggest new colors. Or, if the proposed title of an asset uses words you worry won’t hit home with the target audience, say so. It’s not on you to come up with an alternate title. Giving clear, specific feedback is the best way you can help.

Above all, just be honest. Creatives are professionals, and having a thick skin is part of the job. Leave your feelings out of your feedback and focus on the goal that’s driving the work, and they’ll happily do the same. In the end, we’re all working toward the same end: to create something that communicates our message and incites our audience to act. Want to learn more about how to get the most value out of creative work? Reach out to us.

Whether you’re reading a tagline or looking at an advertisement, you know whether it feels “right” or not—although you might not always know why.

About the Author

Scott Fassett

Senior Interactive Art Director

Known affectionately around the office as “Scoots,” Scott specializes in user experience, creative conceptualization, art direction and caffeine consumption at 90octane.