Learn how to put your thoughts into words and make sure your feedback is getting the love it needs by communicating effectively and constructively.
Let’s go through the dos and don’ts of written communications in general.
When you’re trying to express yourself using just letters and symbols, it’s easy to miss oral or visual communication nuances. But there are a few ways you can fill that void. At Sketch, we use a frankly staggering array of custom Emojis. But you can also use animated GIFs, links to YouTube videos, song snippets, TikTok videos, and internet memes as effective ways to communicate and express yourself.
While honesty and clarity are essential when giving feedback, as a rule, it’s better to flatter than offend. Being constructive and considerate with your criticism doesn’t just improve your product — it improves relationships within your team.
Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do is to be direct with your feedback. If something someone made is bad, they need to know. But that doesn’t mean you have to be rude about it. Explain the issues with it while offering encouragement, and make suggestions on how they could improve it.
In addition to being direct, it’s always a good idea to be explicit. Even if you think a word will do, don’t assume your reader will have all the context you have. In this scenario, being a little verbose is sometimes a feature, not a bug.
Something we’ve learned when working with people from all over the world is that, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’ll be completely misunderstood due to cultural differences.
You’ll say “oh, that’s an interesting idea!” because you think an idea is… well, interesting. Meanwhile, some of your British coworkers might think you’re being a passive-aggressive jerk.
While shared cultural knowledge can help speed things up when everyone understands the context, internationally compliant communication can be more challenging. Pay attention to subtle (and not so subtle) differences between cultures when it comes to the meaning of words.
If you want to keep it simple, follow this simple rule: always provide extra context where possible.
Save yourself a headache by making sure everyone knows exactly the kind of feedback you’re looking for.
When giving design feedback: make sure you’re addressing the right issues. If a designer made their needs clear when asking for feedback, stick to those. If they did not, double-check with them and ask for clarification.
When asking for feedback: be explicit about the state of your design, and share what you need and what you don’t
Asking good questions and actively listening to the answers to those questions are two key skills for giving great design feedback.
When giving design feedback: you’ll be tempted to comment on the current state of things, sometimes missing important information about an element’s context in the wider design.
When receiving design feedback: even if some of the questions sound too obvious — embrace them. Remember the other stakeholders are less familiar with the context, and you may have assumed things that aren’t clear to them — or your end-users.
Designs often have a lot of stakeholders. You could be a design manager who needs to review some work in progress or even a developer who needs to communicate the technical implications of a design proposal.
When giving design feedback: every member of the team brings a unique perspective to a design. Focus on how the design proposal addresses the problem you and a designer are trying to tackle together.
When receiving design feedback: sometimes, the best design feedback will come from non-designers. Keep your eyes and ears open, and try to keep a zen mind.
One of the advantages of working asynchronously is you don’t have to give feedback immediately. This won’t be the case always, but whenever possible take a bit of extra time with feedback.
When giving design feedback: Use the time as an opportunity to separate yourself from your daily grind and focus now on what you’re trying to convey, and how you’re saying it. Giving reactionary feedback on the spot won’t be as useful as thoughtful, measured feedback. Write and reread.
In case we didn’t drive the point home enough when we told you to be considerate, it’s essential that you also praise all the good you see. We’re not talking about the old and tired ‘shit sandwich’ technique here. We’re talking about a real, honest, lets-celebrate-good-design attitude.
When giving design feedback: don’t limit yourself to giving feedback on the things people need to improve in a design. Also mention what’s working, what you like, or what you think was a good solution to a particularly tricky problem. Be the change you want to see in the world. Starting with what you write.
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