How to Give a Helpful Design Critique

Giving meaningful and effective design feedback can be a daunting task. But you don’t need a design degree to give a helpful critique.

When you’re working with a designer, giving meaningful and effective feedback can be a daunting task. But you don’t need a design degree to give a helpful design critique! Use these four guidelines to give better feedback in your next design critique.

1. Be nice.
This sounds like a no-brainer but design is creative work, and critiques can feel like a personal affront to the designer — even if they aren’t meant to be. AIGA, the professional association for design, suggests handling critique as a ‘love sandwich’: "The best way to approach critiquing someone else’s work is to sandwich the feedback with love. If you think of your critique as the sandwich, the bread would be what you “love” about the work and the middle—the fillings—would be what you didn’t like as much.” A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, as Mary Poppins would say. Critiquing with kindness can make a big difference in your relationship with the designer.

2. Help the designer see through your eyes.
Designers take a lot into consideration when creating, from brand standards to color theory to production limitations, but that doesn’t mean they’ve caught everything. Explain to the designer what you’re seeing in the piece. Does something feel ‘off’? Are there unintended connotations that could be problematic? Are you having a hard time understanding it? Does it look too similar to another brand’s piece? All of these notes will help the designer figure out how to move forward with edits.

3. Consider what the design needs to achieve.
Ideally, you discussed the goals of the piece with the designer at the start of the project, so they know what the end-game is. As you review the design, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the piece meet the goals as outlined?
  • Does it serve the audience demographic well?
  • Is it suitable for the context for which it was intended? (For example, does it fit the budget? Use the correct materials? Function as expected?)

If it doesn’t meet the requirements as well as you’d hoped, share that with your designer and clarify the original vision.

4. Make actionable suggestions.
You don’t have to tell the designer exactly what to do, but specific is always better than vague when it comes to critiques. Instead of saying “make it look nice” (because nice is relative), suggest things like making the fonts more elegant, trying a bolder color scheme, or shifting the focus from one element to another. You don’t have to come up with the solution — but giving the designer a nudge toward the direction you’d like to see will help them know where to channel their creativity. Giving a helpful design critique doesn’t have to be complicated.

What are your best tips for giving or getting feedback? Let us know in the comments!