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7 types of bad creative feedback that designers and marketers dread receiving

6 min read
Katie Oberthaler

What we'll cover

In the dynamic world of creative and marketing teams, creative feedback plays a vital role in shaping the success of a project. Effective feedback empowers teams to refine their work, iterate, and ultimately deliver outstanding results in a collaborative environment.

However, not all feedback is productive or helpful to creative teams. In fact, many parts of the creative production timeline can be filled with frustrating feedback that ultimately brings confusion and delays to the creative process. 

In this blog post, we will explore the types of bad creative feedback that can hinder progress and diminish the quality of your team's work. By understanding these pitfalls, you can foster a culture of constructive critique and drive your creative projects to new heights.

No feedback: A vacuum of guidance

We've all been there: you send a version of a creative asset around for input and get crickets in response.

The absence of any feedback can be hugely detrimental to the creative process. Without input and direction, creative teams are left in a vacuum, unsure of whether they are on the right track. Time that could be used on iterative improvements is wasted waiting for stakeholders to provide their opinion and changes. 

To void this, encourage stakeholders to provide timely feedback and establish clear channels for communication. This ensures that the creative team receives the necessary guidance, content, and validation to move forward confidently and meet project benchmarks.

Late feedback: A detriment to deadlines

Timeliness is crucial in creative projects. Delayed or inconsistent feedback can result in missed deadlines, wasted efforts, and team frustration. Foster a culture of prompt feedback by setting staged deadlines for reviewers. Remind stakeholders of the impact their timely feedback has on project progress and success. Set expectations for prompt feedback and establish a system that ensures stakeholders understand the impact of timely responses on project timelines.

Late feedback can derail projects and create unnecessary stress for the creative team. When feedback is delayed, it becomes challenging to implement necessary changes, causing missed deadlines or rushed revisions.

Scattered feedback: The communication challenge

When feedback is scattered across various platforms like email, Slack, or ad-hoc conversations, it becomes challenging to track and consolidate. This results in miscommunication, lost suggestions, and inefficiencies and lots of rework. Implement a centralized feedback system, such as a project management tool or creative collaborative platform, to streamline communication and ensure all feedback is documented and easily accessible across all versions. 

Vague/unclear feedback: The lack of specificity

One of the most frustrating forms of feedback is when it lacks clarity and specificity. Phrases like "I don't like it," "Make it pop," or "Something feels off" offer little actionable guidance. Vague feedback leaves creative teams guessing and can lead to misinterpretation or a complete overhaul of a concept. Vague feedback, such as "I don't like it" or "Make it better," provides little actionable guidance to the creative team.

Vague feedback can also be excessively negative, discouraging, or devoid of helpful suggestions. Statements like "This is terrible" or "You missed the mark completely" without offering specific insights can be demoralizing and unproductive. Without specific insights, it becomes difficult to understand what changes are necessary or how to address the feedback. 

Instead, encourage reviewers to provide specific observations and suggestions, such as "The font choice doesn't align with our brand guidelines. Can we explore other options?" Encourage stakeholders to provide clear suggestions, highlighting what aspects they find problematic and offering suggestions for improvement and balance criticism with constructive suggestions that highlight the strengths of the work as well.

Prescriptive feedback: The micromanaging stakeholder

On the flip side, creative feedback can often be too specific. There's fine line between feedback on assets that's unclear and feedback that is too specific in an unhelpful way or focused on minor details. This type of micromanagement stifles creativity and hinders collaboration. This often happens when stakeholders put on their "designer hats" and start requesting very specific, minute changes or revisions that aren't in the scope of the purpose of the review. For instance, you may send an ad around for feedback on a headline/copy at an initial stage of design, but your stakeholder might start requesting out-of-bounds changes to color or placements.

Of course, subjectivity is inevitable in creative endeavors, but it becomes problematic when feedback is solely driven by personal taste. Individual preferences should not overshadow the project's objectives, target audience, or brand guidelines. Encourage reviewers to consider the project's goals and provide feedback that aligns with the intended message. By focusing on the target audience and strategic objectives, you can elevate the work beyond personal preferences and achieve a more impactful outcome.

When feedback becomes overly prescriptive, it restricts the team's ability to explore innovative ideas and undercuts their expertise if finding the right design or strategic creative choice. Instead of dictating solutions, encourage reviewers to focus on identifying problems and providing insights that empower the team to find their own solutions. This approach fosters a sense of ownership and allows for greater creativity and problem-solving within the creative  team.

Feedback on the wrong version: the version control challenge

Misalignment in feedback occurs when stakeholders provide input on outdated or incorrect versions of the creative work. Working with the wrong version leads to wasted efforts and confusion within the team.

Implement a robust version control system to ensure all stakeholders are reviewing and providing feedback on the most recent iteration of the creative work. This improves the clarify of feedback and ensures that feedback is relevant and applicable.

Inconsistent feedback from multiple stakeholders: the challenge of alignment

When multiple stakeholders provide conflicting or inconsistent feedback, it can create confusion and hinder progress. Each stakeholder may have different preferences and objectives, making it challenging to find a common direction. Facilitate open discussions and establish a feedback consolidation process where stakeholders can voice their opinions, reach a consensus, and align their feedback. This ensures that the creative team receives cohesive and actionable input.

Conflicting feedback from different stakeholders can create confusion and paralysis within the team. While it's natural to have diverse opinions, it's crucial to establish a feedback consolidation process that filters and reconciles conflicting perspectives. Facilitate open discussions where team members can provide their reasoning and reach a consensus that best serves the project's objectives.

Create a better creative feedback process

Effective feedback is the driving force behind successful creative projects. By understanding and avoiding the pitfalls of bad feedback, you can cultivate an environment that fosters collaboration, maximizes productivity, and elevates the quality of your work. Encourage stakeholders to provide timely, specific, and consolidated feedback, ensuring alignment with project objectives and minimizing confusion. With these practices in place, your creative team will thrive, delivering outstanding results and exceeding expectations.

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