Back to Blog

Design feedback loops: Examples and best practices for designers and creatives

13 min read
Aaron Marquis

Solid feedback is one of the keys to any successful creative project. But sometimes, getting feedback can be harder than it sounds. Some stakeholders may not understand how to provide helpful direction, others might provide too much direction (to the point of micromanagement), and some may not respond at all. This can result in frustration, friction between team members, and confusion about creative direction,  leading to a poor-quality asset.

Alternatively, a well-structured feedback loop can make design teams more creative, effective, and collaborative. As information flows in from peers, stakeholders, experts, and customers, you can iterate on your designs and improve them.

How can creative teams effectively set up feedback loops to ensure they can act on the valuable input they receive? By standardizing and centralizing the feedback process so that your team can act on it quickly and effectively.

Read on to learn how to set up effective design feedback loops for success — including developing the right company culture and using collaborative proofing software. 

What we'll cover

What is a feedback loop?

Fedback loop - follow up, act on feedback, analyze feedback, gather feedback

A feedback loop is a circular process where the outputs of a system are circled back and used as inputs to improve future performance.

In a creative setting, these “outputs” can include everything from peer feedback to comments from stakeholders, customer reviews, and data on user behavior. The goal is to learn from every response and reaction that you get. Once you have this data, you analyze it and make necessary adjustments to your next design iteration or project for better results. 

Theoretically, a feedback loop has no end: You can keep iterating on your experiences in a continuous cycle of improvement that helps you, your team, and your business grow. However, in terms of creative campaigns with tangible deliverables, it’s important to know when feedback is finalized and an asset is complete. 

How? This will vary somewhat based on your team’s review and approval process and/or what’s outlined in your scope of work. For example, if your process includes multiple rounds of review, each with different client stakeholders, the process is complete when the designated Final Approver has weighed in and given their stamp of approval. At that point, the campaign is considered shipped and the project is complete. 

The importance of effective feedback loops in creative operations

Creative operations teams are responsible for refining the tools and processes that make creative teams effective. This includes feedback loops. 

Feedback loops drive iterative improvement, and can help creative teams enhance their productivity and quality. They foster innovation and process refinement through continuous input and adaptation — helping creative ops support more successful projects in the future.

Ziflow proof viewer version comparison - reviewing the changes

Below, we’ll take a more detailed look at how effective feedback loops support creative operations.

Alignment with project goals and stakeholder expectations

When we talk about a creative process being effective, we're really talking about whether it meets the project goals. Even the most stunning visual design is a waste of time if it doesn't fulfill the creative brief.

Feedback loops make sure that your creative output lines up with your project objectives. Because you iterate on every project, each one gives you more information you can use to continue meeting and exceeding stakeholder expectations on future projects.

For the best results, aim to get feedback throughout the project — not just as part of the final review and approval process. Getting feedback on the original creative brief and any early concepts and prototypes ensures that your team is aligned from the start.

Facilitating professional growth

Effective feedback loops can benefit every member of your creative team. The feedback process constantly encourages improvement, resulting in a team where people are motivated to learn new skills and address any weaknesses.

Regular and constructive feedback (from both internal and external stakeholders) helps individuals refine their skills and stay agile, adapting quickly when needed. This process supports a culture of open communication focused on improvement, where team members share ideas and learn from one another. 

Higher-quality creative content

Creativity itself is an iterative process. According to R. Keith Sawyer, a leading expert on creativity, the best creative work happens when people improvise and iterate over time. Creation isn't a linear process; it's more like a zig-zag path between gathering data, coming up with ideas, and choosing winning concepts. 

Feedback loops are one way to create that zig-zag path for your team. As they get feedback, iterate in response, and repeat the cycle, their design output will become more sophisticated.

Faster project delivery

The biggest benefit of feedback loops for creative ops is that they accelerate project timelines. Regular, real-time feedback means that you can spot and resolve issues early on. 

Plus, because your team is aligned with the brief and continuously trying to improve, they can also work more efficiently. 

Feedback loops mean that you can deliver projects faster. As issues are resolved during the creative process, you might even zoom through the marketing approval process.

Imagine the alternative of working on a project in isolation, pouring hours of time, energy, and resources into an asset in a vacuum without any client input until the end (or, what you perceive as the end, anyway). Then, the client reviews your “finished” product and provides significant feedback that requires your creative team to start from scratch. 


It’s a frustrating, but relatable experience that tight feedback loops can address. Pulling in feedback earlier on — and along the way, if it makes sense in the context of the project — can streamline the process and catch significant revisions before they have a chance to derail the project timeline. This can also save your team time, aggravation, and even money on resources.

Examples of design feedback loops

There are several types of feedback loops that you can introduce into the design process. Each has different strengths: for example, peer feedback encourages collaboration, while user feedback gives you an idea of the design's effectiveness. Ideally, you'll use a combination of feedback loops to get the best possible results.

Positive and negative feedback output

Internal peer feedback

Internal peer feedback means getting opinions within the team. Creative team members can share ideas, support each other, and offer constructive criticism.

This kind of internal feedback is often called a "positive feedback loop" in the marketing world. That's because it's focused on improving processes and completing the project.

Peer feedback can also boost morale and help your team feel ownership over their work. You can maximize its impact by training your team to give effective peer-to-peer feedback that's specific, evidence-based, and actionable.

External client/stakeholder feedback

Feedback from external clients can make or break a project. However, feedback loops build in their contributions from the beginning, resulting in better alignment and less risk that a design will be rejected during the final approval process.

For best results, you'll need a way for stakeholders to communicate directly with the design team. Collaborative proofing software allows stakeholders to pinpoint feedback on creative assets and see updates in real time.

For example, clients can add their thoughts throughout the design process. Their comments could highlight key points during brainstorming or influence early mockups so that they're already aligned with the design before it reaches the formal review stage.

Without a collaborative proofing tool, clients tend to share vague and lengthy feedback using things like emails with bulleted lists of edits. Or printing out assets and marking them up, often leaving the creative team confused and frustrated.

User feedback

User feedback gives you qualitative data about whether a design works for its audience. And there are plenty of ways to gather it: surveys about the customer experience, interviews, user testing for new products, and reviews are just a few. You could even collect feedback through sentiment analysis on social media.

Marketers sometimes call this type of feedback a "negative feedback loop." That's because you can use it to eliminate pain points, refining your design so that it promotes the user behaviors you want.

For example, if multiple users say that they find a UX design confusing, you can start to simplify it or add extra signposting towards key actions. The customer feedback loop creates a better user experience over time.

Expert feedback

If you want an objective, outsider perspective, you can go beyond users and stakeholders to talk to subject matter experts. They'll have valuable insights to share based on their own experience.

However, be aware that external experts won't have the same project alignment that your creative team and stakeholders do. Their critique can be inspirational, but it should be seen as guidance rather than decision-making.

Performance metrics feedback

Performance metrics can be a useful counterpoint to qualitative customer feedback. It fills in the gaps with quantitative data, such as user engagement rates, conversion rates, retention, usability, and user satisfaction scores. 

Performance metrics might help you identify exactly what works (and doesn't) for users. Let’s say your team designed a digital advertisement for a client. You can analyze metrics like the click-through rate on the ad to determine how much engagement it’s getting.

Market feedback

Similarly to expert feedback, you can get extra design guidance by monitoring market trends and your competitors. This information shouldn't set the direction of your projects, but it's still valuable context. 

For example, you could use competitor analysis, market research, and reviews to figure out what's missing from their products. If you can identify customer pain points that your competitors aren’t addressing and solve them with your own design, you'll differentiate your product from the competition.

Cross-functional feedback

Cross-functional feedback loops from other teams in marketing, sales, or engineering can help refine your design ideas. For example, the sales team might be able to flag new features customers are asking for so that you can include them in updated designs.

Best practices for improving feedback loops

Feedback loops are powerful engines for creativity and change. But you can make them run even more smoothly with a few tweaks to your company culture. 

Creative design team brainstorming in an office and sharing feedback about a project

1. Educate on the characteristics of effective feedback

Feedback loops are more effective when you know how to give feedback the right way. It needs to be clear, specific, actionable, and collaborative in tone. 

That might take some training. Members of your creative team might not be used to giving feedback to each other, while external stakeholders may not have experience in giving graphic design feedback or creative notes. 

2. Build a culture of constructive feedback

Internal feedback loops depend on an open, transparent culture. Every team member should feel confident speaking up.

It can take time to build a culture of trust. You can model the feedback culture you want by being open to comments from your team, and actively encouraging them to give each other constructive notes.

3. Understand how to manage “bad” feedback

Negative feedback is hard to hear — but can also be valuable. As part of training your team to give and receive feedback, train them how to handle negative comments.

Even if a suggestion sounds unconstructive at first, show your team how to sift through it to find the actionable items. Difficult feedback can be the starting point for better collaboration, trust, and openness.

4. Build a standardized process for each type of feedback

It's easier to give good feedback when you have a structure in place. It's worth setting up a standardized process for feedback so that everyone knows how to give it, where to find it, and how to follow up. This way, everyone understands what to expect, what’s expected of them, and they have conduct guardrails to keep feedback constructive and helpful.

There are many approaches and tools for feedback on the market that can help standardize the process or even automate tedious manual elements of it. However, the most important thing to remember is that your processes will be as unique as your team: Establish processes that work for you, not just those that sound good on paper.

5. Clarify feedback objectives and criteria

A key part of standardizing feedback is setting objectives. Every time someone shares feedback, it should be part of a larger goal. The goal should also have specific, measurable criteria so that your team knows how to respond.

When a stakeholder comments on a design prototype, it should be clear why they're doing it. Are they focusing on project alignment, UX, or brand identity? What exactly needs to change, and why?

6. Encourage diverse perspectives

If you're working with all the feedback loops we outlined in the last section, then you'll have a diverse range of perspectives to pull from. But, not every creative team will have access to this much feedback. In these cases, you'll need to make an active effort to include different voices — whether it’s cross-disciplinary, internal, external SMEs, or elsewhere.

Looking for diverse feedback means there's less risk of issues slipping through the cracks. It can also help you avoid personal or cultural biases, which limit creativity.

7. Centralize your feedback loops

Standardizing feedback includes standardizing how you collect feedback. Multiple perspectives and feedback loops can be a gift to creative teams — but only if they're easily and efficiently accessible.

Collaborative proofing platforms like Ziflow allow you to centralize feedback from all your different sources. You can access comments and track progress from a single interface where everyone sees changes instantly. 

8. Manage multistage workflows with a collaborative proofing platform 

A collaborative proofing platform can streamline your workflow in several ways. As well as centralizing feedback, you can also manage different versions of assets, refer back to briefs, and collaborate in real time.

Your team can act on feedback loops even across complex, multi-stage workflows. You'll also be able to share concepts and get feedback from stakeholders more efficiently. 

9. Celebrating success from feedback-driven improvements

Feedback loops lead to constant small improvements. It's worth celebrating every win, however tiny. 

One of the major benefits of feedback loops is that they empower your team and help them feel responsible for projects. When you praise iterative improvements, you reinforce that sense of ownership. The ripple effect of positive reinforcement on the motivation levels across the team or organization!

Improve creative feedback loops with collaborative proofing software

Ziflow workflow stages of online proofing process

Feedback loops are a way to continuously improve your design output, team capabilities, and customer satisfaction. When you collect regular feedback from stakeholders, you'll also see improvements to collaboration, trust, and motivation.

With Ziflow’s collaborative proofing software, creative teams have a central platform to collect, monitor, and act on feedback loops. Every team member and stakeholder has access to the latest version of creative assets, so they can see changes and make suggestions with precision.

Find out how to give graphic design feedback that sets up positive feedback loops.

Webinar: Creative review and approval best practices

Learn even more by watching our webinar “Creative Review and Approval Best Practices

Looking for more insights on optimizing your creative review and approval processes?

Download our free ebook, “The top 10 best practices for optimizing your review and approval process”.

Looking for more insights on optimizing your creative review and approval processes? 

Download our free ebook, “The top 10 best practices for optimizing your review and approval process”.

Related posts

(function (c, p, d, u, id, i) { id = ''; // Optional Custom ID for user in your system u = '' + c + '.js?p=' + encodeURI(p) + '&e=' + id; i = document.createElement('script'); i.type = 'application/javascript'; i.defer = true; i.src = u; d.getElementsByTagName('head')[0].appendChild(i); }("4187", document.location.href, document));
setTimeout(function(){ window.intercomSettings = { api_base: "", app_id: "i94medbe" }; }, 10); setTimeout(function(){ // We pre-filled your app ID in the widget URL: '' (function(){var w=window;var ic=w.Intercom;if(typeof ic==="function"){ic('reattach_activator');ic('update',w.intercomSettings);}else{var d=document;var i=function(){i.c(arguments);};i.q=[];i.c=function(args){i.q.push(args);};w.Intercom=i;var l=function(){var s=d.createElement('script');s.type='text/javascript';s.async=true;s.src='';var x=d.getElementsByTagName('script')[0];x.parentNode.insertBefore(s,x);};if(document.readyState==='complete'){l();}else if(w.attachEvent){w.attachEvent('onload',l);}else{w.addEventListener('load',l,false);}}})(); }, 10);