Providing designers with constructive, purposeful feedback is critical to project success.
First, it’s important to understand who is receiving the feedback in a design review. Generally, though, team-provided design reviews can help experienced designers sharpen their work faster, gives junior designers the chance to learn from their peers or team leaders, and helps all participants stay aware of project goals and desired outcomes.
Walter explains that establishing a healthy culture of feedback in a design team isn’t always easy — offering and/or receiving design feedback can be intimidating. To create a culture where feedback is given — and received — in a healthy, constructive manner, teams should practice feedback skills so their designers become comfortable hearing different ideas and opinions.
In the early going, I recommend tempering your criticism and leaning towards encouragement. It’ll help establish momentum, rapport, and trust. Over time, you’ll find you’ve developed a framework and language for thinking and talking about design more clearly, and feel freer to express direct criticism, too.
Here are Walter’s do’s and don’ts of formal feedback:
For design reviews (Meetings to provide in-depth feedback focused on project goals):
- Do schedule these reviews early, midway and at the end of a project.
- Don’t include more than about seven people.
- Do bring in experts from other teams.
- Don’t use a design review to reveal finished work.
- Do choose a facilitator and ground rules for the conversation.
- Don’t let designers pitch ideas or explain too much.
For design stand-ups (quick check-ins to keep team members on the same page):
- Do establish a fixed time for everyone to participate in daily standups.
- Don’t let stand-ups turn into design critiques.
- Do answer three questions: What did you do yesterday? What will you do today? Is anything in your way?
- Don’t sit down. Stay on your feet and keep things moving.
For retrospectives (meetings to analyze a project after launch or a sprint after completion):
- Do include everyone who participated.
- Don’t skip this opportunity to integrate lessons learned.
- Do consider using a survey before retrospectives to gather all voices.
- Don’t forget to reflect on what did and didn’t go well.
For postmortems (meetings to evaluate a poorly-executed project):
- Do rely on an impartial moderator for the discussion.
- Don’t start without some ground rules.
- Do focus on a timeline of events and facts.
- Don’t descend into finger pointing.
- Do send out a summary email after the postmortem
- Don’t quit the process without clarifying lessons and action steps.
Walter concludes by highlighting an important element in a successful review: paying attention to the language team members use in providing feedback. A helpful approach, he notes, is talking more about the “design” than the “designer” — criticism is easier to accept when it’s not communicated so personally.