There are a number of things to consider before you dive head-first into giving feedback to instructional designers. The most important is to remember that you should not come to a designer with a solution or simply explain what you like and what you don’t like. Instead, bring the discussion back to the problem you are trying to solve. Designers will feel empowered, and it will show in the final learning solution. Here are a few more ways to share meaningful feedback with designers.

Get to Know Them

Before getting into any kind of feedback, you should get to know your designers, or at least understand how designers think. Usually, they are process-driven people with attention to detail – every single detail. They are always trying to improve an experience and want what’s best for the client. More often than not, designers juggle multiple projects and deadlines at once, and all projects need to be finished yesterday. This is, of course, somewhat of a generalization, but getting to know your instructional designers is the first steps toward being able to give them meaningful feedback.

Manage Expectations, and Build Trust

Include designers in a project early on, not when it’s time to start designing. If you’re a project manager, for example, it is crucial to share overall project expectations with everyone on the team. Then, designers can balance their own goals with the client’s goals, as well as with yours. Managing expectations also leads to a sense of ownership. Let designers come up with the solution to a problem within a given framework. Then, they’ll know they are trusted not just with the design but with the overall understanding of how the project runs and what the client’s goals are.

For example, saying, “Can you change this box to blue, make it bigger and make the outline much thicker?” isn’t good feedback. It implies that you don’t trust the designer and that you need to tell him or her what to do. Instead, say, “I have a difficult time focusing on this section here; I think it needs more emphasis.”

Discuss Feedback

Feedback should never be dropped into someone’s lap; it needs to be discussed. It’s a process based on clear communication, and it’s up for discussion; just because someone on the team likes or dislikes a certain design doesn’t mean it needs to change. Always ask yourself the question, “Does the design help us solve the problem at hand?”

Guidelines for Giving Feedback

Now that we have the basics down, let’s look at some examples of how to share feedback – what is it that designers want to hear when you share your vision with them?

Think of the Why, and Be Specific

Before sharing your feedback with a designer, ask yourself why you have a certain reaction. Why do you like or dislike the design? Once you answer that question, you are in a better position to share your thoughts, and you can share specific feedback.

Instead of saying “I don’t like it; can you make it pop?”, describe exactly what you are looking for. More specific feedback could be, “Can you give me some different color choices?”

Ask Questions, and Listen

Designers might push back if they feel you don’t understand their approach. Ask questions, and let them know if you don’t understand something. Designers love to share their knowledge.

Say What You Mean

Remove the fluff, and tell the designer exactly what you mean by your feedback. For example, if you were to say, “Can you make the design more manly?”, it could mean something different to the designer than it means to you. Instead, say things like, “Can we use more dark colors or bolder fonts?”

Know Your Lingo

Designers take directions from you, so you better know your lingo. Are you really looking for a darker shade, or do you need a lighter tint? Be as precise as you can with your feedback. If you know a designer’s lingo, even better.

When sharing feedback, always keep the target audience in mind and your own feelings at check. Just because you favor a certain color doesn’t mean it works for the client. Designers also appreciate consolidated feedback, so there aren’t competing voices, and feedback is clear and precise. It can be helpful to attach examples of websites, apps or other learning solutions created in the past to bring your point across. Lastly, be honest and polite at all times when sharing feedback. Collaborate with your designers to create learning experiences that you can be proud of.