How To Ask Your Boss For Feedback That's ~Actually~ Helpful

Feedback has long been -- and to an extent, still remains -- one of those tasks that's incredibly time-consuming and often tedious. When you’re awaiting feedback, it feels as if your progress is being stalled, and when you are tasked with giving feedback, it can feel like an unnecessary task added to your ever-growing ‘to-do’ list.

We’ve all received (and likely, given) the dreaded feedback such as “Oh, that’s nice. Good work!” or “Nice colors, good stuff… sorry, I’ve got to jump into a meeting now.” It’s not overly helpful, and most certainly not constructive.

However, the importance of constructive criticism cannot be stressed enough, particularly for designers or creatives. There are several benefits of performance feedback, provided it is given and implemented effectively, of course.

One of the most obvious advantages of receiving both positive and negative feedback is that you’re getting a fresh pair of eyes to review work that you might have been focusing on for hours. This alternative perspective will usually reveal some aspects of your work that could be improved, aren’t quite working or are broken, and also, the aspects of your work that are excellent.

In addition to offering you advice on how to improve your current piece of work or project, feedback is essentially an additional piece of the continual learning puzzle. Learning from experience is arguably the most powerful of all learning mechanisms, thus, it’s important to listen to your feedback - something that is touched on later in this article. Continuous development is crucial to enhancing your professional and personal skills, and as a designer, you’ll undoubtedly learn about new techniques and trends from your peers.

How To Ask For Feedback On Your Performance

Understanding that feedback is important is just one part of the equation -- you now have to actively pursue constructive notes. There are few things to consider before you start asking every employee in your office for feedback on your latest masterpiece, though. It’s easy to blame the people giving you feedback when they send you half-hearted answers, but it could actually be your fault in that you’ve asked the wrong question or the incorrect person.

1. Tell the participant exactly what you want from them

Firstly, you need to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve from your feedback sessions. Are there particular aspects that you want feedback on? Do you want the opinions of graphic design experts, UX/UI specialists, or web designers? Whoever it is, you should then tell them exactly what you want feedback on. Helping people help you is the easiest way to think about it.

2. Give them enough time to think about the feedback and respond accordingly

Time is precious for everyone, and that is certainly the case when you ask people to dedicate some of their time to review your work. Asking for feedback on your designs within the hour isn’t reasonable. Offer your peers the change to mull over the work for a few days and they’ll be more likely to give you constructive feedback.

3. Ask specific questions (this means you need to prepare specific questions ahead of time)

Yes, you need to play the role of the interrogator to an extent when you are getting feedback from someone. Asking concise, well-timed questions is the key to getting the most constructive, effective feedback. If you ask “what did you think of the draft?” you can only expect to receive a vague, undirected answer.

4. Ask what they do not like the design or project

Don’t be afraid to ask the respondent what they disliked about your work. Negative feedback is potentially the most important information you can receive. Why? Those are the notes that will allow your behavior and performance to improve the most. Plus, remember that as hard as criticism is to receive, it's just as hard to give.

How To Understand The Constructive Criticism You Received

You’ve received a mountain of feedback, both positive and negative. Now what? Firstly, take the feedback professionally and maturely. The feedback you receive will be given by someone who genuinely wants to help -- not harm -- and they’ve taken time out of their day to offer their opinion. Your behavior and the way you decide to digest and implement their notes is paramount to your career growth. 

Thus, it's important to break down and segment the feedback. If you’ve interviewed 10 people and a few mentioned similar things, you’ll probably remember them -- those are the priority, as recurring feedback across differing individuals is usually a sign that something isn’t quite right.

Categorizing your feedback by type (such as color, layout, copy, typography, and UX) is one way to approach this. Conversely, you can simply bunch feedback together based on similarity. For example, if four out of seven people said your color scheme was weak then you may want to put that top of your list of changes required.

How To Implement Feedback Into Your Future Work

Congrats! You’ve received and processed all the feedback. Now, there are basically two things you can do with it. Firstly, immediately implement some of the feedback on your current project to improve the design of whatever it is you’re creating. Most of the feedback you received will be directly related to the questions you asked regarding your current work, so you should be able to quickly pinpoint what needs to be fixed and how to fix it.

Secondly, compile aspects of the feedback that apply to your overarching skillset and see whether there are any improvements you can make that will help your work in the future. It might help to take an online course on a specific element of design that feedback revealed was below average in your last work.

Receiving feedback is incredibly valuable if you want to obtain a range of perspectives and opinions on your work. It can help you discover faults that your eyes had become accustomed to, and thus, ensure you’re continually improving as a design professional.

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