How to Give Productive Feedback to Your Creative Team


Do you have a hard time explaining what you want to your creative agency? As a client, you describe what you are looking for and the creatives come back with an idea. It could be a home run or a complete “were you even listening to me?“, but for the most part it lands somewhere in the middle of that spectrum (hopefully closer to the home run). An out-of-the-park idea is great, but rare on the first try. In fact, we enjoy the process of collaborating with clients to reach that final result. So, how do we get there? Productive feedback. Good, productive feedback helps the team make that next round of creative a home-run.

Things to keep in mind:

What was your motivation behind hiring a creative agency in the first place? Maybe you want help communicating your core idea clearly to win the minds of your audience through brand strategy, naming, or identity development. Or perhaps you want to create deeper, more memorable engagements to win the hearts of your audience through an engagement strategy, building a campaign or content marketing. Whatever the reason, you saw a need and recognized the value in investing time, money, and trust into a creative agency.

You know your company better than anybody else. As the client, you have a unique perspective and access to the extensive history of your company/brand. In order to get the most out of any project, it’s beneficial to provide this valuable information, but in a generative and leading manner. As the conversation continues, you and the team will align on values and strategies, allowing for a smooth and productive experience.

Magic happens when there is collaboration. The creative team will lead this process and should outline what to expect. Be prepared to invest your time, energy and hard-earned expertise into a creative project in order to get the most out of it.

How you can give productive feedback:

  1. Read everything
    Review the work carefully and thoughtfully. Only skimming may lead to information being pulled out of context and losing its meaning.

  2. Help us stay organized
    When ready, provide all feedback in a single document summarizing feedback from all necessary parties.

  3. Be honest
    If you don’t like something, we need to know – the sooner, the better. It’s valuable to share your thoughts openly and early on so we only build off of relevant information. Conversely, feel free to be honest if you like the work! It’s motivating and allows us to focus on further developing those strengths.

  4. Be specific
    Point out what, exactly, is or isn’t working for you, and why. Get into the details and try to articulate your thoughts, instead of giving generalized statements.  

  5. Ask why
    If you aren’t sure about our creative decisions, we’d love to explain. Everything we do for the project has a purpose.

  6. Refer to your goals
    Relate all criticism back to your goals. They provide direction and should serve as a guide throughout the process.

  7. Relate to your audience
    Your audience should be top of mind for every decision or critique that you provide. What do they need? What will they love? The results of any project should answer those questions.

Things to avoid while providing feedback:

  1. Involving everyone you know in the creative process
    We work best when you and your project’s team serve as the experts on your organization and its audience. Art made by committee is rarely successful, especially if some people haven’t been involved throughout the entire process.

  2. Taking things personally
    If we missed the mark, we need to figure out why and move closer to our mutual target. If we disagree with you, it’s because we’re thinking about your market and audience. Our goals are the same.

  3. Doing our work for us
    We love written or verbal instructions about what isn’t working; resist the urge to recreate our work to illustrate your point. This will eat up your valuable time and takes away from what we do best.

  4. Prescribing fixes
    You’re paying us to provide solutions. Explain the problem and we’ll pitch potential fixes to you, based on our research, experience and skills.

The takeaway

It isn’t every day you invest in a creative agency, and are required to reflect & provide definitive answers on your core values & the purpose behind your business. We get that. We’ll do our best to lead these conversations, because it is something we do every day. We work with clients to build brands inspired by their clarity of purpose. This clarity is realized through productive feedback that helps us align expectations, maintain an efficient workflow, and consistently produce work that inspires and delivers results.