Getting the best from your creative agency with good, honest feedback

David Ives-Farren
  • David Ives-Farren
  • Creative Director

The best creative agency projects are all about partnership. One of the foundations of a successful partnership is the ability to give honest and constructive feedback at all stages of a project.

It’s this feedback that builds and strengthens mutual understanding when it comes to things like goals, company ethos and brand identity. Get this right, and the creative agency will deliver a project to the client that’s outstanding, business relevant and which has real impact in the marketplace.

But how can you make sure that your feedback is constructive and beneficial? Here are our top tips, based on our experience at The Graphic Design House.

Respect

Mutual respect is paramount if you want to get the best out of your agency. The client and the creative agency have different professional skills and experience, and this needs to be acknowledged. If you’re the client, then let your agency do what they do best – create and design.

Don’t come to the process with rigid and fixed ideas. Giving your agency some wriggle room in the early part of the process can open doors to completely new concepts. Those open doors can lead the client to better outcomes, which will be much more effective in fulfilling the client’s objective and purpose.

As a client, you may have ideas that conflict with the designer’s vision, but it’s important that you learn to listen to the rationale behind a design and build an understanding of how it will work for you. Design isn’t a science. There’s always more than one possibility, but if you don’t listen to all the options, you could be disposing of an incredible concept or idea.

This mutual professional respect works both ways. If you’re a creative, make sure that you fully understand the needs of the client. Your creativity is there to build the client’s business. Your creative ideas need to serve the client and their business objectives at all times.

Communication

So much of any successful relationship depends on good communication. When it comes to working with a creative agency, it starts with the brief.

The brief needs to state the objectives and purpose of the project clearly and explicitly. Think about what you want the creative project to achieve in terms of business objectives. Make sure that client and agency both understand the contents of the brief. Getting this right at the start is crucial to the smooth running and success of the project.

Outline what you expect. This sets out a clear guide for the agency.

If you’re working on the creative side, then make sure that your understanding of the brief is aligned with your client. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the greater the clarity and scope for creativity.

Both parties have expectations of each other. Maintain these expectations through clear communication and the project will run smoothly.

Clarity

Continuing the theme of good communication, think about how you communicate. Avoid lengthy and woolly generalisations of aims and objectives. Don’t be vague because you’re nervous of offending someone. Be clear and succinct in your feedback. If you allow misunderstanding or ambiguity into your feedback, you might well see your project take the wrong turning.

You need to be honest throughout the process, to get the results that you’re looking for.

Be sensible, be reasonable

It doesn’t harm anyone to dream big. In fact, that’s where some of the best and most lucrative ideas come from. We’re constantly experiencing design concepts in our everyday lives, be it in business or when we’re making personal spending choices.

Brilliant design concepts can help to inspire clients and serve as springboard for new directions of creativity. However, it’s important that you don’t lose sight of what you want your creative project to achieve and that you’re realistic about things like budget.

The best designer will always want to create something that’s incredible while keeping a firm hold on delivering to the brief. This ensures that the creative will build on business objectives and reward the client.

Plagiarism

And while we’re on the subject being inspired by other creative projects, it’s worth bringing up the subject of plagiarism.

Asking your designer to base a project on something that’s been done before by someone else is a bad idea. Yes, of course, you can find inspiration from other sources. That’s what mood boards are all about. But a mood board is there to incubate thoughts and ideas, conjuring up rough ideas of ‘look and feel’ or visual references. A mood board isn’t a template.

Good designers are creative, and effective marketing is about standing out and getting attention through being unique. You’re not going to find that prized position in the marketplace by plagiarising something that is already out there, working for someone else.

When you work closely with a creative agency it’s vital that you keep your attention on why you started on the project in the first place. You want specific results and you want a return on investment that is all about getting those results.

Use the points outlined above to keep you and your agency on track and you can expect to enjoy the kind of first-rate ROI that a successful business focussed creative project can deliver.