How to Give and Receive Creative Feedback

Stevie James  |  02-17-2023
How to Give and Receive Creative Feedback - Clockwork 9 Blog
How to Give and Receive Creative Feedback - Clockwork 9 Blog

Giving and receiving feedback is a crucial component of creative work. Whether it’s video, design, or any other creative field, feedback can help individuals grow and develop their skills, refine their ideas, and most importantly: produce work that meets or exceeds expectations. 

However, providing creative feedback can be challenging, as it requires a level of sensitivity and nuance that is not always necessary in other types of feedback. 

From my perspective as an account director of an agency, we facilitate primarily two different forums for creative feedback: One being internal, critiquing the work before sharing it with our client. And the other being external, once the work is shared with the client and we are actively seeking feedback.

The Relationship Between the Business and the Agency

The dynamic between a business and an agency can be complex. On one hand, the business has specific goals and expectations for the work, and they want to ensure that the agency is meeting those goals. On the other hand, the agency is responsible for creating the work and may have their own vision and ideas about how the work should be executed.

When the business hires the agency, clear goals and expectations need to be established immediately. This will help to ensure that the agency is working towards the same objectives as the business.

It’s important that the business respects the agency’s expertise and creative vision. They were hired for their skills and knowledge, and they may have ideas that the business hasn’t considered.

Both sides need to work together to achieve the best possible outcome. This means being open to each other’s ideas and working together to find a solution that meets both the business’s goals and the agency’s creative vision.

The Importance of Creative Feedback

Creative work often requires thinking outside of the box, taking risks, and trying new things. As a result, feedback needs to be equally creative and constructive. 

Feedback can help identify what’s working and what needs improvement. It can also provide new ideas and perspectives that may not have been considered before.

Lastly, feedback is necessary to ensure that the work is aligned with the established goals and expectations.

Develop a Process

Developing a process for creative feedback can help ensure that it’s given and received effectively. This applies to an internal team at an agency and also how that agency sets the stage to receive feedback from their client. Here’s some essential steps for developing a process for creative feedback:

  1. Break the feedback into steps so that you can focus on specific details rather than attempting to critique several things at once.
  2. Set clear goals for the feedback session and ensure that everyone understands what the expectations are.
  3. Feedback needs to be actionable. Be specific and provide direction. If you’ve received a critique that is vague or unclear, you need to ask questions until you have the clarity needed to implement the feedback.
  4. Establish clear channels of communication and a follow up session to review the changes and work through the next steps in the process.

As the Person Giving Creative Feedback

When providing creative feedback, there are several essential things to keep in mind. Some important tips on how to give feedback effectively:

  1. Start by highlighting what the creator has done well and then move on to areas that need improvement. This approach can help to build trust and create a more receptive environment for the feedback.
  2. Provide specific feedback that is constructive and helps to improve the work. Avoid general comments that aren’t helpful. For example, just saying “I don’t like it” doesn’t give the creator any actionable insight to work with. 
  3. Provide suggestions. Offer ideas that may not have been considered, and encourage thinking about things from a different perspective.
  4. Be mindful of the creator’s feelings and avoid being too critical or negative. Remember that creative work is personal, and feedback should be given in a way that is constructive and respectful.

As the Person Receiving Creative Feedback

Receiving creative feedback can be challenging, as it can be difficult to separate one’s work from one’s identity. However, the following tips can help creatives receive feedback more effectively:

  1. Be open to new ideas and perspectives, even if they differ from your own. Remember that feedback is an opportunity to learn and grow.
  2. Listen carefully to the feedback and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Try to understand the perspective of the person giving the feedback.
  3. Take ownership of the feedback and use it to improve the work. Don’t take the feedback personally, and focus on how you can use it to grow and develop your skills.
  4. Thank the person for taking the time to provide feedback, and show them that you appreciate their input.

Managing Ego

Managing ego is essential in creative feedback, as it can be easy to become defensive or take the feedback personally. The following are some essential tips for managing ego:

  1. Remember that feedback is an opportunity to improve the work.
  2. Creative work can be personal, but it’s important to remember that the feedback is about the work, not the person. Try to separate your work from your identity, and avoid taking the feedback personally.
  3. Be humble and open to criticism. No one is perfect and there is always room for improvement.
  4. Communicate effectively with the person giving the feedback. Ask questions, seek clarification, and make sure that you understand the feedback before responding.
  5. If you feel yourself becoming defensive or emotional, take a break. Step away from the feedback and come back to it when you are feeling more composed.

If you’re really struggling with managing your ego and emotions, there may be something going on that’s deeper than the work. Consider having an open conversation with a trusted friend or colleague to try and get to the bottom of it.

Managing ego is a detailed topic worthy of several blogs. There’s a lot of good resources out there that can help. I got a lot out of the book “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday and recommend it to any creative team whether or not ego is a concern.

Wrapping it up

Feedback is an essential component of creative work. When working with a team or on behalf of a brand or business, being able to effectively collaborate will greatly improve the quality of the work and the experience for everyone involved.

Developing a standard operating procedure to both give and receive feedback helps manage the ego that inevitably bubbles to the surface. A healthy mindset, paired with open channels of communication and clearly defined expectations, will lead to optimal results.

Mastering the art of giving and receiving feedback is a never ending journey. Keep working at it, analyzing the process, and improving as you go. 

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