It’s not about what you say, but how you say it.
That’s an adage we’re all familiar with right? And I think we can all agree there’s more than a grain of truth to it! Being diplomatic is a skill that you either acquire, or you acquire a lot of people who find you to be a disagreeable person whose opinion they avoid at all costs. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of web design, where so many try to apply subjective tastes to an objective discipline based on a foundation of best practices and behavioral SCIENCE.
Speak to the goal, not the execution
Every design has a goal– usually communicating some idea, or getting the user to take an action. So rather than try to tell your design team “here’s how I think we should do this…” use their problem solving muscle to its utmost and ask them “How is this helping achieve our goal?” or “I don’t understand how this is supporting the goal of this design”. That way they have the chance to either explain their thought process, start a productive dialog with you about a better solution, or help them to realign their thinking if they’ve lost sight of that goal.
Positivity and gratitude are the best methods of persuasion
Put people at ease and make them feel empowered and they’re far more likely to give you what you want, or what you need! Designers have to acquire a thick skin over the course of their career, because everyone (and their uncle/cousin/wife) thinks they can do their job, so they have a tendency to get defensive. Over everything. It’s all too easy to let this become a barrier to productive feedback, but starting by emphasizing the positive and encouraging them to build on that is the a shortcut to getting their best ideas. And you get more of what you like!
If it’s not working, re-evaulate before it gets toxic
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, no matter what you try. Your visions for the design don’t align, they don’t have the experience necessary, or for whatever other reason, the project has become deadlocked over the design. Rather than rack up your bill and slowly whittling away at each others’ sanity, sometimes it’s best to put things on hold and re-evaluate your requirements for the design. Maybe there was a miscommunication early on, or maybe the design has some conflicting goals that are causing discord. Whatever the case, trying the same thing over and over again isn’t going to achieve a different result and it’s only going to frustrate everyone involved.
Don’t ask for their “most creative work”, focus on concrete goals
Creating things is what designers do, all day, every day. Asking them to be “extra creative” is not going to help, because it means something different to each person, and all it tells a designer is that you have some secret desire that they now have to try and puzzle out through endless rounds of vague feedback. Be concrete! Every design has something to communicate- focus your discussion around what you want to communicate, what the first impression should be for a new visitor. That gives them a real target to aim for rather than “creative”, and you’ll like the results!
You wouldn’t walk in to your dentist and start telling him how to clean your teeth, but you would tell him if what he was doing wasn’t making your teeth any cleaner and ask for clarification or advice. The same is true with design- arguing over process with an experienced professional isn’t going to be productive, but talking about whether or not the work is achieving the proposed goal will always get you better advice, more clarity, and a much happier relationship with your design team.