Having to walk away from a huge investment knowing that you didn’t QUITE get what you were looking for is a pretty gross feeling… and sadly, we hear horror stories like this ALL the time.
If you’ve ever worked with a creative professional, you may have felt like your voice or vision got lost in translation as they flexed their artsy muscles all over your big, practical dreams. And sure — that’s why you hired them, right? Wronngggg. As with any relationship, if you walk away feeling unsatisfied, something went missing along the way.
99% of the time (according to our lifetime of very legit research as working, loving, humans) that “something” is communication.
Last week we got real about what it feels like to receive feedback as a creative and explained some tools we use to help feel more in control of the creative process (right here, if you missed it). Now, we’re turning the tables with five (and a half) steps that have completely changed the way we collaborate with other people in the creative field. We’re here to help you communicate your needs to your creative team to ENSURE your goals are kept at the forefront of any creative relationship.
- Develop a communication strategy.
- Provide thoughtful inspiration.
- Offer clear feedback + alternative examples.
- Refine to elevate, with compassion.
- Respect expertise & ask questions.
FUN FACT: These tips are also how we collaborate productively as creative partners who happen to be married to each other. Buuuut, more on that later.
1. Decide on a communications strategy before things get rolling. Will you be communicating via email, text, app, shared Pinterest board? We recommend choosing 1-2 channels and sticking with them so that A) no one feels overwhelmed, but also B) none of your examples or inspiration gets lost in a myriad of messaging channels. Beyond regular communications, have a conversation that lays down both of your expectations, deadlines, and systems before you’re in the thick of it.
2. Take time to ask your creative what type of examples work for them. If working on a logo, it might sound weird to pass along photos or a painting, but your designer may love absorbing inspiration from all over the place (we do!). At the same time, a photographer may prefer to receive inspiration in their own medium (aka, photos) in order to efficiently curate a shot list and creative brief that they can follow without any confusion.
3. Use descriptive words when offering feedback. “Like/dislike,” doesn’t really capture your why, and can sometimes come off as subjective — and even hurtful — toward your collaborators. Consider explaining yourself in depth while also offering suggestions.
This is a terrible photo, I hate it.
This is a beautiful shot, but I don’t like how I look. Maybe we could try some poses that make me feel more confident?
3.5. Provide alternatives and options with your vision in mind. Once you’ve explained why something doesn’t quite work for you, offer examples that feel better suited. Try to select examples that feel in line with the elements of what you’re creating that you DO like, or have previously discussed with your creative, so that they don’t feel like you’re coming out of left field with a whole new concept.
I’m not a fan. Can you send me some other ideas?
This design isn’t sitting right with me, it feels a bit cluttered. I prefer something more simple — here is an example.
4. Offer refinements that elevate the finished product. Working together on existing concepts to build a masterpiece feels good. Having to start from scratch midway through feels REAL bad. To avoid this, make sure your creative relationship includes checkpoints, and take advantage of those opportunities to nip any “no” vibes in the bud.
5. Respect creative expertise, and communicate accordingly. You’re an expert when it comes to your business and clientele, just as they are an expert in their field. If you’re not sure why your creative is moving in a certain direction — just ask! Likely, they’ll have an explanation that is based in research, and ultimately has your best interests at heart. If it still doesn’t feel right, be open, honest, and refer to the previous concepts for providing productive feedback.
So, there it is.
A creative collaboration shouldn’t be about walking on eggshells — when you hold back, NO ONE benefits. The basis of all of this is simple: be polite, explain yourself, and keep the feedback FLOWING.
Growth, and beautiful, magical, ART, breeds best alongside honesty.
Feeling like you’re communicating SO much, but still getting nowhere? Reach out. We would love to offer a complimentary consulting call to see if there’s anywhere you could be improving your language to better describe — and bring to life — your vision through the eyes of your creative team.
Follow along @ohsierracreative, and subscribe for ongoing updates, resources, and tips here.
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