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4 years ago from Gabriel Valdivia, Head of Design @ Canopy
I don't think your point ("such feedback isn't helpful to anyone") stands at all. I can think of scenarios where it can be helpful to someone. For example, "I don't like it" could be very helpful feedback if your goal is for people to like your work. If it isn't, then you can easily dismiss the feedback and move on.
Are there more helpful ways to phrase feedback? Absolutely! The receiver of the feedback can tease out such ways by asking the questions you mentioned if they're inclined to do so. The onus is on the designer receiving the feedback to choose what to do with it. After all, feedback is a gift :)
Such a universal statement from you doesn't really work, as I'm sure you know. Three example scenarios come to mind:
If you're getting feedback from random people on Dribbble saying "I don't like this" you're going to have a difficult time sussing out what exactly it is they don't like, whether or not the feedback matters, etc.
If you're in a design critique and a design manager says "I don't like this" you have a better chance of digging into that feedback to make it valuable, but such an instance merely demonstrates poor management and the likelihood of a hangup here is high (as we've all sign in any critique with junior designers and managers conversing).
But then more nuanced than those examples, if the feedback from a peer you're sitting one-on-one with, you then have a good chance to make the feedback valuable by digging in with them.
So saying feedback like "I don't like this" is helpful is really not accurate. But, again, it's not universal one way or the other.
My point is simply that it's not much to strive for better feedback in our industry. And statements like yours lower the bar rather than raise it.
"I don't like this because it doesn't feel aligned with the larger brand" or" I don't like this because it's hard for my old eyes to read" are vastly more helpful in each of the instances I outlined above, immediately more directional or guiding, and take at most a second more to say.
I actually agree with most of what you're saying here. Which statement in particular do you believe lowers the bar? I've said a few and admittedly not all of them raise the bar.
To be clear, I was trying to say that, although "I don't like this" is rarely useful, it can be. It's certainly more useful than saying nothing at all. Especially if it kickstarts a discussion where the person receiving the feedback can tease out more useful insights. But I agree with you that there are many better ways to give feedback.
In the original article I try to encourage feedback of all kinds and link to other articles by smarter people than me who have given tips on how to give useful feedback. My hope is that it leads to more conversations which make both parties grow.
I think we essentially agree. There's a lot of context I left out, but I'm pretty good at translating broad feedback into a purposeful action item (if needed) based on all sorts of factors you raised. I simply can't expect all stakeholders to have thoughtful, well-reasoned critique (it's a skill) so I think my job is to fill in those gaps rather than just dismiss a blunt reaction.
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Simply curious: how would someone saying "I don't like it" be helpful to anyone?
In this case, you would have to invest time to dig into the feedback and understand exactly what the person doesn't like about the work. And if what they don't like isn't applicable to the design constraints or use case how helpful is the feedback really? There's also the point of: who is providing the feedback? In what forum? What's their experience with the work (did they look at it for 20 seconds or have they been trying to use the design for a few weeks)? What's their relationship to you (a client saying "I don't like this" is vastly different than a random design student on the internet)? etc.
I assume you didn't actually mean "I don't like it" but rather used that as a generic example, but the point still stands: such feedback isn't helpful to anyone. To try and convince yourself otherwise would mean your role as a designer is merely to create aesthetically pleasing work (but even then you can't make everyone happy so then we're back at my first point).