Design Feedback and Retrospectives

The ideal design retro balances explanation with inquiry and aims to promote a team culture where individuals are confident and proud of their work.

Giving and receiving feedback is tough

In my quest to understand how feedback can become a more positive experience, I came across two great articles: 

Shifting the language of feedback

The articles suggest taking the idea of positive and negative feedback and reframing it as "reinforcing" and "redirecting" feedback. This removes the personal aspect and shifts the focus to the effectiveness of the designs. I added a third category that I felt was missing: preferential feedback.

  1. Reinforcing Feedback- noting a behavior which is beneficial and should be continued
  2. Redirecting Feedback - identifying a behavior that should change and offering an alternate course of action
  3. Preferential Feedback - sharing a personal preference for consideration
“Whether providing reinforcing or redirecting feedback, specificity is important for learning,” explains Lexi Croswell. Be sure to ask yourself, “Which behavior did I appreciate? Which behavior do I want to see more of? Why?”

It's instinctual to provide reactionary feedback like "I like it!" or "I feel like something is off". However, these statements indicate preference and their generality preclude them from being actionable. Instead, the following phrases can be used followed by "thoughts?" to open up a conversation.

  • “an option to explore would be X”
  • "X effectively does Y"
  • “this design could benefit from X”
  • “what if X was Y”
  • “it seems like Y”

Leaning how to provide effective feedback for someone else's designs means that you can start to do the same to your own. Flexing feedback muscles is uncomfortable at first but comes more naturally with practice.

The design retrospective

I created the framework below with the idea that this additional structure during design retrospectives can encourage a more open, receptive, and exploratory space.

Feedback Seeker
  1. Explain the objective of the design and any relevant context
  2. Walk through the design, explaining the reasoning behind it and any considerations that were taken
  3. Identify parts of the design that you feel are effective at accomplishing the set goals
  4. Point out parts that you are seeking advice on
Feedback Providers
  1. Ask clarifying or open ended questions about the design (this step is critical for shaping informed opinions)
  2. Share reinforcing feedback for parts that are effective in accomplishing the identified goals given constraints and context
  3. Share redirecting feedback if needed
  4. Share preferential feedback if it has been sought out, making sure to not overimpose personal design preferences as this can become a distraction 🙃