The 4 C’s of Creativity (And How Design Feedback Tools Help)

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How can software help creatives be more creative? It literally comes down to improving the quality of feedback. Nothing drains your energy more than slogging through incoherent comment after incoherent comment, remembering who still needs to give their input, or who needs to be reminded to give feedback. There’s a mountain of design feedback tools, but very few seem to understand the importance of high-quality feedback.

When you can better diagnose your approvers’ feedback, you can avoid the common pitfalls that rob you of your creativity. The four C’s of creativity — concerns, constraints, critique and collaboration — are all dependent on quality feedback. In this blog, we’ll prove to you why this is true and, like all good company blogs, we’ll try to convince you why Ashore is a better design feedback tool.

Concerns

Let’s get meta. As a designer, you already know that good design is problem-solving. A well-designed project is able to accomplish its purpose well. If it doesn’t, there’s a problem that still needs to be solved. Every project starts with a problem — a concern — that needs to be addressed. Your approvers may not be able to articulate that concern, but they’ll still try to express it if they feel it exists.

Have you ever had an approver ask you to make your design pop more? First off, the word “pop” should be banned from the English language. You already recognize this as useless feedback but, buried beneath this terrible word, there is a deeper sentiment: something is off. A concern wasn’t met. A problem wasn’t solved.

They’re not always right, but your approvers know when something feels wrong. To that end, it is important to anticipate your approvers’ concerns and answer their questions before they have a chance to ask them. Share your comments at the time you share the proof with them. Ideally, your comments will be on the proof itself, in its proper context. 

You probably saw this coming: Ashore allows you to do this easily. With it, you can create a new design proof without sending it to anyone. This gives you the opportunity to mark it up with your comments and address concerns before anyone ever has a chance to review your proof. Once you’ve made your notes, you can send the proof link directly to your approvers or attach an automated approval workflow to the proof. It’s simple and effective at eliminating concern.

Constraints

A constraint in graphic design is not a bad thing. The whole point of a style guide, which establishes the rules of a brand, is a constraint. The edge of a document is a constraint. The written language on your proof is a constraint. Constraints are necessary. Constraints help make design understandable. Finding your groove within your constraints will lead to better work. 

Sometimes, however, constraints have the potential to derail the creative process. If your constraints, for example, include multiple approvers with differing agendas, you may find yourself compromising on important design decisions after they review your work. It’s important to put processes in place that keep constraints from becoming roadblocks. 

Design feedback tools such as Ashore can help eliminate the “bad” constraints in graphic design. It does this through three primary features: workflow staging, version control and decentralized teams. 

Workflow Staging

Not every approval process requires dropping your proof in the equivalent of a lions’ den. Sometimes, the process is more like moving up a staircase. Each step might be an approver, or a group of approvers, who must sign off on the file before it can move up. That’s the idea of workflow staging.

Automated workflow staging saves you the brainpower of having to manually move the proof up the staircase, which would include having to remember the decision status of every person within a stage. Ashore takes care of that for you, with a proof automatically moving through a workflow as all members of a stage approve. Reminders are automated and controlled by you, and every decision is recorded. 

Version Control

The first version of a proof is usually not the last. On average, it takes 2.4 versions to approve a proof. Managing multiple versions of a proof can be troublesome, however. What was said on an earlier version? How does version one compare to version two? Design feedback tools need to have version control, which stacks new versions on your proof and maintains feedback through the stack. Whether you have 2.4 versions or 100, you can still easily maintain feedback from all approvers.

Decentralized Teams

Good or bad, remote workers are becoming the new norm for many companies. Even if that’s not true for your team, specifically, you may still deal with teams in multiple offices or customers in different places. This makes keeping everyone up-to-date on projects one of the new priorities in the workplace. Ashore allows you to BCC other users (your team members) on proofs, which means that they’ll receive the same updates on a proof that you will. 

When you and your team are on Ashore, you all have access to the same proof archive, so even if your team isn’t BCC’d on a proof they can still check in on its status and comments – helpful when someone is on vacation!

Critique

The only way you can strengthen your designs is through actionable critique. Feedback is the heart of the approval process. Unfortunately, it is often the most difficult part. It can feel as though you and your approvers are speaking completely different languages. This is especially true when you’re using email, since feedback becomes completely divorced from the context of the proof. Design feedback tools help you put feedback back into context by having your reviewers make annotations directly on the proof. 

In addition to marking directly on a proof, your reviewers should also be able to attach images or other files for reference – that way you don’t have to find out too late that your version of chartreuse isn’t what the reviewer had in mind. 

Collaboration

All of the above ideas help to create a truly collaborative effort between your team and your reviewers. Ashore has a sidebar where all of the comments on a proof live, along with the comment thread. You and your approvers can work real-time on a proof, adding and replying to comments as you’d like. Attaching files for clarity makes the conversation almost like a face-to-face meeting where you pull up references on your phone, but these comments are saved for later review. 

With Ashore, you also have the ability to integrate your email. When your reviewers inevitably reply to an email rather than using the proof screen, that reply won’t be lost in the ether, it’ll be right in your inbox. You’re also able to use Ashore to send messages (emails) directly to your approvers and have it logged into the proof timeline for further reference. Good collaboration and communication includes remembering what and when everything was said and done, after all. 

Design Feedback Tools That Actually Help You Be More Creative

You’d like to get your proof from point A to point B as smoothly as possible, and that involves making use of the features and benefits a design feedback tool gives. Start the conversation with your reviewers by adding your own comments to a proof prior to sending, and have the proof move automatically along the workflow as approval is given. Actionable feedback is the heart of the approval process, and it’s a lot easier to get with the contextualized comments that Ashore offers. 

Don’t take our word for all of this, though. Try Ashore yourself for free today, forever.