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Principles of Effective Communication During the Proofing Process

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We learn how to navigate the world through feedback from others, regardless of whether it’s purposeful or not. We’re rewarded with smiles for being amicable, laughter for being funny, and promotions for excellent work. Considering the ubiquitous nature of these interactions, it’s shocking how rarely we consciously work to develop principles of effective communication. 

Any response to an individual, or lack thereof, is a form of feedback; we can avoid interacting with others to a certain degree, but avoidance still communicates something. Though communication impacts almost every aspect of our existence, the effects are heightened in the workplace. Poor communication within an organization is proven to cause lower morale, higher stress, and degradation of company culture. In fact, Gallup found that companies who don’t implement regular employee feedback experience a 14.9% higher turnover rate than those who do. Luckily, the solution is straightforward; communicate well and communicate often.

When employees receive frequent, constructive feedback, they are more likely to take risks when appropriate, share ideas without fear of retribution, and actively try new things. That doesn’t mean our workplace communication will be perfect. Humans are flawed, and our communication sometimes reflects that; we misread between the lines, confuse others, and occasionally we’re blatantly rude. The crux of good communication is how we handle those difficult situations, especially when working with clients. 

A lack of skill is rarely what gets in the way of project approval; as cliche as it may be, the biggest roadblock to client approval is poor communication. By understanding the principles of effective communication, we can correctly interpret client goals and deliver exactly what they asked for. 

The 5 Principles Of Effective Communication For Creatives

Clarity  

Designers and their clients often speak a different language; a shipping unit supplier likely doesn’t know graphic design jargon, and their graphic designer probably doesn’t understand shipping lingo. For this reason, it’s imperative for designers to clarify goals, Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), and anything else that could impact the design process in terms both parties can understand. 

In general, clients and their designers should meet at the beginning of a job to clarify the project’s intent and how that project fits into the company’s overarching objectives. From there, you’ll want to determine how to measure the level of success at meeting those goals. The KPI’s you track will vary by project; for digital marketing collateral, they might be clicks, shares, or impressions, while the KPI’s for a t-shirt design might be the number of sales. 

It can take a bit of detective work to get to a client’s actual objective, and if you’re struggling to cut through vague generalizations, clarifying questions could be the solution. For example, designers utilizing the principles of effective communication could ask their clients:

  • What would success with this project look like to you?
  • Who is responsible for what collateral? 
  • What stakeholders are involved? Do they share the same goals?
  • What barriers could hinder the project’s success?
  • Are there examples from a similar project that you like? What do you like about it?

Once you’ve determined goals and started designing, the review process can begin. Clients tend to give feedback in a manner that makes sense to them, however, that doesn’t always translate well for the designer. One way to combat this is to remove the possibility of vague critiques. 

On Ashore, clients can employ the Mentions feature, allowing users to direct a comment to an individual and clarify who the comment is intended for. Users can also place their feedback in context directly on a proof, so the artist knows exactly where the issue lies. Visualizing the feedback in this manner makes it far easier to understand what a client is getting at, even if the comment itself isn’t all that useful. 

Opportunity

principles of effective communication

The next of the five principles of effective communication is opportunity; the space approvers need to provide feedback. Interpersonal communication is a two-way street, not a monologue. Designers and clients need to give each other a chance to engage. Part of this is active listening, really trying to understand the point the other person is getting to. Genuine communication opportunities aren’t about allowing someone to say their piece; they’re about making room for them to do so and respecting what they have to say. 

One way to do this is to have status meetings with the client to voice concerns or ideas. Of course, not all critiques are good critiques – sometimes they’re glaringly incorrect. Respecting someone’s feedback doesn’t mean you have to implement it; it means attempting to understand where the person is coming from. 

On Ashore, opportunities for communication are built into the platform itself. Users can add as many reviewers as they choose to their approval workflow and even add different people to different stages. By customizing the workflow, you can provide all relevant players with the opportunity to give feedback. 

It may be tempting to include everyone in every stage, but that could end up limiting people’s ability to communicate. Everyone wants to give their two cents – even if they aren’t in their wheelhouse. Keeping each stage to just the necessary players gives relevant people more room to comment and protects the designer from a bombardment of repetitive, contradictory critiques. 

Medium

principles of effective communication

Communication is channel-based, and the channel used can impact the content and quality of feedback. Many people find it easier to embody the principles of effective communication face-to-face; they can employ facial expressions, gestures, tone, and inflection to supplement their words. Written communication doesn’t have these added context clues, so it has to be explicit. Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to communicate is through visuals. Humans can comprehend visual stimuli in a mere 13 milliseconds, and images tend to register more emotion in those who view them.

The medium used can be the difference between a great experience with a client and a massive headache, as not everyone is equally adept at the different communication methods. Forcing a visual communicator to speak their feedback is like asking a comedian to entertain party guests with a piano piece – it might work out, but you’re better off asking for a joke.

Ashore combines aspects from many forms of communication, so users don’t have to sacrifice one medium for another. Visual communicators can point to something directly on a proof, and written communicators can add their thoughts in the comments. For those who prefer to talk things out, 

Organization

Miscommunications run rampant when no one knows where to find essential documents and information. For that reason, one of the most important yet largely overlooked principles of effective communication is organization. Employees need to know where things are, when things are due, and what exactly they are responsible for. It’s best practice to set a timeline with critical deadlines at the start of a project and assign roles so everyone knows their place. 

Organization is far easier to accomplish with the right tools, such as those offered by Ashore. With categorized cloud storage, users never have to worry about misplacing or permanently losing a file; all they have to do is a quick search. Ashore can also notify you when the proof has moved to the next stage and send automatic reminders to approvers until they’ve provided feedback to ensure the project stays on schedule. 

Not only does Ashore keep individual projects on track, it also helps creatives who are juggling multiple assignments. From the Ashore dashboard, users can easily see the status of everything they’re working on, color-coded to show how far along the project is, if it’s been approved, or if it’s overdue. 

Thoroughness 

We’ve all been in a position where we think we know what’s going on, maybe with solid evidence to support that belief, only to find that we were terribly mistaken. Communication occurs anytime one sends or receives a message, but effective communication is only possible when the recipient perceives the message how the sender intended. 

Miscommunications aren’t always due to poor interpersonal skills. Sometimes misinterpretations happen despite our best efforts – what matters is that we catch them before it’s too late. To prevent miscommunications from becoming problematic, we have to be thorough in our review process. 

Reviewers on Ashore have the option to approve, not approve, or approve with changes if the proof only needs a few tweaks (sparing everyone from an additional round of revisions). Users can also upload multiple files to a single proof, giving clients the option to approve everything jointly or file by file. Finally, Ashore offers fully customizable checklists to make sure approvers have considered everything in their feedback before giving their go-ahead. Users can ask reviewers to look for spelling mistakes, double-check color codes, read over company policies, and more to ensure there are no issues before publishing the collateral. 

Communicate Better With Ashore

If you were to ask a creative what their least favorite aspect of their job was, they’d probably tell you it’s working with clients. Without the right tools, collaboration can quickly become the vein of your existence. Luckily, there are steps we can take to assuage those frustrations. By applying the principles of effective communication in conjunction with technology, miscommunications and endless review cycles don’t have to be a part of the creative process. 

With Ashore, you get to set the tone for effective communication, and our software will take care of the rest. Ready to ditch the endless revisions and take charge of your review process? Sign up for your 14-day free trial today!

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We're Ashore, and we've built the most powerful proofing software in the world. Create your free account and start sending proofs today. Watch a Demo or Start here →