Commenting on design. How to write constructive design comments.

While working on a piece of graphic design–website, app, or any other piece, the designer and the client will need to communicate through text at some point in time, discussing little graphic details and correcting copy. This written communication can be a great tool to advance a design project, or it can be a source of frustration.

Most changes and iterations in a piece of design are small: design corrections or text changes. It is best to use a visual tool for this kind of work — Invision, Zeplin, Figma, or adding comments to a PDF. The main goal in such bit-by-bit communication is to be as precise as possible, to avoid misunderstandings, frustration, and to minimize the number of iterations. What you, as a client, want is to fix each issue in one sitting. Your designer wants this too.

Trust me, nobody wants to deliberate over button shadows or text size more than needed. We are here to make things happen, to move things forward. This is why what you write in that little comment is so important.

Here are some examples of good and bad versions of design comments:

Bad: Capitalize this text.

Good: Change to “See How You Can Improve”.

Why: If you ask to capitalize a piece of text, there are three variations of what you could get three variants:
2. See how you can improve
3. See How You Can Improve
If you want a specific variation, type it in full.

Bad: Make it the same as in the previous slide.

Good: Copy style from here:

Why: Since the slide order can change, it is better to link directly to the reference. What you mean by the word “same” is only obvious to you.

Bad: Change to the other color.

Good: Change to green.

Why: what you think of as “the other color” may differ from what a designer thinks. To avoid confusion, use a precise color name, or hex code #54FFE5 (Pro tip: designers love hex codes).

Bad: Make this button the same size as the other screen.

Good: Make this button the same size as here:

Why: Designers hop from screen to screen when going through your design comments. What you mean by “other screen” is only obvious to you. Do attach a link to your reference, or a screenshot.

Bad: Wrong color! I told you about this before, read the previous comments!

Good: Change to green.

Why: Human error is common. Forgive your designer and just ask again for the same thing in the same tone and wording. Getting emotional in the comments is counter-productive.

Pro tip: if you feel that you are misunderstood more than once–call.

Bad: Copy new text from the doc.

Good: Change to: ”Buy at your local store”

Why: When addressing a single text correction, do the extra work and copy-paste the full sentence. Instead of directing the designer to a document and making him/her look for the correct copy, just paste the desired copy inside the comment. This way, you minimize potential mistakes and iterations. Note that when you do have a document with many fields of text, and they all need to be changed, it is OK to ask to copy-paste all of them in one comment.

Emojis, stickers, reactions

Emojis are a great way to add emotion and fun to communication inside the project. I use them all the time and encourage my clients to do it too. It’s much easier to express fun, acceptance, or frustration with a smiley face than in plain text. I have not yet seen an overuse or a misuse of emojis, stickers, or reactions in a professional environment. Prove me wrong?

In conclusion

Here is a round-up of everything above:

The use of textual communication is growing in product teams, and we use text all the time, so let’s do our best and keep it classy.