5 useful questions for self-critiquing design work for your business

Do you sometimes create graphic designs for your small business? If you do, then it's super important that you have the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of your work. Here are five questions for self-critiquing your designs.Design is usually strongest as a collaborative effort. But we don’t always have the advantage of having someone who can take a look and give some quick feedback when we’re creating something. Maybe you’re a freelancer, or solopreneur, running your business all on your own.

In those instances, you’ve got to be able to take a critical view of your own work. It’s easy to get sucked in and lose sense of what’s working and what isn’t when you’ve spend hours staring at your graphic design creation on a screen. It’s important to be able to take a step back and evaluate whether you’re making the right design decisions.

Here are five simple questions for self-critiquing your work when designing for your business.

1. Who is the design for?

Make sure you’re keeping the user in mind when you’re creating your design. Try to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their point of view. Consider their frame of mind, what obstacles in their thinking you have to overcome, and how to appeal to them.

You should think about what the user wants, what information they’re looking for, and how to stand out to them. You should also think about the scenarios in which they encounter your design, and how that will affect the way they view the graphics. Is it an ad that they’ll only glance at, at first? Or is it PDF document that they’ve opened up, hoping to learn more about a service? Maybe it’s a social media post you want them to share. Get to the core of who you’re designing for and always keep them in mind.

Related post: How defining your core customer will boost your business

2. Does it work in context?

When you’re creating a design, whether in Canva, InDesign or any other design tool, you’re essentially designing in a vacuum. Make sure you consider the end use of the design while you’re creating it. Is the design for a website banner? Should it be above the fold (e.g. users don’t have to scroll down to see it)? Is it an Instagram image that will be surrounded by all your other posts?

Think about how large the image will be when viewed by users, how much time they have to look at it, and how impactful it will be.

3. Is it conveying the right message and is that message easy to access?

Graphic design is all about communication. Generally, you’re going to have a desired outcome — a specific action you’d like the user to take. It might be for them to join your email list, or buy a product. Whatever the goal, you need to make sure you’re making it easy for the user to achieve it. Consider things like, how you can lead their eye to certain details. Is there good visual hierarchy? Is it easy to navigate?

Make sure you’re not leaving anything out, and also that you’re not flooding the design with unnecessary elements. Everything on your design should exist for a reason. Here’s a tip: talk through the process you went through to come up with the design, out loud, as if pitching to a client. Make sure you can back up your ideas and decisions in a rational way.

4. Is the design visually pleasing to look at?

I’m putting this question lower in the list because I believe the above points should be considered first. Obviously you want your designs to be appealing and beautiful, but it’s no good to have a stunning design that no one can get any use out of. You might have a show-stoppingly gorgeous Facebook ad, but if no one actually clicks through to join your email list then it’s not good design.

Ideally, you’re considering things like proportion, white space and hierarchy at the same time you’re thinking about how to convey the right message. However, it also helps to stop every now and then, take a moment to look at the overall style and see if it’s looking good.

Try looking at the design from a distance (like, actually get up and stand away from your computer for a minute). Better yet, take a break and leave the design alone for a day and see what kind of impact it gives you when you open it up again.

5. Is it consistent with your brand?

Before you place your design out in the world, take a moment to ensure it is cohesive with the rest of your branded material. Did you follow a style guide? Are the colours correct? Are you using the right typography and is it set like you usually do? Is the imagery and photography styled in a way that suits your brand? You can also read through copy and make sure your brand voice is shining through.

Related post: How to use consistent branding to grow your business

Designing for yourself is notoriously difficult. Use these quick questions for self-critiquing to help you keep some perspective when you need to think critically.Last thoughts

So those are the five basic questions that I suggest everyone keep in mind when creating graphic designs for their business. When you’re lacking a fresh pair of eyes and have to make do with your own, these points will help you stay on track.

Do you have any tips or other questions for self-critiquing your work that you use?

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