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Seniority in Design: feedback loops

When thinking about seniority in design, how to manage or ask for feedback is important.

As a designer you’re only as good as your feedback loops

Feedback is something you have to find as a designer. It’s something you have to be proactive about. As a rule, I think that everyone should be looking for feedback all the time.

I’ve found that the more you’re prepared to open up your work, including work in progress, the more ways you can find ways of generating and bringing feedback into the flow of your work.

Finding feedback loops

Conversations are a feedback loop. Any type of research, or design research is a feedback loop. A design review/critique session is a feedback loop. Making a model, prototype, or representation of an idea is a way of inviting feedback that should be part of every design process.

I personally find that writing (blogging/sharing ideas) is a way of generating smaller, more regular feedback loops. This means sharing ideas early to help shape my thinking. It’s unusual for me to blog/post something that I then don’t learn more about, or that doesn’t shape my thinking or ideas further. It can be uncomfortable working in this way, or just sharing work in general, but I find that it’s an important part of how I work and develop my ideas and thinking.

The key thing with feedback is to keep looking for it.

Feedback should be a rhythm in your work. It’s more like the pulse that indicates when ideas still have life in them. If this becomes more irregular then it’s something that should be a cause for concern.

Seniority and feedback

When managing your progression as a senior designer you can be your own feedback loop — making the time to reflect, and then making adjustments to how you work and lead.

Finally, the more senior you get, the harder it can be to find reliable feedback.

If you’re a manager, it becomes harder for people in your teams to give you open, or honest feedback. You can encourage this in a team, but in reality inviting constructive criticism from people that report to you isn’t easy.

Without the right levels of trust, and in a corporate environment, it may not feel safe enough for people to give feedback to people in more senior positions — imagine putting yourself in this position.


This blog is part of a short series following my original post about seniority in design.

Ben Holliday is an experienced design leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). You can follow all of Ben's blog posts by subscribing to the RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter for more regular updates.