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Evaluating creative can be a challenge, particularly for those of us who don’t consider ourselves “creative” in the artistic sense. Like me, for instance. Our tendency can be to go right to the small details, rather than looking at the big picture: “That’s the wrong PMS color!” instead of understanding why a creative team chose a particular direction.

Here are eight simple steps for evaluating creative that can help you get the best, most effective creative work from your team.

  1. Take a breath and gauge your initial reaction.

How does it make you feel? What does it make you think about? Does it feel similar to something you’ve seen or experienced before? Gauging your initial reaction can help you separate your own likes and dislikes from the actual effectiveness of the piece.

  1. Now put aside your initial reaction.

Don’t talk yet. Your initial reaction may reflect your own biases more than the work itself.

  1. Notice where your eye wants to go first, second and third.

Your eye should go to the first, second, and third most important pieces of information, in that order. If your eye goes somewhere else, or doesn’t know where to go, the information hierarchy needs to be improved.

  1. Ask probing questions.

Asking the designer why she picked specific colors, fonts, or photos can help you understand how the designer thinks the piece will accomplish the objectives, and it can also help you further understand your own biases. (Note: “What were you thinking when you chose green?” is not a probing question.)

  1. Evaluate the creative based on the objective Look at the piece relative to what you’re trying to do.

Will it accomplish the objective? Why or why not?

  1. If there is a call to action, ask yourself whether it’s clear.

Ask yourself whether the average person in your target audience will know what the call to action means and whether he or she will know how to take the next step.

  1. Look for any red flags.

Is there anything in the creative that could be misinterpreted? Is there anything that could possibly be offensive to your target audience?

  1. Put it all together.

Now summarize all of the above and offer your feedback. Following these eight steps won’t turn you into a creative. But they will help your team develop great creative work that will get results.

Deborah Maue is the Vice President for Marketing and Communications at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois.