The art & science of nailing creative reviews

Candace Myers
3 min readJan 14, 2022

Right now you are asking yourself, “Who is this peasant, non-VP, non-Director, non-designer, trying to tell me how to run an executive review?”

A cursory glance through my linkedin doesn’t send any clear signal that I am at all qualified to share this advice. However, IYKYK. Behind every great VP of Design, design IC and Design Director is a great DPM.

In 2020, I had the distinction of having at least 25 design reviews in as many weeks, with the fabulous former head of Facebook App, and current CEO of Instacart Fidji Simo, and the ever Yoda-like VP of design Charlie Sutton. 2020, what a great year!

In another life, I used to run an invention team at Pinterest; we had weekly meetings with the CEO and CCO slash co-founders for months.

By attending a career’s worth of VP reviews, gathering direct VP feedback and backchannels with product teams, I was able to whittle the goods down to a shockingly easy framework for nailing exec reviews.

Please note, these strategies are all leveraged in the review, no additional effort on your part, whatsoever. Refer to the ☞ to understand the nuance of each step.

The 4 Steps to unlock your exec review:

Step 1: Confirm if everyone has read the pre-read (if the deciders in the room all say “yes,” move to step 3).

☞ Exec meetings are short (typically 25 mins once niceties are fulfilled). If everyone has read the pre-read, move on with your life. Do not waste 3/4 of your time reading aloud a pre-read that everyone has already read (read that again).

Step 2: If the answer to step 1 is “no” then ask: “Would you like time to read through it now, or would you prefer me to walk you through it?” Proceed as instructed.

☞ If your pre-read is well drafted, then it is likely quicker and more effective for your VP to read it themselves, quickly & silently in the meeting. At least give them the option. VP’s see kajillions of pre-reads a week, they are professional pre-read readers (don’t read that again).

Step 3: Ask the deciders in the room: “Do you have any questions about the content of the deck or need any clarifications?

☞ Hone in on anything that is unclear or controversial to your exec right away. Build on a solid foundation of shared understanding. Clarity is king when you are selling your vision. If something is puzzling your VP and you are prattling off your ideas, you’re just going to get neck-caned back into their questions.

Step 4: If the answer to step 3 is “no” or you still have time left over, then tell the execs what aspects of the work you specifically want them to weigh in on. Tell them what you need from them.

☞ If you take nothing else away from this article let it be this: harness the business context, depth of understanding, and experience of the execs in the room to help you and your team make progress. Their experience is so valuable, do not squander your time with them. If something is blocking your team, or there are aspects of the work that you need a POV from them on in order to prevent swirl, discuss it.

Congratulations! You just spent 18 minutes having a conversation with your VP, getting signal, sharing your vision and mining leadership for their expertise, instead of spending 18 minutes reading through a deck. 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼

(*FWIW most of my experience in VP level reviews were creative/ design/ product reviews, but I stand by the hypothesis that this framework works with ANY exec review. Come @ me finance!)

If it’s your vibe, you can order the “suck less” name plate here.

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Candace Myers

Pinterest, Facebook, & Netflix design & creative operations. Never backed down from a work challenge, & I’ve failed a lot. Rich in insights, typos & tattoos.