As a shy freshman, I shrunk back at the thought of having to critique my own work, especially having to critique my fellow classmates. Imagine my dismay when I learned that more than half my time spent in the design program at LSU would be “critique days.” I’m displaying hours upon hours of hard work only to have my fellow designers pick it apart? No, thank you.
What I did not realize is that these “critique days” grew us as designers in big ways. It even set us up to handle critique at work, in freelance design, and even life at times. As the current graphic designer here at Crossroads, “critiques” are actively present in my day-to-day and we could not get anything done without them.
So, how should we handle creative criticism?
1) Embrace it! Dare I Say, Welcome it!
Scripture argues that it is wise to desire criticism:
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.Proverbs 19:20
Reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.Proverbs 19:25
Criticism allows for growth, do not be too proud to think that another perspective couldn’t offer a new insight. In design, embracing a critique helps us see clearly. Suggestions, opinions, and fresh eyes give us a new world of things to consider.
2) Consider the Critique.
Listen to what is being expressed and know it is okay to take it with a grain of salt. Some criticisms are better than others! Some negative insights are purely based on preference and others are more considerate—they’ll give you reasons for their negative feedback.
Be careful, too, not to discount a brief criticism that lacks detail. Sometimes what appears to be thoughtless negative feedback can turn out to be more constructive once hashed out. It may end up being very valuable.
My beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.James 1:19–20
Make it an aim to respond humbly, considering that humility listens!
3) Apply the Changes.
Test everything! Try the new color option, new font, even draft a new layout. Step back and stare, process, observe, change (do this part over and over) then finally choose. There is never harm in going back to the drawing board and testing a new direction. If in the end the original is what the client goes with, there is no room for worry because everything has been tried!
4) Be Confident in Your Final Decision.
Keep in mind that you are the professional. You were hired because of your expertise and experience.
It helps to give a valid reason for doing something a certain way if you feel strongly about the particular aspect of your work that is being critiqued. If the critique is about the color scheme, for example, share why you selected the color combinations. Or if you chose a simpler logo design explain it is more versatile to work with different mediums.
Francis Bacon once said, “If you can talk about it, why paint it?” Well, I say since we can’t talk about it, let’s paint it! Our aim as designers is to communicate what the client wishes to say without the conversation. As the graphic designer here at Crossroads, my goal is to visually communicate our client’s needs in a professional and unique way.