Wednesday, October 18, 2017

5 Reasons Criticism Can Be Difficult for Designers

As designers, we get our fair share of criticism. It's a central part of what we do. We are always presenting our work for critique. We make edits, and we make adjustments that fit the client's needs (and sometimes wants). That's what we do.

But sometimes receiving criticism is just difficult. Here are five reasons why:

1. It tends to burst our egos.

Not all criticism is the same. Some is obvious and we readily agree with it. Some we recognize as unrelated to our work because the situation or the person is clearly just wrong. But some criticism challenges what we think of ourselves as designers and as persons. It either hits close to home, because the critic knows us deeply, or we’ve heard the same thing elsewhere. And these things challenge how we view ourselves.

2. It can be hard to sift between good feedback and bad feedback.

I don’t know for sure, but I think designers are the most self-critical professionals. We are always evaluating what we produce and we are almost never satisfied. We are always looking to improve our designs. But if some of us have a badly informed conscience, this leads to a distorted sense of reality — which leads to an inability to properly judge any feedback.

3. There are sincere critics and insincere critics.

This might be hard to believe. But not everyone has our best interests at heart. Some people want to purposely hurt us or misguide us. Perhaps they don’t like us, they envy us, or that they just want to use us in some way. It doesn’t matter. We still need to be aware that this can happen. At the same time, there are those people who want to give us sincere feedback for our own good, not just for their own gain. How do we know which is which?

4. Some criticism is just dumb.

Along with insincere critics are those who do it because they enjoy criticizing. They are fault-finders and enjoy the attention that it garners. It makes them feel valuable. They are generally negative people and aren’t happy about almost anything.

On the other hand, unlike fault-finders, there are people who are sincerely clueless. Their feedback is based on a lack of knowledge. They don’t know what they are talking about.

And last, there are people who use criticism to deal with their own personal issues. They would rather express personal likes and dislikes than solving real problems. This type of criticism is sometimes a result of a hurt or a lack of self-awareness.

5. We don't differentiate ourselves from our work.

Although we realize that it’s our work that’s being evaluated, we don't always separate ourselves from our work. And that can make it difficult to receive feedback objectively. We can even associate some feedback as a critique on our value as creatives and designers.

But, everyone goes through this at one time or another, not just designers. No matter how accomplished or professional any of us are, we will have moments of doubt. And well we should.

Each of these reasons make sifting through criticism difficult sometimes.

Not every designer is good at what they do. And those of us who are good are not perfect. We can all stand to grow. And we all can improve with proper direction and training. In fact, those who truly love and value the profession will want to improve — and endure.

In the next article, I want to share what I've learned about how to handle criticism better.

Photo courtesy Steven Ung of

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