Picture this: You spend hours and hours on a comp for a client, be it in advertising, identitiy, or web design. When you finally present your work to the client, you get something like “I don’t like it. Can you show me something else?”
Are you familiar with this scenario? Well, so am I. And so is every designer or art director I know. No matter how much effort we put into a design, there’s almost always gonna be somebody who will tear it apart. The question is: if we like it, why don’t they like it as well?
To understand why that is, and what we can do about it, let’s take a look at this situation for a second.
Two different points…
There’s you, the designer. This design is your product. You created it from scratch - starting with a white sheet or screen, over the exploration of different avenues, to a rough mock-up, to a pre-final version, to the result - the finished design.
Then, there’s the outsider. Typically the client (yes, in this case, she’s an outsider!) or a friend or family member you ask for their opinion. They don’t know anything about the whole design process, nor do they know how much time you spent on creating it. They were not involved in the creative process.
Evidently, these two positions are extremely polarized. You (the designer) have been involved in the process from scratch and naturally, have a more personal connection to the product than anybody else. Especially when you ask an outsider for their opinion, the large pile of work connected to a design is virtually non-existent for them! For us, on the other hand, our time spent with the design adds intangible value - which, in most cases, interferes with our objectivity.
Value is in the eye of the beholder. Just like beauty
Now that’s rather obvious, however not unusual at all. We can try putting ourselves in an outsider’s position - in fact, that is what we should do, if we’re a good designer -, but we will never reach a point of full impartiality. We’re “in love” with our design; and as much as we are open to constructive criticism, we can’t help it but to have feelings for it! Whatever we create will always be a part of us. Every design we produce arose from within our mind, and we molded and shaped it to our convenience, until we got the finished comp. No wonder we’re in a rut.
Look at it this way: who is it you design for? If you’re drawing a picture for your living room, you shouldn’t mind about an outsider’s opinion, because it’s you who has to look at the picture, not them. But in most cases, our business isn’t about pictures for our living room. We design for outsiders! It’s the outsider who will be looking at our creation; mostly even for a much longer time as ourselves, because we’ve already moved on to our next project.
So, the next time you get negative feedback about your design from an outsider, welcome it! Take it with an open mind, and try to understand, I mean really understand, what they are trying to tell you. Most of the time, you can isolate a problem an outsider names and pinpoint its origin, if you only ask questions: if they say they don’t like it, ask what exactly it is they don’t like about it. Don’t take it personally; try to be nice, and strive for a more precise answer to that question.
As a designer, you’ll always have to take criticism. That comes with the profession. And if you think about it, you’ll see that criticism isn’t your enemy, but your closest friend. Embrace it!