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Critiques – a Learning (and Growing) Experience

Posted on July 17, 2009

I LOVE DESIGNING. It?s my passion, part of who I am. I put my heart and soul into everything I create. Yes it?s true, I?m kind of a design geek. But hey, I?m OK with that.

One of the many, MANY processes graphic designers go through is group critiques. During school, at work, in online communities. After you have put in countless hours, worked your butt off, and probably had one-too-many cups of coffee, you have to face the firing squad. And let me tell you, they are NOT AFRAID to tell you what they think.

Often times you?ll leave a critique with some helpful pointers, things that you didn?t see because you?re too close to the project. Suggestions that you know won?t work, but you try it anyway to make the powers-that-be happy. And even some ideas that you don?t think will work, but surprise, surprise, they do!
Every once in a blue moon you?ll leave a critique with grin on your face, a hop in your step and your head held high. Everyone LOVED your ideas and no one suggested any changes. They were PERFECT!!! Granted, this doesn?t happen often, but it?s something that every designer strives for.

And then there?s the dreaded critiques where no one likes your work. You slaved away for hours, put your blood sweat and tears into it, and what did that get you? Silence and empty stares as your peers attempt to figure out how to let you know what they think, without tearing your apart. It?s every designer?s nightmare and something that we ALL go through.

How we deal with it says a lot about who we are, both as a designer and as a person. We could hold a grudge, convince ourselves that our work is FANTASTIC, that the other designers wouldn?t know great work if it hit them in the face. Or we can suck it up and admit that we are not perfect. Everyone say it with me now: ?I AM NOT PERFECT?!

The truth is, a negative reaction only hurts ourself. It stops us from hearing what other designers (and customers for that matter) have to say about our work. It stops us from growing and improving as a designer. It stop us from communicating with our peers. And sometimes it can even stop us from trying.

In the real world we don?t always produce great work the first time around. Sometimes we have off days. Sometimes we just aren?t connecting with the project. Sometimes one designer can spend 30 minutes on a logo and come up with something brilliant while another designer slaves away for hours and comes up with squat. As frustrating as it is, that?s just the way creativity works.

Nobody likes to hear anything negative about their work, but I honestly think that 9 times out of 10 we knew deep down that it was not as good as it could be. Of course that doesn?t make the criticism any easier to take. But I think that some of the best work comes out of our biggest struggles. And we grow the most when we struggle. So instead of reacting negatively, we need to take that energy, turn it around and use it to our advantage. Easier said than done, I know. But if you really focus on using that energy to keep going, to keep improving, the next time around you just might have one of those PERFECT critiques.

Do you need a design team that is passionate about everything they do? A team WILL NOT GIVE UP until you are happy? Contact us or visit us at to learn how we can HELP YOU!

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