Receiving Constructive Criticism

Receiving criticism from others is usually uncomfortable at the very least. And when you’re in a design-related field where you have put your heart and soul into a project, it can feel like a punch in the gut when someone tells you it’s not what they’re looking for. However, being open to criticism, and asking for feedback proves to be beneficial time and time again and is a crucial step to improving your designs.

If you work in at a design firm, this feedback may come from a coworker or a superior. Or, if you’re working freelance, then you can join online forums, post your work on sites like DribbbleBehance, or DeviantArt. It can also help to ask someone who isn’t a designer at all. The main focus is that you are sharing your work with others who have a fresh set of eyes.

This fresh perspective will be vital to your growth as a creative, whatever you do. 

Know Ahead of Time What Your Goals For The Project Are

You should be answering some specific questions in your head, before you begin your design. What is the problem that you are trying to solve in your design? Who is the target audience? If this design was being made for you, what would you change about it?

Even if your client has something else in mind, preventing you from carrying out your ideal design, you can still set personal goals and answer some of the questions in your head. If you have clear answers to these questions, you will simultaneously create a better design while achieving the ability to ask your critics specific questions relating to the goal of your project rather than vague questions like, “What do you think of this?”

Ask For Help/Feedback

The best way to receive help and/or feedback is to ask for it. When you ask someone for advice on a project, you are saying that you invite other opinions and ideas into your work. You are giving them proof that you are interested in people’s feedback enough to ask their advice about how you can improve your performance. 

When you are sincere in your solicitation of help, people will most likely respond with helpful counsel. You could learn something that you never thought you would learn before, simply because of your candid question inquiry.

Don’t Take It Personally

Not taking criticism personally will help you exponentially. Not only will you be able to think clearly about what your peers suggest, but it also encourages others to give you feedback next time. Feedback and criticism are two different things, and it is important to remember this when someone is telling you areas you can improve on. The feedback someone gives you (unless they have a real vendetta against you) is meant for you to improve! Believe the best, and trust that they want you to succeed when something is said negatively about your work.

Don’t Be Afraid of Failure

This one is tied closely with the previous point. Even if you fail terribly with a design (or anything else, really), you will still learn how to improve in your area of expertise. If you’ve ever tried out a new sport, or even a new trick in a sport you would consider yourself proficient in, you will have to fail a few times before becoming an expert at that sport or skill. It’s the same with design! Failure should be welcomed because now you at least have new information to build off of.

Ask Follow Up Questions

Feedback on a project should be an open discussion. You shouldn’t feel like you’re being attacked, or lectured about all the things you’ve done “wrong”. Therefore, after you listen to someone’s critique, it’s essential to ask them clarifying questions to what they’ve just helped you in. It’s better that you fully grasp the feedback you are receiving if you truly want to improve.

Be Thankful

Finally, acknowledge that you’re thankful for that person taking time out of their day to help you, whether or not the information was actually helpful. Be deliberate in your appreciation because then you are inviting them to help you in the future as well. A simple thank you goes a long way.

So remember, in order to successfully receive constructive criticism in a design related field:

  • Think About What Your Goals For The Project Are – This can steer you in the right direction and prepare you properly to receive feedback
  • Ask for Help/Feedback – Invite those who are more experienced than you to take a look at your work
  • Don’t Take It Personally – Those who are giving you feedback want you to succeed
  • Don’t Be Afraid of Failure – You learn something each time you fail
  • Ask Follow Up Questions – Ask clarifying questions so that you don’t keep making the same mistakes
  • Be Thankful – Thankfulness goes a long way and invites opportunities to improve for the next project