9 Comments // Filed in Business / Design
More often than not, our significant other isn’t in our industry, but we still ask them their opinion because we value their input. If it’s complimentary, there are no issues — but the problem begins to stem when your friend disagrees with what you’ve created and is horribly vague.
Does the following sound familiar?
“Why don’t you like it?” I asked, a tad bewildered, as I believed that the solution I created was near perfection.
“I don’t know. Something’s just… not right,” Brett said, with an apologetic shrug and pat on my back.
“What’s not right? The colour? The type? You don’t like where this box is placed?” The questions were asked in rapid succession, as I pointed to various things on the screen.
“Um…” he said, hesitating. He squinted at the screen for a bit, his shoulders lifting once more. “… I just… I don’t know. Doesn’t look right.”
Cue the internal screaming.
This is often a problem with design galleries such as Stylegala which has comments open for each entry. A lot of commenters misinterpret a constructive criticism from a personal opinion, others defend free speech, others can only spout glowing praises — all three not necessarily understanding why each other has taken their position. As a result, many designers have publicly stated they ignore the comments from Stylegala these days merely because of this noise. It’s unfortunate, because interesting discussions and learning opportunities could be had if only there was more intelligent discourse.
At this point, some people would suggest that you shouldn’t expect such high-level criticism from a non-design lay person — that if you were asking for real input regarding the design of a piece, you should go straight to a fellow designer. Perhaps. However, I don’t want to fall into the trap of completely dismissing a crit merely because the person giving it doesn’t have the graphic vocabulary or education I have. It’s similar to assuming just because a person doesn’t speak English that they don’t understand the question. Maybe they simply don’t know how to phrase their answer. While professional design peers may be able to articulate where a box should go, or if a colour scheme clashes, it doesn’t necessarily mean their suggestions are right for the project, either.
In the end, Brett was right — something was wrong with the design, and because I was just so close to the project I wasn’t able to discern what it was until I put it aside for a bit and looked at it again. Brett wasn’t able to specifically tell me to put this block of text there, but that’s eventually what I had to do. When I showed him the revised layout with this new change, his expression cleared and he said, “Oh, yeah. Much better.” He didn’t elaborate hugely on what he thought was “better” — merely that he knew it was.
So, how would someone separate constructive criticism from a completely personal opinion? How would you know if someone is judging your project “fairly” — that is, not merely hating pink for pink’s sake?
Here are some questions I’ve asked myself:
- Is this person known to be honest? Can you or do you trust this person?
- What is the extent of this person’s visual knowledge?
- Do they have any personal prejudices against the style of items? (for example, they simply don’t like pink; they never cared for grunge; they hate OSX, etc.)
- What is their profession/education level? Are they a professional designer? If a designer, are they, in your opinion, “good” at it?
- Do they resort to petty insults during critiques?
- How do they respond to criticism?
- Do they offer solutions to any problems?
If the answers are positive to a few or all of the above, then most likely, even if this person was not a designer or a creative person in any way, that their opinion has at least some merit. Everyone has an opinion on what “looks good” but not necessarily any reasons why. They’re not designers. It’s up to you to decide which of their reservations to address.
What other questions do you ask yourself to determine the validity of a critique, whether they be from a designer or not?