Why Internet Reactions to Redesigns Don’t Matter

Alright, I’m pretty new to this whole ranting on Medium thing but I think I’m going to give it a shot this time.

It often seems like the most important part of a digital product refresh is the launch. How is it received? Do people like the logo? Things always seem to either be too trendy or not trendy enough, and there’s a always a person quick to dislike or critique a new design. None of this is particularly surprising as the internet is both always living in the moment, and never short on haters.

What IS surprising is that often times the people who are most critical of new redesigns aren’t necessarily the millions of people actually using these products, but a smaller vocal minority of design critics who — while still users — usually create digital products themselves. You’re probably wondering why this is surprising; after all, it makes perfect sense for designers to critique design. It’s not the fact that people are critiquing. That’s fine. What bugs me is how:

Obviously these are just a few cherry picked tweets. But this type of armchair designer response keep cropping up for a ton of redesigns. Sometimes the criticism is warranted (GAP’s logo redesign comes to mind) but often times people are just lobbing lazy kneejerk criticism at a new design because it’s the easy thing to do. Imagine if someone on your design team reacted to your work this way. They’d probably be busy looking for another job.

We’ve spent a lot of time as a design community trying to “get a seat at the table” and people are finally starting to say we’ve earned it. So what if we started acting like it, too?

You probably don’t have the context to critique something right after it’s been released

You weren’t in all the meetings. You weren’t a part of the decision making. You don’t know if it’s bad design, bad planning, bad organizational management, or any of those types of things. A large part of your reaction is probably just due to the fact that what you’re looking at now is really different than what it was before. Think about it: if a company was going to completely overhaul their digital experience, why would they emulate what already exists? That would be bordering on pointless. So instead, you’re usually reacting to something pretty new and different. Recognize that you’re probably not able to instantly reverse engineer the strategy that led to things being the way they are and take a few minutes to think things through.

Redesigns aren’t meant for the first 3 days.

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve spent a lot of time as a profession lobbying for the value of design. Designers know that while it’s important to consider how a design functions when you first pick it up, the true measure of a design’s success is often in how it performs over a much longer period of time. Why then, would we levy a critique on a new redesign the second it comes out? Wait a week, or even a month, before coming to grips with how you feel about a design. Obviously, if you’ve thought things through and have formed a coherent opinion the day of the release that’s fine too. But they’re two different types of critique, and the former is usually a lot more helpful than the latter.

Be thoughtful in your critique.

I see so many images of logos being recreated in powerpoint as shorthand expression for poor design. Who gives a shit whether or not a logo can be recreated in powerpoint? Minimalism is so in vogue, yet when logos are simplified they’re often crucified as examples of bad design. Sometimes they are (still looking at you, GAP), but often times we’re just overreacting. The Verizon redesign is a good example: When it first came out I hated it just as much as the next designer, but now I barely give it a second thought. When you take a second look at it, it’s not nearly as bad as it once perceived to be.

That Verizon logo we all hated once upon a time

I’d urge you to just think about the critique you’re giving over the internet and twitter and whatever other medium you use. Try treating it like you would treat a critique in your office with an art director or lead designer. Don’t just say you hate it. Being able to express why you feel a certain way about a design is critical, and not just because it elevates the level of design discourse. It also creates a vocabulary other people can use to talk about design even if they may not be a professional.

I guess all I’m really getting at is that we should try to be more thoughtful when we’re doling out criticism to recent redesigns. Try and have some empathy for the people who just launched this thing and consider that hating something right when it comes out doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad design.