Don’t Take it Personally

This post originally published at bryn.io on October 14, 2014.

At ShopSavvy and in many of my side projects, we always have a Slack channel dedicated to public feedback — usually visual or information design-focused. I post new concepts or mockups in there once every few hours to get the team’s opinion or see if I overlooked something. Usually, people are very good about responding, even posting some long, detailed, brilliantly constructive criticisms. But, every once in a while, it’ll be silent. Dead. Not a peep — even if you mention someone in particular. I asked someone about this phenomenon and they said…

“They probably just don’t like it and don’t want to hurt your feelings.”

Criticism should be mindful to be constructive, but it should never be about feelings. How a piece makes the critiquer feel can certainly be a part of the response (as changing a person’s mood or perception is frequently a part of the design goals) but, designers frequently conflate their work with themselves and I think people giving feedback notice this misguided self-evaluation method and don’t want to hurt their feelings. “Someone worked hard on this. I should just say it’s good.” they seem to think.

The problem with this thought process is that design almost always requires feedback to be good. Things built in a bubble generally only apply to that bubble — so talking to others is key. Feedback is about improvement. It’s about going to people you trust to receive a valid, unbiased criticism so you can improve whatever it is that you’re building.

If every person willing to give you feedback has to worry about hurting your feelings, how likely are they to tell you that you missed a key part of a UI mockup when that might make you feel stupid?

TL;DR: Don’t go into a critique looking for an ego boost, because if people sense that, you’re unlikely to get reliable feedback from people in the future.