The better Designer gives in, not up.
or how to deal with feedback
Designers are arrogant. So most people tend to think. Designers are narrow-minded if it comes in challenging their designs. They hate feedback. They do everything in their power not to do the changes they are asked to do. They keep on defending their own ideas. They won't give in.
or as Alex Cabal puts it in his call for less designer dictatorship:
Most designers don’t have the humility to admit they might have been wrong.
And I get his point. Actually, I have to affirm his statement to most degrees. Yes, sometimes we can be really stubborn people to the outer world.
Observing designers the last couple of years, it occured to me that lots of them indeed can't appreciate feedback though they should. Cause you learn from it.
But there's another thing I've noticed. With most of them, it is not that their ego is too big to accept critisism. It's the opposite. Quiet often, designers are fragile souls, too introvert to ask for help once they are stuck. They live in their own world full of images, shapes and aesthetics and find it difficult to convey this abstract view on things. They are not good with words. They loose the battle because they don't have the weapons of the opponent. So they think. They quickly see themselves as victims.
And yes, it happened to me, too. More than once. It feels like stabbed in the back with a knife. Misunderstood. Knowing with such a certainty that the client/boss is wrong and just can't see it. Cause they just don't have this gifted designer's eye.
Over the years I learned my lessons. I'm not an undiscovered artist. I chose to design for clients who pay me to do what is best for them. It is not about making the most beautiful design, it is about making the most efficient design for the clients'needs.
Those rules help me to be a better designer:
- There is no such thing as enemies. They are all just people with the same goal. We work on it together, each with their own expertise and duties.
- Listen. Listen carefully before you judge. Read between the lines. Most of the times it is not a matter of pretty or ugly but more if it actually fits the clients expectations. Try to see things from another perspective. Their perspective. Be empathic.
- Ask why. Non-designers quiet often find it difficult to pin the reason why they don't feel comfortable with a design. They can't tell and so they try to think of a solution, but this is just their attempt to express the actual problem. It is up to us to figure it out what it is. and then come up with a better proposal.
- Swallow. Breathe in and out. And then try it. Although you think it will not work. Sometimes you're wrong. And the critic was right. Sometimes – while trying – you find the most amazing solution which makes the client happy – and yourself even more.
- Learn to speak. Learn to express why you decided on doing it this way. Give good reasons, refer to articles or other best practices. Try to speak their language. This, by the way, has a great side effect: the people around you will learn to appreciate your opinion. After a while they will consult you next time they have to take a decision.
- Don't sell your soul. It is a bad thing to rework your design if you think afterwards it just got worse. Don't loose yourself and the passion in your work. Look for a way to please others as well as yourself.
- You can always do better.
- Try to be as proactive as possible. Get yourself involved in an early stage of the project so that your suggestions can get implemented. This will not just help you later on while designing but will also increase your credibility on long term.
- Proactively, seek for feedback from people you trust. Aks for their opinion and value it. Take it serious. There is a reason why you trusted them in the first place. Their critics will enrichen your work.
- You can always learn from others.
Asking for advice is no sign of weakness. Showing your vulnerability actually will make you a better person to the outer world. It will make you more real. less arrogant. But in fact open-minded.
Embrace the feeling of realising you don't have to be perfect. Admitting that our work could need some tweaks is actually quiet liberating.
Personally, being asked for advice is best compliment I can get.