Four ways to makes it look like you knew what you were doing from the beginning

Create a feedback loop that makes it look like you actually knew what you were doing from the start

Sarah Healy
Dec 9, 2019 · 6 min read
Establish a feedback loop to move forward creatively (Illustrated by Sarah Healy)

A few weeks ago I wrote about seven rules for creatives from a friendly robot, these were the guidelines CG artist, designer, and creative François Leroy adheres to during his creative process.

One of these rules revolves around creating an effective feedback loop.

I previously write about focusing on volume. Creating a lot of stuff allows you to practice your skills but there is another part of the puzzle if you want to improve as a creative — this is where a feedback loop comes in.

If we create without reflection or feedback, we can be creating yet not improving.

So how do we build a feedback loop into our creative process?

1. Only thou who seek shall receive

Ok, I have chosen to write these like the first commandments. Bear with me.

The first step is quite obvious. Before you can build a feedback loop, you have to have something that requires feedback.

Feedback is not something that gently lands into our laps when we need it.

It is something we need to seek out, especially good feedback which will help us develop as creatives.

Therefore, it requires work, time and effort. Things we humans generally want to avoid as we like the shortest route to a solution.

If you find someone who is kindly offering to give you feedback, then it is best to show something that you have put some thought and love into. Show something that is the best you can create right now. It does not need to be perfect but it should not be something you know isn’t very good.

This screams ‘I don’t care’.

Otherwise, you are wasting not only your own time but the time of the person who has offered some of their precious time.

This is mean. Don’t do it.

Time is our greatest commodity. You can choose to waste your own time but try not to waste the time of others.

2. Next up there is the who

Ok so if you are on step two then this means you have created something and now you have to find someone who can offer you some feedback.

When creating a feedback loop, it is important to think about the who.

Who in your social circle can help you?

Maybe there is a friend who is on a similar path to you but a little ahead of where you are now. Perhaps you know someone who could be a mentor.

Who are you going to seek feedback from? How are you going to do it?

You can go in search of a physical mentor or online help.

Physical Mentor:
If you have a can meet with someone on a regular basis with someone who is a few steps ahead of your creatively, or someone who is ahead of you in leaps and bounds this is a huge asset.

For example, Kyle Cooper had Paul Rand as a mentor and attributes much of his success to this relationship. He openly admits that Paul Rand initially

used to think that his work was ugly

Yet he understood that he and his friend were there to learn from Paul. They were not seeking validation and humbly accepted

At the time we were not good visually

If you live somewhere without an easily accessible creative social network, online may be the way to go.

Online Mentor:
There are many creatives on the internet to admire.

You can view their work, listen to podcasts and interviews they have given and learn and be inspired from them without ever having actually met them.

You can learn from them by trying to deconstruct their work and how they describe their creative process.

Alternatives to this are

  • Online group chats
  • Organizing a Skype session
  • Email

The list is endless.

What remains important is having a go-to place where you can share your work, talk about your process and get feedback or just the chance to bounce ideas around and also learn from what others are sharing.

3. We need to think about feedback in the right way?

Asking good questions always leads to better answers.

Yet how we think about feedback impacts on how we incorporate it into our work.

So, how can we create an effective feedback loop>

Harrison and coauthor, Elizabeth Rouse, set out to answer this question. For two years, they studied both a modern dance company and a team of designers from an award-winning research and development department. In the end, they discovered successful feedback hinges on

“a creative person’s willingness to share incomplete work, the need for constructive, two-way conversations, the desire of feedback providers to really understand the process, and the realization that the two parties are on a journey together.”

Sharing our incomplete work with others is not easy.

Yet as Neil Gaiman says about the act of writing,

The way forward is not always clear. It is like moving forward in a fog, we can only see two or three feet in front of us at a time.

When it comes to writing he says, the importance of a second draft is to

‘Make it look like we knew what we were doing from the beginning’

When we begin to create, it is a messy and chaotic process.

The end result is greatly determined by the quality of editing and feedback but also our ability to be open and receptive to making changes during this stage.

4. Creating the foundation for a feedback loop

This will greatly depend on the type of environment you work in.


If you are surrounded by other creatives then it is perhaps easier to share what you are working on, walk around and see what others are working on and learn from them

You can learn from fellow creatives of all levels ranging from interns to creative directors.

Regarding the latter, learning from people who’ve been there, done that, and can add a fresh perspective. This is an invaluable resource and it is here that we can learn to be more objective about our work and be less emotionally attached to it.


If you work remotely but within a team then the feedback loop is similar to a studio setting but an online version.

Group chats with others in your team can be a valuable resource, and a way to quickly share a screenshot of what you are working on, or great online tools, requires or courses you have discovered.

If you freelance but are not part of a team and it is just you then it is going to be that much harder to establish some kind of feedback loop.

Group chats are still invaluable if you can create a group with fellow creatives you know or seek support online in online forums, facebook groups and courses.

This is one of the great things about many online courses today, they usually have a facebook group where you can continue to share, learn and seek support long after the course itself may have finished.

Collaborating with others on personal projects is also a great way to establish a feedback loop, and learn from others how they create feedback loops or establish a bar against how to measure their improvements as a creative.

That’s all folks. I hope you found this helpful and if you have any additional tips to add regarding feedback loops I would love to hear them

That’s all folks! (courtesy of Giphy)

Design Digest

Design Digest publishes curated stories weekly on creativity, design and why it matters.

Sarah Healy

Written by

A multidisciplinary designer, storyteller, and adventuress with a penchant for endurance feats and exploring blank spots on the map.

Design Digest

Design Digest publishes curated stories weekly on creativity, design and why it matters.

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