I think I speak for a lot of designers/artists/creatives out there when I say that one of the biggest fears you face when you decide to start showcasing your work is criticism. You are afraid of that one ugly design, the one that makes you feel worthless; or at least that’s what you have in your head when someone criticizes your work. Imagine if you were a very confident person, you know you’re good, you’re at the top of our class and you nail all your tutorials; you feel like the best designer out there…until someone criticizes your work for the first time. I know how that feels like; it feels like your world is crumbling down around you.
I know it sounds pretty dramatic, but trying to make a living out of your artistic talent means that you’ll constantly be exposed to criticism, good or bad; and you have to learn to deal with it if you want to pursue a successful design career.
So, these are the things you need to take into consideration when receiving criticism to avoid starring in a dramatic soap opera:
It will make you grow as a professional.
It is well known that nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, especially when we work on something new or something we have little to zero experience with.
Having someone else look at your work gives you the opportunity to have an outside perspective. It’s common that you can be so caught up with your work that you overlook something that is not up to par or even end up with something missing.
Take all the criticism as a learning point. Improve as much as you can from it and take away what is useful. Continue to research more on new ideas that you don’t understand completely and implement them in your next project or from now on your designs; slowly but surely of course.
Learn to identify good and bad criticism.
Although I am trying to convince you that criticism is actually good, (which it is), you should know that not everyone has the same good intentions when feedbacking or commenting on your work. While there are people that actually want to see you improve and that believe you can be a great designer/artist, there are some other people that just enjoy being mean, or maybe you may encounter people in a bad mood or who have a lack of experience. These people would not be giving you any useful feedback to be honest.
Good criticism should be as specific as possible. The person should be educating you on ways you can improve, possible ideas you could implement and so on. By the end of their comments, you would have a better grasp on what to do for your next design that is better than what you are doing now. If the person criticizing you is telling you things like, “I just don’t like it” or “It’s horrible!”, you can either ask them to elaborate on their feedback, or just smile and say “thank you” and look for someone else to give you real feedback. Don’t take it personal because…
Not everyone has the same taste or knowledge.
You can find people who criticize everything that is in front of them no matter what but unless what they have something useful to say, never take these people seriously. Let it go in one ear and out the other.
The outcome of your feedback session depends a lot on who criticizes your work and in what context because it is not the same receiving feedback from a grumpy hater who thinks everyone is awful and receiving it from your mom who loves you no matter what. Unless your mom is a designer, she will not really give you an objective feedback. It’s always good to find someone that knows their stuff and has experience in design because most of the time, their objective feedback is pretty useful.
However, always know your work and present it with grace. It does not matter who you are showcasing your work to, put your work into context and give a good explanation on why your art is the way it is. That will help the third party feedback understand you and give your more useful feedback.
Listen, chill and then reply.
Receiving criticism for the first time is hard, but it is normal when you start feeling angry, sad or frustrated. Sometimes you might even feel like slapping the person that is criticizing you, or maybe it’s just me. Your first impulse will definitely be to defend your work no matter what or maybe you will feel like running to your room and locking yourself in to cry your eyes out. Just chill. Listen actively to the person talking to you, and before saying or doing anything, just breathe and think about what you want to say or do next. I know it is easier said than done but it is the graceful way to go. However, you must never stop trying because it is going to be mentally and emotionally healthier for you in the long run and the relationship with the person talking to you will be preserved for reasons not yet known. Little by little, you will start getting used to it, and you will get better at reacting to it.
Just keep going. Although bad critics usually weigh more on your heart than the good ones, it all depends on your attitude and the way you perceive everything. Learning from your mistakes is a sign of growing up in every aspect of your life. So build your design career by using criticism as a motivation to better yourself. Don’t be afraid to make that first step and taking a leap of faith to becoming a great designer! 😉