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The Value Of Actively Seeking Critique

The Value Of Actively Seeking Critique

Within a designer's career they are likely to encounter a certain amount of direction along the way. This could be in the form of explicit direction from a brief or career guidance from a mentor figure, most commonly, the former. In order to prepare yourself to make the most of working through a brief or in support of a senior designer, you can train yourself to respond comfortably and professionally to feedback. 

While there is a difference between the meaning of the words direction and feedback, they require the same emotional intelligence from you at the moment they are given. There's a lot of confusion around emotional intelligence and whether it is something you're born with or a skill you can develop. Some people are naturally going to be better at certain personal skills and other needs to work at them but when it comes to feedback, it's pretty fair to say that we're all naturally born a bit touchy about criticism.

Like most things, practice makes perfect. I studied a degree in Creative Writing at university and I've talked about that before in my journal. The best thing it taught me to do was become practiced in the art of giving and receiving feedback. A wise lecturer advised the importance of not interrupting and just listening and writing down all of your feedback before you speak. I witnessed how my peers approached each other sensitively (and not so sensitively) but with clarity and honesty. This helped build a strong foundation.

When I collaborated with working peers on projects after university, I continued to learn more and more about the challenge of communicating critique. I realised that context makes an enormous difference to how the process of communication is handled. This could be as simple as how many people are in the room, how many are doing the critiquing or being critiqued. Technology and the remote working world meant that I had to consider the impact of not being able to see someone when discussing creative work. Even personality types - often unpredictable and uncontrollable if it's a first meeting - will demand a certain amount of flexibility from how you handle a critique.

It's because of this flexibility and my belief that it is the core skill around receiving feedback professionally, that led me to write a post about the value of actively seeking practice in receiving critique. I didn't feel that it was right to make a list of 'Do this' and 'Avoid that' when I know that a great deal of these pointers will contradict one another as circumstance and context come into play. You'll always have more to learn about the technique of receiving and interpreting feedback and the best one step plan I can offer you is to put yourself in a situation requiring frequent exposure to feedback. 

Ideally, if you're seeking the best results from this endeavour, you should also seek feedback in lots of different ways with varying degrees of structure. For example, I regularly share work on social media which is one way of opening myself up to feedback. I'm able to receive quick fire comments and engagement and interpret that in how I continue to develop my working style. Then, in addition to this, I am subscribed to a couple of different online communities where feedback session and forums are available. One of these communities in a generally creative community, which helps me to hear feedback from disciplines which overlap my own but are not exactly the same. I would strongly recommend this approach as it helps me to think outside my own industry and in broader terms of trend and demand. The other community is specifically engineered to the work I currently do and this means that I am able to hear very specific comments from peers and more experienced individuals. I think this one is a necessity in maintaining a practiced and professional approach to work through briefs. 

In summary, the approach of actively seeking critique that I am outlining will affect the ultimate quality and success of your design. We need iteration and feedback cycles in order to push through our own mental barriers and produce the best quality of work. This requires a professional and experienced approach to both receiving and processing critique on our projects. Becoming practiced in this area will not happen accidentally or overnight. You must proactively seek the opportunities to expose yourself to feedback and pay attention to how others are handling their feedback. Find these places out and soak up everything you can, so that you can level up in your professionalism and maximise the value you gain in future creative collaborations. 

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