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Designer School Series: How to Handle Feedback

First a disclaimer. The idea for this series came from @workbyben on Twitter.

It’s a fantastic list as you’ll see if you stick with us, so be sure to follow, subscribe, turn on notifications, and all that jazz. Now that credit’s been given where due, on to the topic at hand.

How to Handle Feedback?

When I started as a designer back in 2003 or so, I started in what was at the time Macromedia’s Flash software. I loved making animated visuals and adding effects like city lights turning on and off in a night scene.

I got my first major client at 15 and then worked with several automotive dealers, helping them build web sites and manage their inventory before joining forces with a local startup and my career really kicking into high gear.

My area of specialty was “biz dev”, strategy, sales, but I was also a practitioner. And I’ve always loved good design.

The problem was, that for many years I wasn’t a great designer. Truthfully, I didn’t get enough practice. So every time I needed to design something it took me a while and I didn’t know all the strategies to get my designs to look like the pros.

After moving to California, and while working with my good friend and business partner, I took on a much more creative role. I studied design in this role. I read everything I could. I practiced more. And while parts of my design work still needed improvement, I could measure the incremental success.

I had to work through negative feedback I received this entire time. I had to understand that what people say about my work isn’t a reflection on me as a person and my potential so much as it was a reflection on my current skill level.

Here are a few tips I learned on how to deal with feedback on your designs:

  1. Your work isn’t you. Learn that if someone says your design is crap, it doesn’t mean YOU are crap.
  2. Your work can get better. Don’t give up when you get negative feedback. Keep trying. Try harder.
  3. Design feedback is always subjective. Some people have an eye for good design and some do not. Depending on what you’re designing, it may just be that your design doesn’t work for that particular person’s taste, but would work well in another arena.
  4. You will look back and think likely the same thing about your work as what you’re being told. As you grow and improve, you’ll look at old designs and wonder what you were thinking.
  5. You may not be nearly as good as you think you are. We’re creatively delusional when reviewing our own work.
  6. Trust the feedback of pros that have walked the same path. The feedback from respected mentors is the best.
  7. Don’t trust feedback from people who won’t tell you the truth in an effort to not “hurt” you. Mom, Aunt, and friends don’t count when getting feedback on design. Even if they’re talented designers, they’ll soften the blows we need as creatives in order to get better.
  8. Era matters. Your design might look funny to someone depending on what design styles and era of design they’re used to, most comfortable with, etc. Always design with your target audience in mind, and realize that only their opinion matters.
  9. Design for conversion. Don’t design for pretty. Focus on the business objective if there is one, and understand that might not mean making the prettiest, most aesthetic design. The key is that the design does well, is easy to navigate, and that the end viewer understands the call to action.
  10. Present your designs as drafts, samples. When someone knocks it, it’ll feel better knowing you’re not taking full responsibility for the work and you have an easy out to go back and make improvements.
  11. Present multiple variations of the design. Often times feedback comes back harshest when there’s only one version to look at. This is because the viewer / reviewer starts to compare to work outside your body of work. If you include multiple variations the reviewer compares those variations and then focuses on telling you what they like or don’t like about the options presented.

Start with this. Be careful to listen and take the good parts of what someone is saying in order to improve your work. Don’t get upset or hurt and lose the opportunity to level up.

The best thing to notes is that design is often quite a teachable skill. So if you’re not where you want to be today, you can learn how to design better. It’s not just for natural born artists.

Thanks for reading! Hit that clap, follow, and share! Thanks friends and keep designing!

Categorized: Design, Tips

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