If you visit the comment section of behance.com and you manage to see through all the self-promotion, you’ll find that the comments are unusually polite and positive. Every project seems to have really positive feedback, the only thing that really distinguishes projects is the amount of praise they get.
The reason for all this “positiveness” is quite evident, it’s the “I’ll scratch your back and you’ll scratch mine” approach. People comment with the expectation of reciprocation and sometimes they aren’t even subtle about it.
Here’s a made up example (which is sadly quite accurate):
Check my latest project here: www.iamdesparateasf.ck/noticemesenpai”
You’ll find this type of comment very easily. The self-promotion is really blatant and, for me, it just undermines whatever you said before, even if it was authentic and honest feedback.
Anyway, that’s not what this post is about, so let’s look beyond that. If you do, you’ll see that there’s still a lot of praise and positivity and very rarely you’ll see a negative comment or a critique, which, let’s be honest, is quite uncommon, especially for the internet. In my opinion, this lack of negativity really blows up our ego, as designers, to stratospheric proportions.
Many designers tend to be very defensive when it comes to their work, I guess it’s just in our nature. A big majority comes from an artistic background, which makes us see the things that we make as an extension of ourselves, they’re our little babies. This puts us in a defensive position every time someone says something that challenges what we made. Essentially, if you say something bad about my work, it’s like you’re saying that about me.
The explosive combination
When these two things combine, you end up with designers who are “drunk” on praise and are unable to detach themselves from their creations. This combination is really explosive and the reason why many Designers can’t take a critique without responding with a counter-attack.
Here’s another made up example (again, more accurate than you might want it to be):
“How dare you critique my work? I went to ALL your portfolio and your type sucks. I mean, do you even kerning, bro?”
Or even better, if the critic is not a designer.
“You’re not a designer, your opinion doesn’t matter. #DropTheMic”
I find this type of response/counter-attack a bit disappointing, especially when it comes from really good designers.
How do we overcome this?
Roll with the punches
First, you need to change your mindset. You’re not your work and your work is not you. Believe it or not, good designers sometimes make crappy work. Don’t think that just because someone critiques your work that it makes you automatically a bad designer.
Moreover, a lot of designers think that if they take advise from others, they’re weakening their position as an expert, this couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll only get better if you learn to take advantage of the feedback that is given to you, especially if the feedback is coming from your client or users.
It doesn’t matter who’s critiquing. Who told you that only a superior designer can critique your work? Are you going check portfolios and credentials before taking into account any feedback?
Guess what? You’re designing for the world, not for a group of expert designers, therefore, you should take any constructive feedback as an opportunity to improve your work and to grow.
However, this doesn’t mean that you need to take everything literally and keep iterating your design eternally, just because someone keeps commenting on it. Take feedback with a grain of salt, especially because sometimes people can’t quite articulate what isn’t working, so they’ll point out other things that are related.
You’re the expert, your job is to listen and figure out if there’s really an issue, and if there is one, then try to solve it.
In short, don’t be a snowflake and get hurt by every little thing that someone doesn’t like about your work. Take that feedback as a way to identify things that you can improve.
Last but not least, please, don’t go through another designer’s portfolio just to find a mistake in their work to use it agains them. Think about it, is that really worth it? Doing something like that is just petty, sad and a waste of your time. You’re better off taking that time improving your design or learning something that will help you get better. Just move on with your life, especially when it comes to destructive comments or trolls. The best is to ignore them, there’s nothing to gain by engaging them.
Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.
On the other hand, when it comes to commenting on the work of others, especially on beginners, try to be constructive and helpful, or else, don’t bother to comment.
If people open themselves for feedback, they probably want something that can help them improve, comments like:
Are as valuable as the person who wrote them.
There’s absolutely no value in putting other designers down. If you really love and value design, you should help to raise the level. That won’t happen when you pick easy targets and try to destroy them with mean comments. This kind of action just shows insecurity. Putting people down is easy but building them up is the real challenge. Challenge yourself and try to be valuable.
Wrapping it up…
You need to put your thick skin jacket on and learn to roll with the punches. Detach yourself from your work and use the feedback as a way to improve.
Don’t discard valuable feedback just because it’s not coming from “above” and be to others what you would like others to be to you, constructive and helpful.
Also, when commenting on someone else’s work, please, also consider not sticking the link to your portfolio underneath. Everyone can see right through that.