Handle Criticism Like a Pro

Have you ever experienced being in a hot seat? Or that excruciating moment when all your bosses and stakeholders are in front of you in a panel, scrutinizing your work? How did it go? Would you ever want to be in that moment again?


Sure, you know all about dealing with designer things and other tips and tricks for creatives, like how to be more productive, design concepts, an effective workplace, and much more. But in terms of receiving criticism, do we really know the best way to handle it?


You may ask, “What’s wrong with standing up to my own work?” Well, there is actually nothing wrong with that. The problem there is how to keep the bantering of thoughts productive and less dramatic or how not to take criticism personally. It is safe to say that we all have been in that position. We are afraid to hear any negative feedback about our work or to disappoint our clients. Way back in college, or even high school perhaps, we were trained and taught to be prepared for criticisms and to always plan ahead. That is why we had thesis defenses and debates – for us to practice how to defend our work and our ideas.


But it’s a different story here in the creative industry. This is a world where defending your work may not be an ideal practice, and most of the time unnecessary. Here at MicroCreatives, it’s no different from other environments where you are surrounded by creative people expressing themselves through their work and it’s inevitable to have clashing ideas and a little bit of discussion and constructive criticism of each other’s works.  Add to that the questions and feedback that will come from the clients. There is no doubt that they trust our expertise that’s why they chose to work with us, so it is essential for us to have a constructive feedback process with our clients. Listed below are the things we do to maintain a good thought-sharing process and a healthy working relationship with our colleagues and clients.


Listen and filter

Oftentimes we will be in a situation wherein everything is being thrown at us. Listening is a great characteristic of being a good designer. But how can you identify that a criticism is constructive or not?


Constructive criticisms are comments and questions that show genuine care and where the one who provided the criticism is willing to cooperate. They usually point out things that you need to improve on and sometimes provide answers and examples to guide you to the result you and your client wanted.


Destructive criticisms, on the other hand, are the commentaries with no substance. Mostly, pointing out the wrong things and basically just questioning everything without giving any necessary information to achieve their desired result are the form of this type of criticism.


It is hard for us to evaluate on the spot if the critique is good or bad, but it is also bad as well to defend a design without proper judgment of the critique. Take the time to analyze and choose the things that you think will help you and disregard the things that doesn’t. Listening and filtering the criticisms we hear can decrease the need for you to defend your design and just work on it, applying both yours and your clients’ notes.


Comprehend and question

In defending a design, either the designer or the client tend to put their focus on voicing out their opinions than to put their attention on hearing and understanding each other. These cause the feedback process to go in the wrong direction. And with it, it drags the chance for the output to be improved.


After listening and filtering comes the trust and empathy. As the job requires dealing with different kinds of people, creatives should know how to empathize and relate to others. Nobody wants to work with an insensitive and close-minded designer.


When the designer is finished assessing and comprehending the situation, comments, and suggestions, the designer can now ask questions to clarify things and make sure that information shared by the both parties are clear and understood. At the same time, clients or stakeholders should answer and provide efficient information to avoid confusion.


Work together

Democracy should always rule in terms of working in a team. All parties should be equal in giving notes and ironing out the design. Our team at MicroCreatives includes an in-house creative director and QA checker to ensure everything is up to standard and all issues fixed internally before the output reaches the client. However, it should also be noted that it’s still a responsibility of the client to offer a solution to an issue.


Defensiveness kills collaboration. So instead of spending so much time defending, why not invest the time to sort things out? The end product will depend on how the team, including the client, works.


Assess things

It is important for creatives to always see the bigger picture and contemplate not only on the things that are being criticized, but also why it is being criticized. Taking the end result in consideration is also an integral part of the process.


The feedback process is a cycle; it continues on and doesn’t change until something has been improved. It’s just simply answering the questions such as “What worked?”, “What didn’t work?”, “What are the things you like and didn’t like?” and “What are the things you need to work on?”


By doing this, you’ll give yourself an in-depth analysis on how you work and how you interact with other people you work with. You’re letting yourself grow by knowing your strengths and converting your weakness into great attribute. Isn’t that a much better use of your time than arguing?


It is inevitable to have situations where you have to defend your work to happen, but it is not impossible for you to divert it. So next time, let your piece defend itself, and all you have to do is listen, contemplate, and then ask questions. Designers are not here to impose things through their work, but rather create a design that will display what they think is best without setting aside their clients’ vision.