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When I ask (colleagues or other professionals) for critiques for design works/projects, I'm oftentimes not sure how to respond to it if I can't (honestly) say that I will implement the changes suggested by the critic. Often I can't do so (for several possible reasons, for example the project is already finished and changes are no longer possible), but I still find the feedback useful. Of course you could say there's no point in asking for feedback on finished work that I won't change anyway, but I still find it very helpful to get some criticism so I can learn from it for future projects.

But if I get some solid feedback, I'm at a loss at how to respond to it, since I want to get across that I did indeed find their input helpful, even though I won't be implementing any of it. If I just say exactly that and thank them (and maybe tell them why I can't change the design at this point), it feels dishonest.

How can I deal with such a situation? I'm not looking for a text that I can copy-and-paste, rather some advice on how to ask for or receive critiques and accept it without necessarily agreeing with/implementing all of it. Personally, I prefer to not argue about the criticism I receive at all (except if I didn't understand what they mean et c.), because there's nothing to be gained for either me or the person I'm asking. They told me their opinion, which I am grateful for, and it's up to me to agree or disagree with it, but they have no personal stakes in it so I don't have to 'defend' my design. However, not responding at all is of course suboptimal as well ...

EDIT: Since some people seem to have misunderstood, I do not mean asking clients for feedback. Rather asking collegues and other people with a professional background.

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    What makes you think you should implement anything anyone else says if they aren't the client? If some random person on the street comes up to you and says, "I don't like your haircut. You should change it." Are you saying you actually consider doing that? Or do you just say, "Okay. Thanks" and move on?? – Scott Feb 27 '17 at 21:55
  • @Scott Unsolicited critique would be something entirely different. My question was about critique I specifically asked for, which changes the expectations in this situation – MoritzLost Feb 27 '17 at 21:58
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    So if you ask some random person if they like your haircut and they respond "no" -- you then feel compelled to get a new one? I'm just saying opinions are opinions. If you, in general, live life by following the opinions of others you're in for an uphill climb. – Scott Feb 27 '17 at 21:59
  • @Scott I think your argument is specious, but as you said, opinions are opinions. It's a very subjective question anyway, so I guess for some people it's not even an issue. For me it feels uncomfortable, so I'm asking for advice on how to approach this type of situation – MoritzLost Feb 27 '17 at 22:01
  • Ok so you're not asking the client. We all get that now. There are many situations where you go with your intuition and move on. Don't over think it. – Lucian Feb 27 '17 at 22:06
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cri•tique
noun
a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory.

verb
evaluate (a theory or practice) in a detailed and analytical way. "the authors critique the methods and practices used in the research"

To answer bluntly, there is no implication that a designer will or should apply any suggestions that arise from a critique. The best way to satisfy the critic is to have a genuine dialog with said critic about your work. Recognize that their feedback is of value (unless it's absurdly malicious) by engaging in thoughtful discussion, adding your own ideas that build off of their notes. Since you are the designer, it's completely up to you if you want to explore any of the suggestions that come out of a critique.

Always keep in mind that design is subjective by nature, polarizing at times, so if you're looking for constructive feedback, try steering the conversation to more of the technical aspects of the work (execution, layout, color theory, etc.).

All of that being said, do not ask clients for critiques! To paraphrase Paul Rand, solve their problem and get paid. If somebody outside of the project, or you for that matter, recognizes something that could be executed better, carry it into the next project or explore that direction in your spare time.

  • +1, you get at it in your first bluntly-put statement, but it is sort of false that critique requires any discussion (thoughtful or otherwise). I have found, (having a BFA in Painting) that the most honest critiques are meant to be rhetorical. They are not discourse and the biggest critique faux pas is arguing for a position. Any argument or disagreement with their opinion, polite or otherwise is simply driving that person to defend their impressions. Any response, aside from a "thank you for your time," should be about clarification and go towards an apprehension of their intention. – Yorik Mar 2 '17 at 17:44
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People who succeed do not generally follow the opinions of others.

Think about it.. if everyone followed the opinions of others, there'd be no innovation, no creativity, no "style" to anything, nothing new ever.

Critique opinions are nothing different than any opinion. They may cause you to see something in a different manner. However, if you disagree, just say "Thank You" and ignore it.

Perhaps I just don't understand this question. I had work actually spit on in college... that opinion was expressed poorly.. and I also disagreed with it... so I ignored it (after cleaning the piece, ewww).

As posted, I may look at something different if someone points it out... but there's a chance that "difference" was intentional. my creativity NEVER needs to to conform to the opinions of others. (*clients excluded)

To me, this question is essentially asking.. "Should I be my own artist.. or just do what people tell me???" I may go so far as to say that you can't be a successful designer if you merely follow opinions. You can be a great at technical aspects and reproducing things for a specific purpose. But a "designer' generally needs to have an independent opinion and the ability to stand behind that opinion. Otherwise, you'd never develop anything special and therefore never set yourself apart for any other person out there doing similar work.

All that being posted... opinions regarding technical aspects are generally wise to listen to.

2

If it's criticism that you think is well-founded, it sounds like you answered your own question. If you can no longer change that specific project, but you can take the advice onward to your next projects, all you need to do is say so. Simply thank them for their feedback and say you will find it useful for future projects.

If you do find yourself disagreeing with their assessment, here's something non-argumentative you could do: Start by explaining your thought process, how that led you to make the design decisions that you did. That opens the conversation up to ask them what kind of route they might have taken when tackling the same problem, and where their process is different to yours. This approach can expand a simple criticism into something deeper about how that person approaches their work. The underlying reasons for their criticism are often more important than the simple fixes they might suggest.

Something like "there's too much red in your design" might become "I tend to use strong highlight colors like that sparingly, otherwise they tend to distract your eyes from the main content, or overwhelm the reader."

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If you re-read the definition of critique above, you can see that there is nothing inherent in a critique that states that you must implement the comments that arise from the critique. If this is how you understand a critique, then respectfully, I think that your understanding of a critique is off base.

Think about a critique as something like a brainstorming session--you are a designer, and you have a set of ideas that you are implementing in a design to solve a problem of some sort. When you reach out to other designers, you are not saying "fix my problems for me," but instead saying "this is the problem I am trying to fix, and here is my solution, what do you think?"

Assuming the critique is coming from a peer and not your supervisor or the client, then they shouldn't expect that you are going to implement their changes. If either you or they have that expectation, you are misunderstanding the concept of critique.

I will argue, however, that whenever you ask for a critique, you owe yourself and the critiquers the respect to really try and understand what they are telling you and why they are saying it. Whether or not you agree with their opinions or suggestions, a critique always gives you a new insight into how your work appears to someone who is not seeing it from inside of your brain. And that perspective can often point out areas of your work that aren't achieving what you want them to achieve.

When I have been struggling with a design problem, and have spent hours figuring out font selection, and kerning, and grids, etc., it can be really difficult just to stand back and see the design as a whole again. That is the gift that a critique gives me--by pointing out something that I hadn't even considered, or that a "just okay" solution to a problem still isn't working as well as you would like it to. So, for me, the real gift of a critique, and one that I always am thankful for, is how it enables you to "resee" your own work (whether I think the solutions offered are worth implementation or not).

1

If you ask for critique on a project that is closed or you are unable to change that should be clear up front, otherwise are you trying to fool someone, trick them into investing time and thought with a less than zero return? Frequently the desire to help others (through thoughtful consideration) pushes us to invest the time and effort to help others. If you ask someone to go through those steps with the reasonable expectation that their ideas will be given reasonable consideration and possibly implemented then you are doing both a disservice. Tell them up front that you are seeking conceptual help and that it's not likely that you can put any of the ideas to work in the project to be considered but are building your thought library for future consideration. Then it's up to them to help you under those honest and ethically given terms.

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Being a designer is a bit like being a developer or an engineer. Without releasing your stuff you are not in fact in one of the previously mentioned professions. Releasing changes everything, theres no magic if you can spend a eternity tweaking. But having to release puts you on a timetable where you need to prioritize your efforts.

This means that even with critique your work has to go out the door at some point. Its literally impossible to be perfect. Even if you think that the feedback is 100% valid there may be reasons to not implement those.

As others have mentioned critique does not bind you into anything. There are reasons to understand other peoples ideas and motivations even if you have no intention to implement them. After all its pretty common to ask for a sanity check and the person being asked delivers the answer too late for it to be of any use.

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When ever someone gives me some good critiques that is appreciative but I may or may not actually use, I usually politely thank them for their helpful information and that I can understand why they said what they said and generally just talk about the points I really agreed upon. Depending on what it is, like say for a project that is pretty much past the point of being able to implement such information, I will usually say something like thanks, next time I deal with something similar, I will be sure to keep this information in mind. That way it still lets them know you will use their information, but it may not be immediately if at all.

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A person who receives critique about his/her work should better think that if she or he, have had known those opinion offered by a critic at the beginning of the project/work (or anyone else), would have applied those ideas into his/her project? Try to set your perspective (after hearing critique) right back to the initial stage of the project. Then you can decide if those opinions are basically positive or not.

As a side point, people usually like people who have some sort of stability in their mental process and decisions; the above point is something of rationale, and contextually distinct, which makes the reaction of you (as a listener) more logical, calm and accurate (in terms of benefits).

Each idea has meaning in an appropriate context. For instance, an idea might be appropriate for a certain project only if the time and financial terms of the project do not meet strict limits.

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This is a broad and possibly confusing question, but some points could be made.

A confident designer is of value to a client, which will appreciate you for presenting your best work within a given time and budget. If you want the client to come back with more work and build a relationship, don't make it look like you are learning on their time and hesitate about your work.

If you are unsure about some intermediate draft, use the opportunity to direct feedback while the work is still in progress.

A closed and paid project is better than an open and unpaid one. If the client approved the work, presumably they had their chances to request updates where needed. You should not ask for feedback after delivery. Your only goal after delivery is payment.

  • I didn't mean asking a client for feedback, sorry if that was unclear. I usually only asked people that have nothing to do with the project (with some professional knowledge, so that I get more than 'it looks nice') – MoritzLost Feb 27 '17 at 21:31
  • Well then, what do you mean :) I'm probably going to delete this answer since it appears useless – Lucian Feb 27 '17 at 21:40
  • Well as I said, asking collegues and the likes for feedback. I still want to appear professional and polite if it's not a professional relationship – MoritzLost Feb 27 '17 at 21:41
  • Looking at your other questions here, i see you've been asking for similar advice before. Client or no client you need to improve your self confidence. No offence ok?! :) – Lucian Feb 27 '17 at 22:20

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