Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Dear Bonnie: Pondering in Ponderosa

Dear Bonnie,

I want to know your thoughts regarding design criticism. I have been noticing lately that in comparison to other industries/professions, designers spend a great deal of time critiquing and commenting on other people’s work, especially with digital platforms like Behance, which allow us to see other people’s work instantly. To what extent do you think this is healthy? Is this kind of criticism constructive?

Pondering in Ponderosa

Dear P.,

Yes and yes! I think criticism is very healthy and very constructive. Graphic design is a public event. It is a mode of visual communication between people, even when it’s business to business. Critical dialogue is an expansion and amplification of that messaging, but in words. Words offer something much more absolute than pictures. Words can create an entirely different understanding, interpretation and meaning of a single image. 

Critiques are an opportunity to see how design has been perceived by others. Since much of the experience of graphic design is so subjective, it’s always revelatory to read commentary and better understand the experience of seeing something through someone else’s eyes. It doesn’t negate your own feelings, but simply expands your knowledge of how something works or doesn’t. These interactions are also testimony to the complexity and importance of design.  

The most important thing when reading critiques of your own work is to put your ego aside (see Hannah’s reaction to the critique of her creative writing on this week’s episode of Girls for a perfect example of failing to do just that). Being defensive or taking things personally will get in the way of properly digesting what has been said or written. You can be pissy later, but really any criticism and any dialogue is a gift. The time to worry is when work fails to generate criticism or dialogue. 

And, FWIW, I think every industry has its share of self-criticism and praise. You are just more keenly aware of ours.

We want to hear from you! Send your questions for Bonnie to [email protected] 

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