Friday, July 28, 2006

the critique of the creative

As creative people, graphic designers (as well as people in other creative disciplines but for now we'll focus on designers) need to experience what is most often referred to as a critique. Yes, I'm talking about the times when our work is put up for display...and informal/formal comment. The time when observers pick apart and dissect our work. Sometimes the observer(s) gut our work to the point where the only thing that remains is someone saying "it appears to be a flimsy piece of paper with what appears to be a....wait...yep, I think it was....YES, it was a design!".

Sometimes those critiques leave us feeling good about ourselves, other times we're feeling as if someone is standing on our chest. But if we're truly as educated/talented/professional/worthy of our titles as we say we are, we'll see the critique for what it's worth: comments from an observer that to varing degrees need to be taken into account if we're to grow as creatives. It's not a personal attack, it's a donation of time that is intended to help the designer who's work is up for critique. Regardless of how difficult it can be to hear a critique of our work, giving a critique requires just as much responsibility.

Remember, our job as graphic designers is to communicate in a way that has both function and appropriate, yet aesthetically pleasing, form. When we're analyzing another designer's work, we need to remember that. Some designers will go into the critique with their ego's leading the way and others will go into it blindly, grasping onto others comments hoping to ride the bandwagon to safety. Honesty with respect is the best way to go. Tell them what you think. Don't be afraid to voice your educated perspective but respect the designer and leave opinion out of it as much as possible (or preface the comment(s) with "...and this is my opinion..."). The easiest way I've found to approach a critique is to keep in mind four points:

1. What is the concept behind the design?
2. Does it function based on the principles of design? (weighing those principles against the included design elements)
3. Does the aesthetic compliment and support the function?

4. Is it a well developed aesthetic?

These key points will, in my opinion, prevent you from providing too much opinion and not enough meaningful comments. Don't waste everybodys time. Be honest. Be respectful. Most important...stay focused.

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