On Critique

Critique is the heart of design—we do it in groups, constantly in our own heads, and hear it from everyone (“qualified” or not). It is part of a designer’s being to look at something, rearrange, break it down, build back up, and polish, polish, polish. It’s no wonder we are a very critical community.

Alex Griendling’s post about the design community’s reactions to redesigns brought up a lot of good points.

The inevitable response is for designers to feverishly produce their own alternative; the most prominent examples being 2010’s Gap redesigniTunes logo and the Jay-Z designed Brooklyn Nets’logo in 2012. This practice is a poor representation of the design process, disrespectful to other designers, and poisonous to the general public’s perception of our profession.

He points out that while we all look down upon crowdsourcing for disrespecting the process of design and cheapening what we do, we turn around and do the same thing to our peers who have worked long hours on a major redesign.

One of the best things you can do as a designer is to be open about your process so that not only do you have a chance to justify your decisions, but so other designers (and clients for that matter) can learn. My friend Jared wrote a great post last year describing POLITICO Pro’s responsive redesign (not that anyone was attacking any of his decisions)—it was great to see the lifecycle and factors influencing his choices.

I feel that evaluating other’s work is important to keeping sharp critical thinking skills, but I will admit I get uncomfortable at how some people voice their criticism. Designers don’t work in vacuums, and so going on about how mediocre a logo is without any background information falls flat. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t really like the Nets logo either, but there are a TON of logos I don’t like. Design isn’t about what end product I “like”, it’s a process that is informed by many sources and goals.

Of course I am not saying to not criticize, it is vital to the industry that we do. Just have a little empathy and respect for your fellow designer, especially on the internet—where clients, students, and your mom can see you.