How to Handle Criticism in The Design Industry

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Author: Jillian Dinnie, Design and Merchandising

We know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and no matter how much experience you have, not everyone is going to agree with your expertise. Design can be a vulnerable industry with how subjective it is. Despite the negative connotation, criticism often presents an excellent opportunity to grow as a designer. Once you can align your expectations and understand that criticism is part of the process, you can use it to your advantage.

Here are some ways to use criticism to your advantage.

Uncovering areas of improvement, you are unable to see yourself. Our ways of doing things can become so deeply ingrained in our process that they hard to break. Criticism can give you a new perspective on how you do something and that it may be time to try another way to improve it. Like colors and textiles, how you style dining tables, bookshelves, and coffee tables changes with trends too, and a good designer will put their touch on current trends.  

Developing communication skills.  If nothing else, dealing with criticism can dramatically improve the way, you communicate. Having open communication with your client to understand your process and the outcome of a design is vital before taking action.

Design what you love. If you are passionate, confident, and trust your gut, no level of criticism will make you question your work. Your style may not be approved by everyone but adhering to design concepts of scale, proportion, and telling a story in your work will always show your abilities as a designer.

Newfound motivation. Designers often feel they are only as good as their last project, and praise for something they have done in the past wears off quickly. Criticism can motivate you to learn a new design skill, technique and put your best work into your next project.

A lesson in humility.  Humility can keep you grounded as a designer, making you more aware of your shortcomings and what can go wrong. Having a bit of humility can make you more open to learning from others too. Going as far as to thank your critic can create a lasting impression and prove you are working criticism to your advantage.

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