‘Is that the best you can do?’ ‘You did a poor job.’ ‘I bet I can do this in a twinkle of an eye.’ ‘Am I to pay you for this?’ ‘I’m not feeling it.’ Over my few years of working as a graphic designer, these statements have been the norm with regards to criticizing a design project done. These statements seem like the genuine expressions of the client’s thoughts but can have damaging emotional effect on the designer. Most especially when he/she goes the extra mile to produce great design solutions and can be proven great from colleagues in the design field. We (some Graphic Designers and I) tend to be very defensive of our creative work. This leads to certain forms of arguments sometimes. It keeps most designers downthrown and can lead to low productivity. However, situations like this will never cease as long as designer-client relationships exists. So I ask, how can a designer not be affected by negative comments/critics? How can he get clients to share into our ideas and concepts?

Here are some steps I gathered to help control this practice to a large extent.

1. Clear Explanation and Presentation Of Ideas/Concept

‘Design is subjective’, this is the statement made by most intelligent people. It is arguably true. Most people explain design ideas/concepts based on the orientation, exposure, education, values and beliefs of the designer. This may not necessarily favour the designer’s concepts or thoughts. Hence, it is imperative to have a well explained thought process or concept to help the client better appreciate the level of work done. Always make it a point to add brief notes to the design projects before sending to clients for feedback.

2. Emotional Detachment

Most designers are found of emotionally attaching themselves to their creative works. Any negative comment passed on their work can be depressing, and seem very much like a personality hunt. We who take things personally most often end up blowing out of proportion. That said, it is necessary to emotionally separate your creative work from your personality. This enables you to come to terms with how inadequate your creative work seems. Note your mistakes and start improving upon it. Most importantly, treat every negative critic as targeted towards the creative work not you.

3. Co-creation

This is a great addition to the design process of recent times. Co-creation involves the client in the creative process at every stage. The client shares his thoughts throughout the creation process, keeping him up to speed. At the presentation stage of the creative work, the client is now well grounded with your concepts. This reduces the unacceptability of the final work as compared to working in isolation.

4. Make Your Competencies Clear

Some clients expect mountains when the brief talks about mole hills. This means that they expect way more than what is expected. They are not satisfied with what designers come up with. When that happens, it is very necessary to make the client know what they should expect and what your competencies are. Clearly state what’s in the brief and what should be expected. This keeps you in check with the expectations of the client.

5. Guide Your Client

‘I’m not feeling it’, is one particular statement most designers hear when dealing with some clients. These clients are very much indecisive and can’t pin point what the problem is. This can be frustrating at times. They keep saying, ‘I don’t know much about design but it doesn’t work for me.’ When that happens, you need to help the client through. For example, talk about the elements in your creative piece that do not work for him. Is it the symbol used that is inappropriate? Is it the colours used that do not portray the brand values? With this, you will know the root cause of the problem. Here, you can ascertain whether the criticism was based on personal preferences or what is best for the brand.

Finally, I’d like to say that it is important to pay attention to the little mistakes your client points out, listen carefully to their inputs and make the most of them. Do less of the defense tactics and take responsibility for your actions. Take the constructive aspect of the criticism and let go of the rest. Always remember that great designers are those who love criticism.

Writer: Churchill W. W. Amenyedor, Creative head & team lead (The Brand Visualizer)

Edited by Rex Krampa, Columnist (News Ghana)

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