1 How to prepare yourself for criticism: “My six-year old could have done that.”1.1 “Bounce-back-ability”1.2 Confidence in the “rigorous” process1.3 “I could have done it”1.4 The 2012 example1.5 “It is easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.” How to […]
How to prepare yourself for criticism: “My six-year old could have done that.”
Designers at all stages of their careers can find it a turning point when they work with well-known brands. Projects not only have the potential for more work, but they can also be seen as prominent, with wider audiences, larger budgets, and a greater sense of importance.
Studio after studio can confirm that when projects for well-known clients go public, there is often a torrent of criticism, regardless how great the work. This can be difficult to swallow when so much effort is put into a project.
Of course, creative directors must remind clients about the long-term benefits of a brand rebrand. They also need to point out where it adds value.
But it is also the work that is the focus. So when the internet offers a global, anonymous platform, designers can deal with criticism.
Many designers accept criticism as part of their job. Daisy Grice, DesignStudio’s designer, explains that “when you release new work as an artist, you’re always looking forward to seeing what happens.”
She continued: “It’s also an excellent test of your metal – having a ‘disqus’ (online commenting platform) chain challenge your handing and being able to laugh it off are easier said than done.”
Younger designers may not realize how resilient they can be to criticism, even though it is out of the public’s view. Bulletproof global creative director Nick Rees tells Design Week that most creatives working in a professional setting come with a level of “bounce-back-ability” built in.
He says, “You put your heart, blood, and tears into a design. But before it leaves the building you will need to show it off to a creative director, who might kick the pants out of it.” After that, you need to talk with the client and then conduct research.
Designers must be able “dust yourself off and get at it again” at every stage of the design process. This makes them “criticism-proof to a degree”, even though their resilience may feel tested.
Confidence in the “rigorous” process
It’s not easy to accept, even though it’s an important part of the job. This is especially true when it comes to public criticism. Rees says that designers are naturally inclined to criticize themselves.
He says that experience gives you the confidence to know that your work was good. Rees gives the example of Bulletproof’s recent work with Cadbury, in which the team gave the confectionery giant a new look, complete with a redrawn logo and packaging inspired by the brand’s rich design heritage.
The UK tabloids were critical of the Cadbury rebrand, with headlines saying that the work had cost PS1million – which Rees claims is totally false. Rees claims that they followed a rigorous process throughout which assured both the client and the team that the work was done correctly.
He says, “Everything you do in your career as a designer begins with consumer insight.” People tend to become frenzied when media sensationalise and spike.
“I could have done it”
Paul Franklin, the creative director of Red&White, a London-based design studio, shares this opinion. He says that part of their approach is anticipating what kind of criticism they will get and preparing clients to explain why it’s the best way to do the project.
Last year, for example, the Red&White team launched its rebrand of BT, a project which gave a renewed aesthetic simplicity to the telecoms giant. Franklin said that they informed the client about the potential backlash that a rebrand could cause, to instill confidence in their design.
He says that in our initial presentation to the client, our team told them what they could expect when the rebrand was first released to the public: “I could have done this” or even “My six-year old daughter could have done it’.” “But simplicity was our ultimate goal – an identity that could be used in multiple spaces and easily remembered for a company this large needed to be simple.
Franklin said that Franklin was reassured by the comments made by the focus groups and the general public.
The 2012 example
While preparing for criticism is one aspect of the process, instilling confidence in clients about how long it might take for a design to be accepted is another. Franklin and Rees both give an example of the London 2012 Olympic Games identity designed by Wolff Olins.
It was widely praised by both designers and the general public when it was first revealed. Franklin believes that the majority of the acceptance was due to the fact that viewers were able to see the design in context across all the touch points required for such an event.
Ben Wright, DesignStudio’s founder and chief operating office, says that context is an important thing to keep in mind when you are critiquing work online.
He says that a brand is more than a logo or a color palette. A brand is much more. “Any rebrand will attract many opinions from the design community as well as the public when it is launched. Therefore, we must evaluate its impact over time and not just the day it launches.”
Franklin summarizes the situation for brands that are well-known or those who have a lot of attention to them by saying, “These things take time and it could take a couple years for a really large project – sometimes you just need to see through the backlash.”
“It is easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.”
Rees says that designers should not be afraid to invent because of the inevitable backlash. Rees says that designers might be better off seeking out boundary-pushing ideas in certain cases.
He says, “The truth is that people don’t always like what you do when you deal with their favourite brands.” Bulletproof has learned over the years that when there is criticism from the public, it is a sign that Bulletproof has made major changes. This is what we strive for.
“Ultimately, it’s much easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”
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