How to give yourself constructive criticism

If you’re a designer or a creative individual then you know that an important part of your career involves receiving constructive criticism from others. However, somewhere amongst the meetings, client phone calls, changes and edits it can be easy to forget the importance of self-criticism. If you think about it, we are the ones responsible for the final outcome of the design. It’s not the clients jobs to spend their time going over the design with a magnifying glass or correcting design direction because their designer didn’t bother to follow the brief. A designer needs to be able to spot their own mediocre mistakes and be honest with themselves if the work isn’t up to par.

Don’t be good, be great!

There are many factors that determine the success of a project. Some creative individuals are comfortable with completing the same quality of work day in day out just to pays the bills. If you’re a designer that is obsessed with improving your skills, then you’re the type of the designer who picks apart your work whenever the opportunity arises. You do this not just because you are your own harshest critic, but because you’re striving to find ways to better your skill set. These are the type of designers clients want to consistently work with.

Did it solve the problem?

Once you’re ready to review your own work, always refer back to the creative brief! Make sure your design ticks the boxes and solves the underlying design issues you were hired to fix in the first place. If your design looks great but doesn’t complete the objective in the brief then it's probably time to go back to the drawing board. 

Analyse and dissect

When you are reviewing your work, try to find any issues or possible problems with the construction of the overall design by analysing the following:

  • Elements: Line, shape, form, colour, space, texture
  • Principles: Balance, proportion and scale, contrast, repetition and pattern, unity and harmony
  • Composition: Framing, dominance/hierarchy, fore/middle/background

It may only take a small change to the alignment of text, or the tweaking of spacing to take your design from mediocre to professional.  

How does it stack to their competitors?

Placing your own creative work next to a competitor's work is a great way to see the standard at which your work is currently at. To push forward, research and analyse what your competitors are doing right and try to achieve a better result with your own work.

Trust your gut

If you look at your own work and you’re not happy with it, this generally means something is not right. It also means that the client will more than likely pick up the same issue. Remember to analyse and dissect to find the root of the issue.

Appreciate the good and learn to let go

Self-critiquing is not about beating yourself up. You should think of it as an exercise to help you improve your skill set. Take each day has a new challenge and don’t let yourself fall into the trap of holding on to the mistakes you previously made.

Don’t let perfection kill your project or miss a deadline. Remember you're designing for your client not for yourself. Sometimes you just have to let go and see where it lands. That’s where the “revisions rounds” come in. With some constructive criticism from the client, you will be able to work hard during these revisions to get the work done right.

Pushing your skills to the next level is an absolute must in today's market. Creative industries are super competitive so you need to decide if you’re going to compete with the average designers or level up and aim for the top. If it’s the latter, I hope this gives you the motivation to create innovative work where self-reflection is key to your creative practice.