An Artist's Perpsective on Criticism

“Association with my pupils has kept me young in my work. Criticism of their work has kept my own point of view clear.”
–William Merritt Chase


Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” plays from my laptop as I work tirelessly putting finishing touches on designs. Convinced that I had captured the essence of my project to a “T”, the last thing I needed, or wanted, was a second opinion. Or so I thought.

After pinning my work up for critique, I took my place among my peers. The critic was someone I respected: kind, confident and passionate. Though it was never his intent to embarrass, I often found myself leaving the critique sessions with my head held down, hoping no one noticed my tears.

Prior to seeking advice, I was unaware of the value of critique. Author, Business Etiquette Expert and Founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Jaqueline Whitmore, says this in her article 5 Tips for Gracefully Accepting Constructive Criticism, “constructive criticism, negative feedback or whatever you want to call it is essential to everyone’s self-development.” Check out her link at the end of this post.

By allowing others to contribute their creative suggestions and ideas, my designs generated positive reactions from my superiors. Even seasoned designers benefit from a second pair of eyes.

Whether you have years of [design] experience under your belt or just starting out, accepting criticism at work is an asset.

In the beginning, I found it difficult to allow any person into my creative process. When they tried convincing me to try another font on my typography project, or adjust the hue in one of my illustrations or to start over altogether, I automatically shut down. It took some time for the punch in the gut to subside and admit to myself that others wanted to see me succeed. Once I understood that, it became easier to shake off the feelings of discouragement and make necessary adjustments.

1. Involve your clients

Whether you’re a new startup company or a thriving business, develop a habit of asking for feedback. Don’t be afraid to give the people who run your company the floor. They are an invaluable source of insight. Choose to validate the ideas of your clientele by weaving them into your work. Ask them for their opinions. Are they satisfied with the work? In the end, you’ll thank them for their reviews—positive and negative.

2. Query your colleagues

You may gain fresh perspectives from both older and younger generations in categories such as life or work experience, modes of communication, technology and wisdom. Is there someone you respect at your job? Do you regularly ask him or her questions? After feeling mortified countless times, generational lines didn’t matter to me so much when I asked for input. In order to grow and become a successful artist, I welcomed all kinds of advice, and each person gave me something new to consider.
As a plus, you may head off client concerns by having your colleagues review the project. Learning how to accept suggestions will go a long way toward furthering your career. Make up your mind to be among the best in your field. Though it may sting a little, remind yourself that accepting criticism is a small price to pay for furthering your education, enhancing your business and growing professionally.

3. Apply new knowledge

When success hinges on client satisfaction, graciously embracing suggestions from those concerned can ultimately advance your business. Although constructive, destructive or even harsh criticism is rarely welcomed with open arms, it may uncover blind spots or other issues and may carry within it the seeds of improvement. How often do you ignore or implement changes suggested by clients?
In the face of outright criticism consider the motivation and source. Weigh whether or not they have your best interests at heart and if the adjustments would enhance your service or product. It is sometimes difficult to hear comments because of the way they are delivered. Consider the trustworthiness of your source and if the advice is grounded in wisdom. Exceed client expectations by remaining positive and open to hearing the good as well as the not so good from your client. In the end, listening to criticism can spark you into new creative ways of thinking and problem solving with the end goal of keeping your client happy.

Read Jaqueline Whitmore’s article here.

How has accepting (or not accepting) criticism affected your business or work life? Let us hear from you.

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