today’s advice posts are for artists in general (not just freelancers). Q: how to get back on track after bad criticism on a design you made?

everyone has an opinion. the trick is to only listen to the ones that matter. if the criticism came from a designer you admire, ask them why they think it’s bad. they may (or may not) have some good feedback that could help you. ask them what they would’ve done. it’s up to you if you want to listen.

if it were me, i wouldn’t waste another second thinking about what joe-shmoe said on your latest design. who cares what they think?! if you’re happy and the client loves what you’ve done, that’s all that matters. don’t dwell, move on.

we have all been there. and criticism doesn’t necessarily get easier to swallow, but katie is right, you can’t dwell on it. i remember at my first job there was an art director that really held me back. he would look at the projects that I would submit and wouldn’t say a word. he would just change everything I did ( after awhile, I thought graphic design wasn’t for me). I still wish he had just TOLD me how I could have improved or why his designs were better. but that experience only made me stronger and more appreciative of people that criticized my work, because at least I knew they were trying to help me grow. well, most of them. some people are just bullies.

and people have different taste! not everyone is going to love what you create. and that’s totally fine!

(illustration by katie evans. more freelance advice posts are here.)


Add your own

    Kendra says:

    this is such great advice, it can be so hard to hear criticism of something that you worked so hard on, but i suppose if it is constructive then you can grow from it. another helpful advice post 🙂

    Shari Hanson says:

    THANK YOU! This was exactly what I needed today. I’m a photographer, and just had kind of a “slap in the face” day yesterday when I found out (through FB) that a client hired another photog for her kids, after inquiring with me and never responding to the info I sent her. kinda hurt. made me feel like crap actually.

    this is the kind of attitude I need to adopt more often. thank you for reminding me that it’s ok to IGNORE those kinds of negative things, and just KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON!

    xoxo from Huntington Beach, CA

    Ellen says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with “people have different taste.” You can’t possibly create something that everyone will universally like, and that’s OK! On the other side, we need to be able to recognize when something just isn’t our taste. Constructive criticism and advice can be welcome, but there is no need to be a jerk when something’s not for you

    Oh man, I’m so glad your old boss didn’t totally change your mind about graphic design, Bri. Obviously, it was meant for you. I need to take this to heart, especially since I’m an artist. Everything I create is subject to criticism. I can take constructive criticism, but not outright rude comments.

    eva burns says:

    Thanks you two. I just love this column. It’s always such a confidence booster!

    Laura Mason says:

    I still cringe and hate when designing for a client and they totally diss on my “amazing-wonderful-design” for them, like totally shoot it down, when I happened to be really impressed and happy with it thinking they are going to be stoked at what a great design I did for them! haha! I feel like it always seems that the client wants something that I know will look soooo bad but I have to do it to make them happy, and while doing it I just quiver not wanting to do it, to ruin it, and they always seem to like it when things are way off, or really crowded, bad colors, not “in” I just wish that designers had the final say, I’d say we know what we are talking about more then joe-shmoe haha! I wish I wish!

    Rou says:

    I’m so glad you have this advice column. I really appreciate hearing what you both have to say. a million thanks!!

    Pink Ronnie says:

    I’ve had to learn to create emotional distance between myself and my designs. Even if I love something but the client doesn’t, at the end of the day, it’s their call. Very hard, though, especially when I think that their decision is a bad one!
    Even though criticism is hard, it’s helped me to grow and to challenge myself as a designer… “KEEP ON, KEEP ON” is right on.
    Ronnie xo

    Nancy says:

    Great advice!!! Sometimes it hard to take criticism but you guys are right, not everyone will love your work. Not everyone loves or understands a Mondrian painting. To each his own. Thanks guys.

    Mindi says:

    I’ve been encouraging my beau to take on more freelance screen printing work (he wants to, just doesn’t know how!) and your advice has been so valuable, Katie and Bri. Thank you, thank you.


    bri says:

    ronnie – i totally know what you mean! i am so sensitive because I put a lot of emotion into my work. i used to get so upset and had to learn to control that a lot better. you can’t let the criticism feel like a personal attack, because it’s not!

    ashley says:

    I design for a church. And ultimately, there are many times you get the nursery coordinator telling you how to design (though you don’t tell them how to coordinate babies) and you get lots of opinions. My favorite moment just happened recently. I was at camp (as a rec leader) and we were passing out the Camp Tshirts, which I designed, and one miscreant and misguided teen boy asks “are those the camp shirts?”… Of course I say “Yes”. His heartfelt response was, “Well, that sucks.” At that moment I could have been like, OMG I KNOW RIGHT?!!? But really, I just had to let it roll off. Its not my fault I didn’t give him some super cool Ed Hardy 😉

    taschenmaus says:

    totally Great Advice! i agree with you, Bri. sometimes is not so easy to take criticism. I was very upset at my boss when i was doing my internship at some advertising agency. she just said to me, that i didn’t have any skill at all and just couldn’t design. Although, i have done so many projects and the clients were satisfied with my works. well, at that time i was very down because i have put my effort to do my best on every project i worked,as an intern. but then again, i just thought that i have to move on and not to think about what she says. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.