I'm in several Facebook groups, most of which are focused on entrepreneurship in some way. In a few of the groups, people will often ask the group for some constructive criticism on their new website, their latest photo shoot, their newly written copy, etc.
And, probably 85% of the time, the post ends with something along the lines of, "I'm new, so don't be too harsh..." or "Please only comment with kind feedback..." and so on. As a designer, trust me - I know that it can be hard to put yourself and your work out there for all to see and judge.
My first experience with constructive criticism
In college, one professor always did our project critiques in front of the class. One by one, we would walk to the front of the room with our USB in hand. Pull up the image of our project on the computer screen, which was connected to a projector, and then sit awkwardly in the silence. Depending on how you did, the professor would either ask the class what they thought, or would immediately jump to the constructive criticism. Most times, we also had to answer questions and defend our work, and our choices, to the professor.
Looking back, those four years of constructive criticism were good for me. (Isn't that how all dreadful situations end up?) It thickened my skin, first of all. But, it made me a better designer, and it can help you, too. When you're in the process of creating – blog graphics, newsletters, ebooks, etc. – it's easy to get tunnel vision. You get stuck on this idea of a big, bold font on a blue background, and every other idea just seems like trash.
Where to get it
In my day-to-day, I see constructive criticism happening in two places.
1. Facebook groups
This is a great place to get constructive criticism from a large group of people in different industries. Chances are, when you post in a Facebook group, you're likely to get feedback from a variety of users – web designers, copywriters, coaches, etc.
Why is this good? Because you're getting feedback from people in different areas, with different opinions and experience. If you're posting your work in a specific group of people in the same industry – like posting your photography in a photographer's group – even better. It can be scary to show your work to peers in your industry, but that type of community will be the most help. Your peers have similar backgrounds and expertise as you, and can help you with what they've learned and experienced on their own.
Could this be bad? Yes. If the group is not part of your target audience, the feedback should be carefully considered before you implement. If you are a fashion blogger, don't ask for feedback in a mom's group. If you are looking for feedback on your new website or new logo, look for feedback in groups that you know have branding and web designers in them.
2. Your designer
If you're not DIY-ing your website or logo, then the likely scenario is that you are working with a designer. I can't speak for every designer, but in general, I think most designers try to point their clients in the right direction. If you're asking us to use Comic Sans, or a low-resolution photo, we're going to try our hardest to avoid either of those things.
During the process of working on a client's project, there are times that require me giving some constructive criticism.
- I think five paragraphs is too long for a bio on each of your team members.
- I think you should get rid of your blog if you can't keep up with it.
- I think this page is going to be too cluttered with 15 slideshows.
Why is this good? Because you're getting feedback from an experienced professional. You hired your designer for a reason – price, style, personal recommendation, etc. If you're paying them to work with you, you should trust their judgment. If you can't trust what they're saying is for your best interest, then why did you hire them?
Could this be bad? Yes. (Did you think I would say no?) Feedback from your designer can be bad in one particular scenario: they're designing for themselves. Your designer should be talking with you about your business, your goals, your audience. If ever your designer says, "Well, I like the color pink more, so that's what color I'm going to use on your website." .... run. Run far away.
Why is it a gift?
Maybe it's not all rainbows and sunshine having people critique the hard work you've put into your business. It's hard for even me to ask peers to look at my website or products, etc. But, it's helped me grow and improve my business. Like I said earlier, we can get tunnel vision working on our own things. Just remember, when you're asking for feedback, that it's not personal. It's business.