Anything you can do...

I’ve noticed a trend that’s been growing in popularity over the past couple of years in the design community: the unsolicited critical opinion. Usually in the form of comments on a community site or an article, the focus of these “posts” is to share some sort of negative feedback on a piece of work. More often than not, the feedback is delivered in an unconstructive, snobby tone that detracts from the possibility of helping fellow designers to improve their work or correct their mistakes.

This sort of behavior creates an incredibly poisonous environment. Perhaps for older, more weathered designers it’s easy to pass off hypercritical feedback, but for younger designers just getting their start it has the potential to be fatal. Instead of teaching each other how to get better, we’re suggesting that nothing is ever good enough. Expectations are being set so high that it’s discouraging to even want to try. It makes design look like some sort of good ol’ boys club.

The part about all of this that really turns my stomach is that you see this sort of behavior from people who have quite literally come to be who they are because of support from the community. I recognize names that used to be nobodies, slamming the work of other, less experienced designers. When I started out on the web seven years ago, this sort of attitude was rare and when it did appear it was quickly stomped out. Now this sort of nose in the air pedantry is lauded as the next best thing.

This needs to stop. We should be encouraging one another, not wasting energy breaking spirits and boasting our ego’s. Design is tough and being a good designer is even tougher. Feedback is fine (great, even), but when it’s delivered in a way that’s obviously meant to harm rather than help, it only serves to lessen the meaning and value of what we do.

If you’re in the fortunate position of having more knowledge than someone, teach them. When a young designer posts their new project, focus on the positives and where flaws do exist, give them guidance on how to improve (e.g. suggesting a book or article that helped you – even an article you wrote yourself).

Push the industry forward, not backward. Realize that all of the people starting out now will be in your shoes one day. Foster an environment and an attitude that’s focused on improving the craft, not the self.