Why Is It Important
Feedback is something that helps us become better as people and as professionals.
However, it is very relative. Someone could write a whole essay about your work and it won't actually make sense or bring anything valuable to the table, but a true vetted pro could literally scribble a few lines and it would help you A LOT.
What I wanted to say is that feedback can exist in many different shapes and forms, and nobody should take every person's words to their heart: whatever they are saying might not even be true.
Let's take a small journey and learn how to differentiate a valuable piece of advice and something that you should probably shrug off, and why is it important to have some good feedback (not positive, but good in quality) in general.
Let's imagine you're a young freelancer or just starting your career as a junior designer at some company.
You have no experience dealing with clients and colleagues whatsoever, especially in this environment: it's not a school anymore, you have to work for results and money.
The reason why I decided to take the designer as an example is this: it's a very abstract job with many decisions that can be interpreted in a lot of ways. Still, there is much basic stuff that you have to learn and do right before you can consider yourself good. The same goes for feedback. This analogy is perfect for an explanation.
Congrats, you've got a new project on your hands, and it seems like it's your first one.
Before you start getting very anxious, please remember that everybody has to go through this; I know it might not help you with anxiety, but it's true. You will get better at what you are doing, and it's okay!
Now, whether you have a team or work for yourself, you will start working and getting some feedback (hopefully!).
Who Is It Coming From?
A client. If the feedback coming from your client, you always should take it with a grain of salt. You may be inexperienced, but chances are you're still more knowledgeable in design than they are.
What you want to do is sit down and think about whether their complaints actually make good sense.
Some people can talk in very ambiguous terms that don't qualify as good feedback:
I don't like those wiggly lines.
It's not good feedback. It doesn't mean that they are not good and it won't make your designs better in any way.
A colleague. That may be completely another case: fellow designers are actually people you may listen to, but there are still some things you should consider like their experience, their projects and whether you like them, etc.
If it's your team member and a senior one, that's a good opportunity to get better. They know how to give valuable feedback to you, something that will help you get better.
These lines don't really have a place in this composition. You may try this or that. I could show you what to do in this case if you want.
Now that's good, and you can ask for help: seeing how a pro works is a good learning experience.
You can also ask them what they are thinking when they do the thing you asked them to help with, hearing the process and the logic behind the decisions is very important.
Should I Argue?
Nobody says that you shouldn't say anything, but don't make a scene out of it. To become a better professional, you should learn to take constructive criticism as something positive and good for your work.
Should I argue with a client? You might want to try and get your point across on why you made the decision to do something and what value does it create.
If you believe that your decision would actually work better than theirs, please do say that to them and explain why. They are by no means work in your field and it's part of your job to try and create the best experience for the client's clients and they are your priority!
Should I argue with a fellow designer? There's always a place for some good discussion in design. The only point that I want you to remember is that there is some basic knowledge that you should learn perfectly before getting into those discussions.
As I've said already, design is a very abstract thing, and everything is open to interpretation. Different people do this job in completely different ways, having their own style. This is what you should talk about with fellow designers, take your vision of the project and say what you would do in this case.
Should I give feedback as well? Given that you are not very experienced yet, chances are you won't make any valuable contribution, but!
You have to cultivate the ability to give feedback. In a year or two, you will become ten times better and will welcome new people in the field yourself. The time to pass your knowledge will come, and you have to be ready.
From the very start, try and be that person that you wanted to hear feedback from when you were just starting.
So How Do I Know if Feedback Is Good?
To make this a little easier for you, let's bring out our old bullet point friends to help:
- Good feedback comes from people from your field of work only.
- Good feedback can be both long and short, its length has nothing to do with its value.
- Good feedback contains constructive criticism that comes from knowledge and experience, not a personal preference.
- Good feedback contains valuable advice that contains a possible solution to the problem that you are facing.
These five easy steps are the only thing that you'll need to differentiate different types of feedback on your journey.
You can always read and listen to what anybody has to say, but you're in no way required to do as they say.
Where Can I Find Good Feedback?
There are lots of communities that can help you if you're stuck or just wants somebody to give some feedback on your work.
Look for groups on Slack or servers on Discord, I'm sure there are plenty on those.
If you have a friend working with you or at least in the same field, you can give each other an honest opinion on the job they did.
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to hear a pro's feedback (or any, really), even if it's not very positive, even if it's not from a pro. Apart from getting better at your hard skills, cultivating good feedback practices should be your priority as well.