A designer by definition is one who is responsible for, well.., designing. It is the designer who comes up with solutions to a design problem. A designer tackles design problems with artistic intuition, creative process and career specific knowledge that other members of the organization may lack.
Unless you are designing for yourself, a designer’s work is subject to review and approval by someone else. Whether that someone else is a client, stakeholders, manager, or business leaders, someone always has something to say. (I’ll refer to them as reviewers from here on.)
As a result, it isn’t uncommon for designers to feel that too often they are given design directions by non-design people. Designers complain that they are being asked to do things that are in conflict with their intuition, design principles or what they believe is right. Many designers end up making changes against their will. Some even literally apply the feedback verbatim as they were blurted out during the meeting. Not only the integrity of design is compromised, many frustrated and exhausted designers complain that they have become mere order takers and that creativity is gone from their role as a designer.
Which is partly true. Creativity isn’t required if all you do is exactly as told. A reviewer may say “I think it needs to be bold”, “we need to add this and that” or “I think it needs a line over here or there” or whatever. Sometimes the feedback appropriately points out things that designer may have overlooked. But what if you strongly disagree with what’s been said? What if those are things you’ve already tried that didn’t work? This is the critical moment when a designer must seek for an opportunity to be creative. This would be the moment that dictates whether a designer accepts being an order taker or continue to be a designer, a problem solver.
It’s important to remember reviewers are not designers. In most situations, they are not consciously giving design directions as much as it may sound as if they are. They are simply reacting to the issue in question. Designers must learn to analyze these reactions and pinpoint what may have caused such reaction and provide solutions. We have to remember that most of these reactions are impulsive and instantaneous much in the same way a test participant would react in user testing sessions.
When I’m tasting something that I think is bland, I might say “I think it needs some salt.” But I’m not a cook. I have no clue what other ingredients are involved or how they affect each other. It may or may not be salt. But due to my lack of knowledge in culinary arts, that’s probably all I can say as far as my reaction goes.
A seasoned cook would not take my feedback seriously especially if salt is not the solution. Likewise, a seasoned designer should learn how not to take every feedback literally.
Never resort to “well they asked for it. I’ll just give it to them” type of mentality. That is the worst thing a designer could do in a situation and will only lead to disaster. Not only for the design project in question but for designer’s career as well.
Once we discover the root cause of the reaction, we have the opportunity to solve the problem using our creative judgment. Take it as an opportunity to give back more than what was asked. Most reviewers are appreciative that the designer took the extra effort to address the problem and are rarely upset their literal words are ignored. Because it wasn’t ignored. The feedback functioned as a catalyst for the solution. Most reviewers realize this and are pleased that they were part of the solution.
As a creative individual, a designer has the power to turn things around even in seemingly unfavorable situations.
Think about the proverb “Instead of complaining that the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.”