Why you should not criticise design

Design can be a critical field. Often criticisms occur, and it comes in various forms. A designer can be attacked on their aesthetics, they can be nitpicked on their idea, and more or less, it is not something fun.

It is not easy to be a good designer. We all know that, and that is probably why designers spend an obscene amount of time reading up type books, and improving critical thinking in order to come up with bigger and stronger ideas with equally strong aesthetics to back them up.

Yet, these improved sensitivity also means that we designers are increasing aware of the ugly things in life. A poster that is set in comic sans, or a signage that tries its best to fill itself up with all the information it physically allows. I think we designers hate ugly design; after all it is one of the reasons why we become designers. We, in a way, see ourselves as eradicators of the unrefined. Yet, while we should still strive to do good design, we have to stop hating the not so good ones.

I have been experimenting with a hypothesis of mine: ‘The more you criticise design, the worst your design becomes’.

Here is why I say that. When you criticise a design, what you do is enhance its negativity without understanding the reason why it is ugly, or ‘wrong’. When all you look at is on why it is wrong, you forget to look at what the design is doing right.

That negativity is forgettable. When you complain about the kerning or colour of a poster, it arrives in your short term memory. It is like you mom nagging at you to clean your room, she’s going to forget it, it is not something worth remembering because it is as simple as a reaction. Reactions are in the present, they are not transferable.

Your design is not going to improve just because you are capable of spotting these mistakes, for you are not taking the time to question why these mistakes are made.

I realised that when I stopped trying to spot what is wrong with the designs and focused on understanding what is going right with them, I was able to open my eyes to a new form of aesthetics. Because I was unable to bash on its ugly, I was able to look into the form in a neutral perspective. I start questioning why such aesthetics were perceived, and if the designer understands that he is doing things wrongly. I was in fact more observant than I ever was. While I was able to find disproportions in designs previously, I was now capable of looking beyond a purely superficial front. My design thinking got better because of it. The more irritated I got at a design, the more questions I ask myself on why it is, what it is, and how I could improve on it.

Another thing I noticed when I seized complaining, is that I started being a better person in general. I stopped looking at the industry in a negative light, and I stopped being judgemental to a fellow designer just because their design isn’t to my liking.

I started being more confident with myself. I no longer felt the need to prove that I was better just because I was able to spot what others could not. It feels that the more you hate, the more your doors close on you—Insecurities are often the loudest.

There was a research on individuals who thought they were lucky, or had lucky encounters. The researchers discovered that these people are generally more opportunistic simply because they think they are lucky; and in turn discover nuances that others do not. It is a play with perspective. Because I no longer think I need to be critical, my vision expands beyond its common playfield, and I start seeing and realising things that I’ve missed just because I wasn’t more accepting of the things around me.

I found that I was more articulated when I presented my ideas or remarked on a design, because I was capable of deconstructing the design to a form where it is no longer a personal attack. Overall, I think it pays to be just a little nicer to people.



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