Criticize This

Criticism is a powerful tool. When wielded properly, it can result in greatness. However, with great power comes great responsibility.

Recently at Top Draw, we had the privilege of presenting an online concept to a client who just “got it”. Were they bouncing off the walls with ecstasy? Not entirely. While the ideas were preliminary, the client was compelled enough to engage in meaningful and critical dialogue. They understood the direction we were headed, the rationale behind the design, and could see the potential. From content and interactivity to social media integration, they questioned each aspect without malice in order to critically assess the value to the end user. It would be easy to think this meeting went poorly, but in the end we all walked away in silent contemplation (and admiration).

Personally, the most exciting aspect of this meeting was that it was challenging. As a designer, it’s refreshing to work with a client who wants to delve beyond the visual and get to the core. They challenged us to see beyond the surface and really evaluate the value this project would deliver to its users. They were critical yet insightful, knowledgeable, and constructive. As discussion went on and excitement increased, it was clear that everyone in the room was in agreement. This project is on track to be brilliant.

But it’s this type of critical thinking that is often missed or discouraged when engaging with clients. Blame it on our fears of rejection and disappointment. To ask a client more than ‘What do you think?’ is the first step. Ask them ‘Why?’ or ‘If we do this, is there value to our users?’, anything to move beyond the surface.

Criticism, when well-intended, is a powerful tool. It has the ability to make our projects, and ourselves better.

Mark Yiu, Director of Design and Usability