Dealing with Feedback

Some of the most liked retweets of an Adaptive Path article[1] from the Design community highlighted these sentences,

There’s such a culture of critique around design deliverables that doesn’t exist with any other deliverables. For designers, a typical day is everyone telling them what’s wrong with their work.

At Shopify, which prides itself on opinionated employees (many other companies would jump to identify themselves as having this too), there are at least nine different ways a Designer will get feedback. That’s just counting the ones that aren’t including random passerbys. So, how do you deal with that?

What’s their place in all this?

Yes, you should be critical about criticism. It does not make you stubborn because not all opinions are created equal. You could uncover things you don’t know that they do (best case scenario) or you could very well find out that they’re not good at critique (worst case scenario).

Here are the questions you can ask them,

  • Is your feedback an assumption?
  • Can you give supporting evidence or reasons for your feedback?
  • Why do you think that would solve the problem? Can you think of a situation in which your suggested solution does not work? Opposing viewpoints help validate both ideas.
  • What other problems can you parallel against this one?
  • What is your specialty and how can that knowledge help me here?
  • Can you point me to more resources to better understand your feedback?

What’s your place in all this?

All great work has a strong vision behind it. If you aren’t good at protecting your vision it will be design by committee or data. On the other hand, if you are too aggressive about protecting you are missing out on information and that’s a real shame too.

Here are the questions you can ask yourself,

  • Did I explain the context of this simply and did I identify what part of the context was fact and what part was assumption?
  • Do my assumptions hold more weight than theirs? Why?
  • What are the biases that this person has?
  • Are the words they are using dramatic, disrepectful, or excessively complex? This indicates a certain level of emotion. Why did it provoke such a strong reaction?
  • Am I holding on too tightly? Is this a matter of philosophy/vision, lack of data, lack of context, lack of trust, or all of the above? Or none of the above?

There are often no right answers, there is just not close enough. It’s a field of grey so there’s naturally going to be a lot of opinions about what you should be doing. The key to not questioning your existence is straddling the line between asserting your role as the Designer and being too open to feedback. Neither extremes lead to a happy conclusion.

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