Feedback is a double-edged sword when generating ideas

On the one hand, criticism and the opinions of others can encourage us. We learn from the experience and mistakes of others. That is precious for our development. How often have professors, fellow students, and clients opened my eyes in despair? Communication is an essential tool for creative work.

On the other hand, the quality of our work is highly dependent on our ability to protect ourselves from external influences and opinions when necessary. For only in silence can we listen to our inner voice.

But each person is different in this respect. Brainstorming in a group, for example, can inspire some people’s creativity. In conversation, they bubble with energy and ideas. For others, however, collective thinking is counterproductive. They need time alone to think about the problem deeply and introspectively.

Figuring out what supports or hinders our creativity is an exciting process. Recognizing our highs and lows, and perhaps even logging them in writing, can bring about fundamental change.

Pride in creativity is often actually fear of criticism

“I’m really proud of how this illustration worked out”. I heard this phrase often from my fellow students when they had to present their latest work or designs to the professor and the class. It is a strange feeling to hear this phrase myself, ten years later, from students before I look at their work.

The sentence expresses pure self-protection. In reality, behind it lie the words, “Please don’t be too harsh with your criticism”. Especially as beginners, we identify particularly strongly with our work. I can relate to that. That is only natural. I remember the feeling when one of my drawings turned out particularly well. I would look at it days later and ask myself, “How did you do that?

But over time, we realize that this attitude makes it difficult for us to grow. The ego seeks validation, which inhibits creativity and productivity. We start to understand that we’re not the star of the show. Our work is. Improving and optimizing it is all that matters.

Praise and recognition may feel good at the moment, but we gain more if we seek constructive criticism. It makes a huge difference in our attitude whether we hope for positive feedback or specifically ask right away what we could have done better about our work.

About criticizing creative work and being criticized for creative work

“Whoever has created something has to be asked.”

Florian Schroeder (reproduced quote from his friend)

This quote contains everything required to give and receive criticism. When we create something, it is basically to be valued. Provided is the abstinence from laziness and that it is not intended to be destructive in nature. It is, first of all, a contribution and, therefore, something positive. It is unimportant at what level the creator is. A student, as well as a professional, both deserve a minimum of respect.

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Let’s embrace and look for the client’s opinion

Client: “You are the expert. I’m afraid I’m not creative at all.”

A client can tell a programmer, “I don’t know anything about computers, HTML, and website programming.” However, a client cannot say to a designer that he is not creative and that his opinion is not important.

Every person is creative in their activity every day. It’s because everyone searches for solutions every day. In addition, every person also has a sense of visual aesthetics. Even if they do not work in our professional field and struggle to express why they like or dislike something.

As illustrators and designers, let’s involve the client. We may be the established experts in our field, but nothing beats a fresh look at our work to make it better. After all, that’s what it’s all about. We want to create the best possible outcome for the project, the client, us, and the audience. 

Some people may be too engaging in the creative process, trusting us too little and constricting our creative freedom. If the reasons are not destructive, there are always solutions to solve this—more on this in another post.

WHY – Three mighty letters to elevate or unmask an idea

“Why” questions shake the core of an idea and determine if it will stand afterward. “Why did you use that color?”, “Why did you use that font and not this one?”, “Why that particular format?”. They are the first stress test for an idea, and at the same time, the viewer gets a first impression of the thought processes of the creator. These can serve as a basis for both sides before getting down to the nitty-gritty.