#11: Why Being a Critic is a Good Thing

Why Being a Critic is a Good Thing
Why Being a Critic is a Good ThingOver the last week I have had the opportunity to be a professional reviewer for a Behance/AIGA Portfolio Review as well as assist some senior design students at the premier art university in my area. I am always very excited to be able to work with other creatives to help them hone their design intuitions and apply them to create amazing designs. I always go into the reviews feeling like I’m there to help them, and as it turns out…

I get something out of the experience too-I get to strengthen my own skills. At the review, one portfolio that I thought was going to be a huge stretch for me was for an interior design student. Design sense can be applied to all kinds of design, just in different ways, and I was really forced to think differently about how to use what I know to critique his type of design.
Because of this, I got so much more from working with this particular student than I did with every other student or professional I reviewed that day. I was able to give him direction on his logo and future business card design, as well as help him out with color theory in relation to his personal branding. On top of that I was able to help him figure out how to best present the interiors in his portfolio by fixing layout and copy hierarchy, creating some focal points, and minimizing the clutter. But because I was using my knowledge of graphic design and adapting it to apply to an interior design portfolio, I was able to grow my skills in a completely new way.
I’ve found that it sharpens my design sensibilities to be able to look at another creatives’ work and critique it. Especially as an Art and Creative director, my instinct with everything I see is to analyze it.

So to be able to do this with the added benefit of helping a student or fellow professionals improve upon their skills helps me stay in shape, so to speak.

Especially as freelancers or solopreneurs, we don’t really get to actively engage with other creatives on projects as often as we might in an agency or design team. We sometimes wonder if our creative weapons of choice might be starting to dull. Even when you are as hard on yourself as I am, and very critical of your own work, you can begin to wonder about your strengths when you work on your own the majority of the time. It’s a different workout for your creative mind and your right-brain muscles to look at other designers’ projects with a critical eye.
The experience of working with other professionals and especially students in a reviewer capacity always leaves me feeling exhilarated and energized.
Critiquing and directing other peoples’ creative work creates an endorphin-like rush that motivates me to do better work.

It forces me to see from the outside of a design as opposed to inside of it-a different perspective on creative work can really be helpful in improving and strengthening your own skill set. I love to have the opportunity to use my experiences and what I know to help up-and-coming creatives to learn what they need to help make their work successful.

Every single time I am given the opportunity to work with students or review a portfolio I always say yes. I generally go in thinking that I am going to really help someone be a better designer by critiquing their work, and I hope I do. But it continues to surprise me how every time I leave a review or critique I am the one who feels like I got something out of it.

So, say yes to being reviewed, and say yes to being a reviewer if you get the chance. It’s always a good thing to add more tools to your kit or sharpen the ones you’ve already got regardless of the level you are at. Design is a wonderful world, I hope you’ll join me here. Because design matters.

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