As an art school student, there are few things scarier than a critique. You’re always afraid of what people will say, and as a freshman it’s hard not to take it personally. But these critiques are what push you to refine your design, craftsmanship, and voice.
Since graduation, I’ve missed having the feedback these critiques gave me. I actually audited classes when I lived in an apartment to have access to the studio equipment at the local college, and there was always a “class critique” at the end of the semester. I would get a lot of positive comments on my work, but they were never very constructive. I wasn’t being forced to think about my work differently. The other students seemed not to want to say anything that might be thought of as negative. I’ve noticed this in other contexts since then. Have you noticed how reviews of movies, books, and music seem to have become softball?
Recently I read somewhere that children who are always told that what they do is great learn not to push themselves to do any better. They are always happy with what they’ve done and the way they’ve done it. What incentive is there to get any better? I would say that treating them the exact opposite would have the same effect. If you were always told that your work was horrible, you would stop even trying.
These days it seems that all people will tell you about your work is “I love it” or “I hate it.” But why? What makes you love or hate it? How could it be made better? What strengths and weaknesses does it have? There is a lot of mediocrity out there. Sometimes what we need to hear is a little constructive criticism to knock us out of our safe place. Without risk there can be no gain. Sure you might make a mistake, but that’s how you learn. We need to step outside the realm of black & white. It’s within the shades of gray that we learn to challenge ourselves and to see things from different perspectives.
So now I challenge you to give me some criticism. Look at my gallery and tel me the strengths and weaknesses you see in my work. And please, be constructive. If you would like us to give your work a critique as well, leave a link to your gallery or blog. Let’s knock mediocrity on its butt and push ourselves toward more resolved design, better craftsmanship, and to find our true voices.