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Defending your design opinions

July 12th, 2018, 7:02 pm

tommyle
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As a young designer, in my first few months at a design studio, sometimes I give opinions or critiques on others designs that is sort of shrugged off and ignored. Sure, maybe they weren't good critiques but I wonder what is the line to defend my opinions vs just trusting some of the older designers? I dont want come off too aggressive...
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Cyberdemon
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Theres no hard and fast rule on this one, it will partially be that your feedback will earn more clout over time. It also helps thinking about the feedback you're providing and thinking:

-Is it constructive? Can someone actively do something with my feedback?
-Is it objective or subjective? IE "This doesn't leave enough room for the battery pack clearance" is a very clear objective piece of feedback. "This battery pack would be better designed with a harder crease in the surface" is subjective and more easy to shrug off.
-If you were given your same piece of feedback, how would it make you feel or react?
-Is it possible the design has other requirements you aren't aware of? Ex: "This handle would feel much better with a rubber grip, but there is a cost constraint that prevents us from adding one"

Sometimes phrasing your feedback in a way that either asks some of those questions first (making sure you're aware of what went into the design) will make others take feedback with a better appreciation that you understand the problem a bit more. In any design firm, this is always hard regardless of seniority especially on teams where some designers may only see a design once every few weeks, and not know the weeks of back and forth that went into the decision process.

Some designers also just suck at taking feedback, so don't get discouraged it will develop with experience like the rest of the skills.
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yo
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To understand the context a little more, could you answer a few questions?

Are you seeking feedback on your own work more than you are giving it and how are your receiving that feedback?

What are the situations you are giving feedback, was it asked for? Was it in an open review?
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I like using a socratic method in critique. It allows the designer to draw their own conclusions.
tommyle
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yo wrote:To understand the context a little more, could you answer a few questions?

Are you seeking feedback on your own work more than you are giving it and how are your receiving that feedback?

What are the situations you are giving feedback, was it asked for? Was it in an open review?
Sure Yo, I think the feedback has been pretty even, we all share opinions on each others work regularly (we sit next to each other and it's as simple as glancing over sometimes which is nice, although in this instance it was a group of us standing around a guy's desk in a discussion). I try not to take critiques personally, and usually implement coworkers suggestions.

Good news though, I think after they slept on what I had said they ended up agreeing and implementing it the next day!
tommyle
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Cyberdemon wrote:Theres no hard and fast rule on this one, it will partially be that your feedback will earn more clout over time. It also helps thinking about the feedback you're providing and thinking:

-Is it constructive? Can someone actively do something with my feedback?
-Is it objective or subjective? IE "This doesn't leave enough room for the battery pack clearance" is a very clear objective piece of feedback. "This battery pack would be better designed with a harder crease in the surface" is subjective and more easy to shrug off.
-If you were given your same piece of feedback, how would it make you feel or react?
-Is it possible the design has other requirements you aren't aware of? Ex: "This handle would feel much better with a rubber grip, but there is a cost constraint that prevents us from adding one"

Sometimes phrasing your feedback in a way that either asks some of those questions first (making sure you're aware of what went into the design) will make others take feedback with a better appreciation that you understand the problem a bit more. In any design firm, this is always hard regardless of seniority especially on teams where some designers may only see a design once every few weeks, and not know the weeks of back and forth that went into the decision process.

Some designers also just suck at taking feedback, so don't get discouraged it will develop with experience like the rest of the skills.

This is great, thanks Cyberdemon!!
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yo
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tommyle wrote:
yo wrote:To understand the context a little more, could you answer a few questions?

Are you seeking feedback on your own work more than you are giving it and how are your receiving that feedback?

What are the situations you are giving feedback, was it asked for? Was it in an open review?
Sure Yo, I think the feedback has been pretty even, we all share opinions on each others work regularly (we sit next to each other and it's as simple as glancing over sometimes which is nice, although in this instance it was a group of us standing around a guy's desk in a discussion). I try not to take critiques personally, and usually implement coworkers suggestions.

Good news though, I think after they slept on what I had said they ended up agreeing and implementing it the next day!
That is great, and thanks for providing context. I was trying to understand if you are as open to receiving input as you are giving it. I've worked with a few designers who could "ditch it out" but couldn't take it in return. When you work with someone like that it naturally makes people less open to their feedback.

I think as was previously mentioned, phrasing the feedback as objectively as possible and framing it in such a way as it aligns with the goals of the project always helps. for example, staying away from subjective verbal framings like "I would like this better... " and sticking with "the brief is asking us to make this product the most luxurious in our line. Looking at other products in the luxury space right now they all seem to share x y and z characteristics, do you think we could look at trying some of that?"

I think also asking a lot of questions first, seeking to understand vs seeking to tell, really helps.

And, as you already found out, give people the space to think about it. Their initial reaction might be "I thought I was done with this..." but let them ruminate on it and they might come around.

These tactics are all helpful for peer to peer reviews. As a creative director sometimes you have to be a bit more firm and direct, but it is still better if the team can get there with gentle nudging and guidance vs brow beating. Brow beating might get it done faster, but it doesn't usually result in anybody learning everything (now you have to do that every time because no one is learning) and it doesn't usually make for a happy team int he long run (so now you have to hire new people because your team quit.)
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Within our company philosopy we have what is known as the Challenge Process

Definition and goal
We define the challenge process as using the best available knowledge to continually question
and brainstorm to find a better way. When applied well, the challenge process will lead to more effective outcomes than could be realized by any individual acting alone, and will help an organization learn and improve over time. Our goal for the challenge process is to enhance innovation and improve work methods, processes, decision-making and value creation.

The is also an 8 document that expands on this.

But at the heart - We should all seek challenge and knowledge from others for what we do, as well as provide it with respect and humility. but the biggest miss I see sometimes is :

Someone provides feedback/challenge/critique - and when that is not acted on they become frustrated and feel as if they need to defend / argue their point (similar to what OP described) But as long as the feed back/challenge is heard it is on the person who is in then end accountable for the final decision to determine how to utilize the information.
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Great comments here. The hard thing is to translate your intuition into the tangibles. Oftentimes your brain takes shortcuts and you may be right and know you're right but you need to convince people with tangible references.

As mentioned above, refer to the brief. The target user and their values. The brand personality ingredients. Best practices in a given category. Whether your company is trying to blend in or stand out. Talk about psychology. How will the end user perceive things and why? How will they experience them? How will these seemingly small decisions that we are empowered to make affect their experience? "The details are not the details. They are the design." - this Eames quote is very on point. All the details are visual cues that either boost the potency of a design or detract/add confusion to the message by making it inconsistent.
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cwatkinson
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Cameron wrote:Great comments here. The hard thing is to translate your intuition into the tangibles. Oftentimes your brain takes shortcuts and you may be right and know you're right but you need to convince people with tangible references.

As mentioned above, refer to the brief. The target user and their values. The brand personality ingredients. Best practices in a given category. Whether your company is trying to blend in or stand out. Talk about psychology. How will the end user perceive things and why? How will they experience them? How will these seemingly small decisions that we are empowered to make affect their experience? "The details are not the details. They are the design." - this Eames quote is very on point. All the details are visual cues that either boost the potency of a design or detract/add confusion to the message by making it inconsistent.

I think this is a great build a few comments to avoid

1. I have "X" years of experience - you should listen to me..... number of years worked doesn't always mean you know what you are talking about. communicate and show why your thoughts are of value - use case examples articulate of experience - (i love when firms tell me they have a combined experience of 40 years. with that logic 20 designers with 2years experience each is just as good)

2. When articulating your POV try not to talk in absolutes i.e if you dont do this it is wrong, that usually makes the person receiving the suggestion defensive.
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yo
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cwatkinson wrote: (i love when firms tell me they have a combined experience of 40 years. with that logic 20 designers with 2years experience each is just as good)
I always thought that was hilarious too. It always makes me think. of the old engineers saying... if 9 women get pregnant you won't get a baby in 1 month.

Definitely try to stay away from winning an argument based on qualifications, that just turns it a chest beating scenario and it usually only works once. What can work is referring to applicable experience, For example saying things like "this reminds me of a similar situation I was in 10 years ago at company x. Here is what we did wrong and right then... and here is how things maybe have changed in the marketplace since then... are there any learnings we could pull from that?" ... kind of the same effect, but more informative vs "me smart, you dumb".
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yo wrote:
I always thought that was hilarious too. It always makes me think. of the old engineers saying... if 9 women get pregnant you won't get a baby in 1 month.
I hadn't heard this one before but I'm definitely going to use this in future! :lol:
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