artist // designer // entrepreneur

Defending Design

When I was in design school, we'd have critique sessions where other students would come to our computer and they'd all give their opinions on your work. I hated it. It felt like everyone was just thrashing my work. Often times it was hard to take because it's my fellow classmates.

However, what these sessions did is not just taught me how to receive critiques but how to defend my work. Often times, I was asked, "why did you...?" and whenever the response was, "because I like it" our professor would pounce on us like a wildcat. "No. No. No" he'd say. Explain why you like it and how does it help the design. Go!

If in that moment we can't explain our choices then it means we have no clue of what we're doing. In some cases, we probably do know what we're doing but not being able to defend sends another message. We were made to understand that every single choice made in our design should have a meaning. Whether you go flat or use a lot of gradient or use extended font versus condensed.

Some designers don't understand how important this is. In the real world, you deal with a lot of people who hire designers yet seem to think they know more than us. These individuals can often be responsible for ruining a design and we hear it often, "oh, that was because the client wanted it that way." If you've let a client ruin a design then you've failed that client and yourself because it's your responsibility to convince them otherwise. 

But more importantly, as the startup ecosystem grows, I've found this skill to be very useful - being able to receive critique and defend your work is probably the most important trait a designer can have at a startup. As a founder part of 500 Startups, I'd get pushed back from mentors on my choices but every time I defend, I'd accomplish two things: make them a believer or paint a clearer picture of my goals thus allowing them to help me.

How to Defend

  1. Stick to facts
  2. Seek precedence with established sites or designers
  3. Test with real users (A/B test if possible)
  4. Try what others suggest, then critique their opinion to show why you disagree
  5. Most importantly, don't defend blindly.

If we can successfully defend our work, not only would good design prevail but as an individual, you grow each time. There's a sense of pride when you convince a non-believer to believe in your choices.

How do you defend your work? I'd love to hear so I can learn as well.