How to Give (and Receive) Quality Creative Critiques

Even the most creative minds still see the world through a specific set of bias's based on their perspective, experiences, and intentions. Thankfully, we have the blessing of feedback to expand our perspective. Feedback is rarely seen as a blessing, though, because it isn't often given - or received - well. We're here to change that.

Research shows that both giving and getting feedback from fellow creatives helps you as a creative improve your work. So how can you give and receive quality feedback?

• Aim for Progress, Not Validation

• Make Feedback Specific

• Get Feedback Early & Often

• Present without Persuasion

Aim for Progress, Not Validation

Have you ever dreamed of presentation that perfect creative idea, dropping the mic, asking for feedback, and all you get is a standing ovation, maybe with a few roses tossed at your feet?

While an experience like that may be encouraging, it's not helpful for you to improve. And if no one can come up with any suggestions for how your work could be better - or at least different, what you created probably doesn't solicit a strong emotional reaction, calling into question the impact of your work.

We get it, sharing your ideas with others is a vulnerable thing to do. It isn't easy to hear that the concept you worked so hard on isn't as good as you thought it was, but unless you're doing creative work just to hang in your house for you to appreciate, feedback is a blessing.

Feedback allows you to step away from your work and see it from a new angle. Personality tests show us that there are at least 9 different significantly different approaches to how people view the world, and every individual brings a unique mix of life experience to their opinion of your work.

Ask for feedback with the expectation that your idea will change as a result of it - and the change will be an improvement.

A successful feedback session isn't marked by brevity, but by dialogue and even disagreement. You don't have to apply every piece of feedback you hear, but you want to hear as much feedback as possible to understand how your work is perceived by others.

Make Feedback Specific

We have established that just saying, or receiving praise for your work isn't the expectation or goal, but both complimentary and constructive feedback can be helpful to improve your work if it is given within the context of specificity.

Saying "I like it" or "I don't like it" is lazy feedback that doesn't help the recipient of the feedback understand what to do more of or what to consider changing. Consider your middle schools days. When someone said they "liked" someone else, what did that even mean? Were they dating (to the extent that middle schoolers can have their parents drop them off for dates)? Were they just talking with each other? Were they talking exclusively? How do people who "like" each other handle Valentine's Day? There are so many questions, because there is so much ambiguity.

Never just say "I like it" or "I don't like it". What does that even mean?

Quality creative feedback breaks down what specific emotions the work solicits, and how specific aspects of the work bring those feelings or memories to the forefront.

Specific feedback not only helps the recipient of that feedback, but the giver of it as well. You will appreciate creative work more when you take the time to understand what you like about it, connect the dots of the emotions it makes you feel, and allow you to look for similar work with the same positive attributes.

In today's Instagram and Tinder world, we are trained to judge based off an initial split second gut reaction, swipe or double tap, and move on to sift through an endless amount of available information. However, taking the time to be intentional on understanding why we feel the way we do about the creative work we see will help creatives create better work, and help the audience of that creative work appreciate it more.

Get feedback early and often

We all had that childhood favorite item - maybe it was a stuffed animal or blanket or toy. For me, it was a plastic Peter Pan pocket knife. After a while, the value of the thing wasn’t the thing in and of itself as much as the memories you associated with it. We grow emotional connections to things/ideas that we spend a lot of time on/with.

The more you work on a creative idea on your own, the more emotionally attached to it you will become, and the harder it will be to let go of and iterate once you hear outside feedback - even if the feedback will make your creative work better.

You may be a genius; in fact, let’s assume you are. But more perspectives on your work - even if you don’t agree with them - can spark ideas that lead to better ideas, and help you validate your ideas before you invest a significant amount of time pursuing something that no one else likes.

Present without persuasion

When someone else views your creative work for the first time, they have something you don’t - a first impression.

As you created and iterated on your idea, you formed perspective and bias so that your final product may make perfect sense to you, but to someone else the obvious may seem hidden and simple seem complex. If you preface your request for feedback by explaining your perspective on the work, you will lose the opportunity to see your blind spots by biasing your audience to have the same perspective that you do. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for a focused piece of feedback on a specific element of your work, but you want to preserve the integrity of their interpretation by withholding your personal opinion.

Fascinating research published in a book called "The Mom Test" shows that, in general, people don't want to make you feel bad or disagree with you, to the point that they will lie to your face and to your detriment, in order to avoid an awkward confrontation.

If you tell people how you think, they will tend to agree with you, even if their gut tells them you're wrong.

If you have ever had a boss who gave their opinion and then asked the room for feedback, you understand this concept. It’s a lot harder to be put in a preverbal box with a certain frame of mind and then step outside of that box to provide good insight, as opposed to just existing in your natural box and providing your perspective.

Our Creative Critique platform will connect creatives across the world to provide each other with quality feedback on their work in progress, and we would love for you to be part of the community. Follow us on social media to keep up with the latest developments.

Keep creating in community,

The Creative Critique Team