an online conversation
about design management

Why are designers so unkind?

Designers are the first to gripe if a client is not respectful of the thought and process behind a design, so why the change when talking about other designers?

Recently I’ve had two experiences where other designers have been less than complimentary about our work, with little background on which to voice their opinions.

The first case was very public

We shared a client with a few other designers. We had designed the client’s monthly newsletter for over five years – and the client was very happy with the result. Unfortunately our contact moved on and the new marketing manager introduced their favourite designer. I’m pretty philosophical when that happens – we’re often on the winning side so you can’t feel too sour when you’re not. Until of course, your work is dissed by the new designer.

I found our very successful newsletter trashed as the ‘before’ example on the new designer’s website. With no knowledge of the original brief, or understanding of statistics that proved the newsletters’ effectiveness, the designers described how the newsletter had to be redesigned because the previous iteration was too bold, too cluttered and worse than that, uninspiring. eeewww.

The second example happened when we were commissioned to design a website that would be built by an inhouse digital team. It’s not uncommon that we work with inhouse design teams – I usually find it an enjoyable experience meeting and work with other designers. Our role here was to manage the project from brief, through design and the approval process, to the supply of layered photoshop files.

All went well until I had to handover my photoshop files.

Firstly, may I say (knowing I was handing them over) they were the most impressive photoshop files that you will ever see. Layers individually named, beautifully masked and grouped. No stone was left unturned, nothing left to chance.

Yet still the designer complained. Through my client I was delivered long lists of things that needed to be done in order to make the site ‘comply’ with their inhouse process. Inhouse procedures and processes that they had forgotten to mention at briefing stage. None of the changes really mattered, and the changes were quick to do, it was just the attitude I found a little frustrating. It smacked of it’s not my design and therefore it’s not the right design.

So here’s the thing.

If you agree:

most clients want to be good at their job, and

most clients are not trained to offer objective (rather than subjective) design critique

then it is fair to assume that clients learn design critique by observing the designers they work with — much like children learn attitudes and ethics through their parents.

So, if a client observes a designer diss another designer’s work without knowing the brief, or the background, or the budget, it is fair for them to assume subjectivity is a valid basis to comment on a design.



why are designers so unkind