Creative criticism is constricting. But it only exists as assumptions, not absolutes.
It’s there to be tested.
And is only valuable as long as it’s helpful.
Here’s 6 simple steps you can take to externalize creative criticism (and more easily work through the feelings of dread that arise as a result):
1. Make an Observation
Take a good hard look at some form of creative output that catches your eye.
Then, create a few statements based on what you see.
It can be as simple as something like:
“I enjoy this specific part because it makes me feel happy.”
2. Ask a Question
Now that you’ve noted a few key characteristics about the piece it’s time to ask yourself more questions:
“What would I change and why?”
“If I took out this bit, would that effect the outcome?”
“Did the designer/writer/videographer/etc viewpoint come across effectively?”
The more questions you can ask yourself here the better prepared you’ll be for the next step.
3. Create an Assumption
Take one of the questions that stands out most and push it one notch further…
“The middle part of the piece stinks so bad I have a hard time enjoying it.”
Assumptions will be different for everyone, especially in creative pursuits. So don’t get too hung up on this step.
4. Make a Prediction
Take that assumption and craft it into a prediction that can be tested at a later date.
“I think that if I change the middle part to be more colorful that it will resonate more with my target audience.”
It’s important that the prediction you’re making is as specific as possible because every future creative change will be gut checked against it.
5. Test the Prediction
This is where the most mistakes get made.
Without a prediction to test your work will be judged purely based on its structure and decoration. And that’s where things are most likely to spiral out of control.
Instead, keeping feedback targeted toward testing the prediction will allow the work to stand on its own two feet.
And prevent comments from becoming too personal.
Taking the outcome of the test you can then begin to repeat these steps in order.
This helps to more easily pinpoint what needs to be changed, and WHY, so that you can more efficiently work toward a more applicable solution for everyone involved.
The goal in this step is to get to a better (you’ll never get to perfect) output to prove, or disprove, the prediction.
How this is relevant for a:
Freelancer — By getting internal stakeholders on board with testing a prediction you put more weight on the process so you can take it off of your own shoulders.
Full-timer — Too many cooks in the kitchen will always lead to a vanilla end product. By focusing on measuring a specific result you can get more people on board with “riskier” creative work.
Dabbler — Don’t know where to start on that next project? Use this process to view someone else’s work and start to get a feel for what you might change. This will provide more than enough fuel for your next project.
This process is what is internalized by every level of director that exists. And the more you can run your own work through it before reaching the eyes of someone else in a stuffy meeting room…the better you’ll be able to:
- Speak to your decision making
- Showcase your process
- Sell the solution
And best of all, because you’ve externalized the creative process you’ll start to lessen those “world is ending” feelings you get by receiving feedback.