There’s something deeply personal about being creative. It feels like you’re putting a piece of yourself in whatever you create. For many designers, it’s really a labor of love.

The anticipation of sharing a shiny new design with a client is exciting. After all, if you’re passionate about the work you’ve done for them, they should feel the same way about what they see.

Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out that way. Clients may not see things quite the same way as you do. Sometimes their feedback can be constructive; sometimes it can even be a bit harsh. Either way, seeing something you poured your heart and soul into creating being picked apart can really sting.

Receiving negative feedback, unpleasant as it is, is something every designer faces. Let’s take a look at some ways that we can better deal with it.

It’s Not Personal

Receiving criticism can be very difficult – especially for inexperienced designers. When someone casually says that they don’t like something you’ve done, it can make you feel like a failure. You’ve put in untold hours of work and here is this person who, in your mind, may not even be qualified to critique design just tearing apart your ideas.

This is something we will all experience. In my own career, I can recall instances where I felt as if I were the poorest excuse for a web designer in the world. You start to think that others have zero confidence in your abilities to get the job done. You start to question whether they’re right.

Don’t fall for it. Sometimes our minds tend to project more meaning into situations than is really there. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it’s the design being criticized – not you personally. In fact, the person you’re dealing with may think highly of you and is in no way looking to hurt your feelings. They’re just being honest with their opinions – whether you agree with them or not.

As you deal with this sort of thing more often, it becomes easier to compartmentalize design critique into its own little space. Having to make changes may frustrate you, but it shouldn’t make you feel as though you’ve failed.

Remember, even the best athletes don’t win every single time. They make adjustments to their game and come back stronger. It’s much the same in design.

It’s Not Your Baby

It’s natural to take ownership of something you have created – even if you’ve created it for someone else’s use. And so we take it to heart when someone isn’t as thrilled with a design as we are. In a way, this is a good trait to have because it shows how much you care.

On the other hand, the work you’re doing for someone else ultimately belongs to them. So while you may be disappointed if a certain part of a design doesn’t meet with their approval – it’s their right to do so.

Sometimes a client may even have a suggestion or demand that you think will fully ruin the whole concept. Personally, this is always a tough one to swallow. But there are a few different ways you can deal with it.

First, state your case. Kindly and calmly explain your reasons for making specific design choices. You were hired because of your expertise and have every right to express your professional opinion. It may just be enough to get the client to see things your way, or compromise on a happy medium.

If that doesn’t work, the second tact is to simply do what the client has asked to the very best of your abilities. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. When you’re certain that a change will have a negative impact on a design, it may be difficult to gather up enough enthusiasm to go through with it.

That’s when you need to remember that you’re working for your client – not the other way around. Put forth your best effort and sincerely try to make it work. Showing that you’re willing to try conveys a maturity and professionalism that will be very much appreciated.

It’s Part of the Job

If you hire someone to remodel your kitchen, you’ll want to express your opinions about how it’s going to look. There may even be some things you want to change during the process. Feedback is a natural side effect of work. And that’s really how we should treat it.

Once you learn to accept criticism as part of the design process, you’ll be so much better at dealing with it. Seeing what different people do and don’t like can be a valuable resource in future projects. You’ll become a better listener and more focused on the client’s point of view. Put it all together and that can make you an even better designer.

The next time you receive negative feedback, think of it not as an insult but as an opportunity for growth.

Written by Eric Karkovack

Eric Karkovack is a web designer with well over a decade of experience. You can visit his business site here. In July 2013, Eric released his first eBook: Your Guide to Becoming a Freelance Web Designer. He also has an opinion on just about every subject. You can follow his rants on Twitter @karks88.

  • Great Post eric, I agree very much with accepting criticism and learning from it. Sometimes it’s not always the best thing to do but it’s the first option to look at and see what to improve on.

    • ekarkovack

      I think part of the challenge is learning that you’re never going to please everyone all the time. Once you realize that, I think it gets a little easier to look at criticism from a different perspective.