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Sounding Board

Sounding Board

I know many graphic designers. I make it a point to surround myself with amazing artists—like the ones who do the work for Sunday| Mag. (This beauty doesn’t just happen by itself.)

I’ve met many, though, who remind me of momma birds giving birth to baby chicks. These momma birds spend hours and hours in their nest, forming the egg. Then they help the egg crack, letting the baby chick emerge. Then they feed it, care for it, and protect it from the world until it’s ready. Then, with massive fear and trepidation, they push their baby chick out of the nest. They cross their fingers and hope it will fly. Talk about a scary way to live!

Each new idea, each new graphic design, is a frightening lesson in gravity. They hope their baby will fly, but they fear what may happen. Their leaders become the enemy, because they alone decide whether the idea stays in the air or gets shot down.

There’s a better way to do this.

Yes, I know some graphic designers like the momma bird. But I also know other graphic designers who work in communities. They readily share their ideas with each other and act as sounding boards—providing valuable feedback and encouragement. They’re the bit of reassurance to know whether an idea/design will likely fall or fly.

Every graphic designer needs a sounding board.

Every graphic designer needs a sounding board.

Do you have those in your life? And if so, do you know how to appropriately use them?

Too many graphic designers wait until the finished product to ask for feedback.

Ask Early

Too many graphic designers—and I’m guilty of this—wait until the finished product to ask for feedback. Unfortunately, if the project doesn’t look like it’ll fly, the whole thing gets shot down. When a graphic design or idea is inherently flawed, there’s not much you can do to salvage it. You need to start from scratch.

And that’s not the sort of thing you need to hear. That’s also not the sort of thing you need to make your friends tell you. Don’t make your friends be the jerks that tell you to start over.

Ask for feedback early on in the process. Then ask often along the way. You’ll save yourself so much heartache and grief. Plus you’ll protect your time.

Ask Specifically

I’ve asked for feedback too many times, only to receive the complete opposite of what I was looking for. For instance, if I’m looking for a font critique, I often get color critique. Not only is that not helpful (the colors were fine, I was worried about the font), but it’s also discouraging (you just made me question my color choices and ultimately my taste in design).

It’s my fault, really. I should have been specific when I asked for critique. “How does my font choice look to you?” That one, simple piece of criteria, would have saved me so much self-consciousness.

Set appropriate boundaries and criteria when you ask for feedback. Let people know what sort of critique you’re looking for and let them know which elements of the design were client/pastor-requested. You’ll get much better feedback.

Ask Open-Mindedly

Be ready to have your design picked apart. And don’t get bent out of shape when it happens. Be gracious and thank people for their input. Don’t defend your work. You don’t need to. They’re trying to help your already good work get better.

But more importantly, don’t accept every bit of criticism and critique as a word from the Lord. If the feedback hits you, make the adjustments. If it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. A good sounding board will give you their feedback and let you do with it what you want.

Graphic design isn’t a democracy. It’s your work. Own it.

Graphic design isn’t a democracy. It’s your work. Own it. Accept input and advice, but don’t try to please every critic and friend.

Accept input and advice, but don’t try to please every critic and friend.

Getting a Sounding Board

If you don’t already have a sounding board, become a sounding board. Find some graphic designers you admire and offer your services of feedback. Let them know you’d love to become a sounding board for them if they’d do the same for you.

Be gracious and generous. Give your feedback gently and you can expect the same in return.

Whatever you do, don’t be the momma bird that dreads releasing their babies into the wild. Give them their best chance at survival by including others in the process.

About The Author

Jonathan Malm

Jonathan is a creative entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of “Created for More,” a 30-day devotional to help you develop a more creative mind. You’ll find him in San Antonio, Texas, roasting his own coffee beans and enjoying life with his Argentine wife, Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathanmalm.

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