Monday, June 13, 2011

Good Design/Bad Design, Thou Shalt Not Judge

Most people can judge different professions, they allow themselves to give opinions both good and bad about almost anyone regardless if they are in the same profession or not, regardless if they are qualified to give such an opinion or not, they just do, and it is widely accepted. You hear people declaring someone as a good lawyer/bad lawyer, good doctor/bad doctor, good politician/bad politician etc ……

BUT, if you are a designer you are almost robbed of this right, and you have to watch what you say and how you say it. If you should ever dare say “this is bad design” or “I do not particularly like this design”, you are immediately labeled as someone that wants to be a style police, someone that limits creativity or the ever so popular label, you are jealous. It is even worse if you happen to critique a younger designer, you suddenly become the evil one, the horrible step mother that is stifling budding talent, and who is threatened by new talent and their possible success.

So why cant we as professional working designers freely express our opinion without being judged ?

I know that creativity and beauty are hard to define, they are vague areas that are very perceptual whose very nature creates more vague definitions of what is good or bad. In recent years the grey area has grown even more, encompassing many disciplines in the world of visual arts not only design making it harder to define what is good and what is bad.

01 Good Design

Still, with all this craziness and ambiguity I believe there is a difference between good and bad, and more importantly there is what we like and what we don't like regardless of how great it is, and it should be ok to express an opinion without people becoming too sensitive.

What do you think ? Should you be able to freely express your design opinion, or shut up and be goody two-shoes as requested by some blogs?

12 comments:

Jessie said...

I think it depends. If bloggers are sharing pictures of their home, I think we should be more sensitive and polite about it. If I think the design is bad, I won't comment on it or I will politely give suggestions. As for designs found via online magazines, I think we should feel free to express our opinions.

Jessie
www.mixandchic.com

Tracy said...

i vote for an honest opinion being spoken with kindness. after that, the other person's reaction is about their "inside", not the opinion.
and because i can't resist, i'm on the fence about the photo. while there's plenty of cognitive dissonance on display, my favorite space in the world is very much like this. the renzo piano designed menil museum in houston. love love love.
the photo reminds me of what the menil would look like if it had a kitchen and a light fixture designed by someone with questionable? mysterious? aesthetics. if nothing else, it draws one's eye upward?
on the other hand, are there yet?

A.J.Barnes said...

I think as design people we should say what we believe to be good or bad design...and more importantly express what we like and don't like...there are a lot of ideas that don't fit my aesthetic, but it doesn't mean they're bad designs...it may just not be for me...then again there's a lot of bad crap out there too...

ajbarnesonline.blogspot.com

Japanese Trash said...

I agree with the "speak the truth with compassion" comments and also think, in any design endeavor, that providing an honest opinion--even just a gut reaction--is of value. If designers aren't able to stay open to input (and can't develop the tool of learning to discern sour grapes from honest feedback) they'll never grow as designers.

Mrs M said...

Well what a subject ,,,, vaste indeed ,, compare it to human beings, I am a good looking single woman who hasn't met 'the man' in a while and then I see butt ugly women with gorgeous hunks on their arms and I think why ? then I see fab houses with the most awful design and furniture and think why? Individual taste is an odd thing and nothing shows it up more than interior design. Friends will get all passionate about their old worn 'Prouvé ' look alike when it just doesn't go and if I say something then I am the old fashioned one who just doesn't get modern design. Most of the time I just say oh ,, interesting, where did you find it ( so I can avoid going there !!)but I really do not get it. When I did my own place once I got remarks like 'it will be better when its finished' when it was !!! then I go to their homes and ugh!! If we can't say when its bad then we shouldn't say when its good. Bad design allows us to appreciate the good design like a barometre. Thank god there is bad design and lots of it that's all I can say. Meanwhile I repose in my little exquisitly furnished nest leafing through interesting design blogs and dreaming. Best wishes Stephanie

eclecticrevisited said...

it's one thing to critique a space to discern why it works or doesn't...it's about knowing of certain principles of design and were these principles utilized or not in that example...
if one doesn't have some basis of design knowledge it is evident in the resulting room "designs".. ..how often have you seen a blogger who features fabulous images of well designed rooms who then posts pics of their home and your eyes bleed...like everything in life... some have it, some don't..
at this point it's all about manners... which will open more doors for you than talent alone..
in the final analysis.. most people just want to feel good.. do you make the world a better place by finding the faults or by encouraging the bud to blossom?

interesting post...

maureen

Mid-Century Home said...

I'm not a designer/artist so I should stay in the corner and shut up, but I love design so I'm gonna say something anyway. :)

Reading about design and its history I found out how in the past many masters proclamed their idea of 'good design' as something related to the best way to fulfill a specific user's need. I do agree, then, that it could exist the 'good design' in theory. But I also noticed how often the contemporary design is not related to the fufillment of a specific need or to a new way of doing it; not all Philip Stark's objects for example are handy but they are visually interesting.
The boundary between design and pure art is today really thin in my opinion.

So, considering that to criticize is part of the human beings -as complaining- I would say...just accept/do a critique if it is constructive and not offensive.
Not everything can match everybody's taste or opinion. :)

Thanks for the interesting topic!

Ciao.

Kelly @ JAX does design said...

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I think is great design, you might think is terrible design. It's not that the design is necessarily good or bad, it's our perception of it.

I don't think there's anything wrong with expressing your opinion about a design that you don't like - but be diplomatic about it :-)

Kathysue said...

Hmmmm?! Good question. I will always fall on the side of being polite. If it is really bad, because there are some really bad designs I will probably choose not to comment. I also realize in design it will always be subjective. I can appreciate all design aesthetics if they are done well. If I am asked my opinion I will always curb it with kindness. Being a designer and being invited to clients homes you lean a certain finesse. After all this is their home not mine, Kathysue

eileen @ www.happyhorsesh-t.blogspot.com said...

Very thoughtful question, Jimmy. I buy creative services (design, writing, etc.) for a living, so I'm often required to a) have an opinion and b) express it in a productive way that furthers the intent or message behing the design. I think that those skills are translatable to interior design. I have a few rules of thumb. First of all, just because I have an opinion, doesn't mean I need to share it. Sometimes there's greater value in keeping my pie hole shut. Second, not everything has to be "to my taste." It does have to fulfill the requirements of the project, appeal to the audience, function appropriately, be within budget, etc.Third, there is subjective feedback (it's weird and ugly, make the logo bigger, make it blue) and objective feedback (there's not a clear focal point, it has an overall youthful feel and we're addressing a conservative, mature audience, etc). I try to stick to objective feedback. All that said, on your blog, you set the rules and I'll play by them. On someone else's, blog I'll play by their's.

Petra Voegtle said...

The same applies to any creative result whether you are a designer, artist, writer etc. A well explained critique is the best to help/give feedback to the one in question. This implies that you have to say something good too. If you cannot say anything nice you should rather shut up.
On the other hand it is NOT helpful for a creative person to receive only "wow's" and "how nice" etc. instead of a constructive critique. But this also depends on what the person expected. If s/he expected a "critique" then you may have to invest more time. If you give an unsolicited critique you may end up creating some embarrassment. It always depends on the person. This may be the reason why most people tend to refrain from giving a real critique. Giving a valuable critique must be trained in order not to de-motivate people. Nevertheless it is not easy to hear that you failed in what you wanted to achieve but in the end this is the only way to learn.
I personally tend to expect more than the usual "how nice" but then I also appreciate any feedback, good or bad.
In the blogworld this might be a bit different because it is much more anonymous. Even if you communicate with your fellow bloggers often - if you don't know them personally it is difficult to judge what you can say to someone. Blog posts live from feedback and due to time constraints these are mostly not very "intense". But if someone expects only appreciative feedback s/he'd better stop wasting time with blogging....

Simply Grand said...

I would love to see more honesty in the comments on design blogs. I follow a lot of them and I always give newly-discovered blogs a week or two to come up with something worth saying--after all, nobody can hit one out of the park every single day--but too many, even popular ones, are just lazy, with nothing but piles of pictures scanned from magazines or borrowed from other bloggers. Don't get me wrong: I like a pretty picture as well as anybody, but if the only acceptable response to an image of a rooms or a dozen similar rooms is "Ooooh, I am loving that paint color/lamp/pillow/wall quote!" then something's wrong.

The Alice in Wonderland "Everyone-has-won-and-all-must-have-prizes!" approach only muddies the question of what's good and what simply isn't--and I'm not talking about my own personal tastes. In any category--traditional Parrish-Hadley-style rooms, Seventies-Modern graphics, brand new hotel lobbies by hip, brand-name designers--some examples are bound to be better than others, and saying so shouldn't be a social sin. What's wrong with analyzing what makes this example excellent and that one mediocre? President Reagan said a lot of stuff I disagreed with but I'll never forget his memorable reference to "the soft tyranny of low expectations." That applies just as much to questions of design as it does to minority kids' math & science scores. Let's face it issues of self-esteem aside, not everyone is a winner, and saying so shouldn't be a social sin.