Wise words by my studiomate Chris Shiflett:
I always take more pleasure in liking something than in disliking something. That’s not to say there aren’t some things that deserve to be liked and some things that deserved to be disliked, but I’m never fond of disliking something.
The lesson I’ve learned is to be wary of those who are. The ones who seem to think that being critical is the same as having good taste. Those people almost never have good taste, so their opinions don’t matter.
There’s no particular sophistication required to be a critic. We know this, because children often dislike foods they learn to love as adults.
So, even if what you’ve done isn’t so great, just remember that those who can’t say so with grace, those who seem to take pride in criticizing you, their opinions don’t matter. It may very well be that you’ve created a masterpiece, and they’re just children.
If you can learn to be a fair judge of yourself, you won’t feel the need to rely on other people’s opinions.
And then, of course, there’s always this.
“There’s no particular sophistication required to be a critic.”
Those are harsh words to read on your site when some of us are critics for a living. Perhaps it’s key to figure out which critics to listen to and what their motivations are rather than dismissing all critics as the same.
Oct 17th, 2011 / 10:27 am
I interpret “critic” here as describing the non-professional critic, i.e. someone who criticizes, not someone who critiques. Does that make sense? Being a critic for a living would (I hope!) mean that you’ve gone through this process and are exposed to a plethora of different things in order to form and express the opinions that you have.
Also, I really, really like this.
Oct 17th, 2011 / 11:56 am
“So, even if what you’ve done isn’t so great, just remember that those who can’t say so with grace… their opinions don’t matter.”
I think this is the difference in people who criticize for the sake of criticizing and people who offer up critiques: it should be done with some measure of grace.
Oct 17th, 2011 / 12:09 pm
‘Like children’ describes it the best, I think. A lot of the greats through many fields were critisized by ‘children’ of their time. The vision a critic should have is one directed towards the future and not only history and present. A work can have nothing to do with the present but can be a bridgework for future inventions.
(for the english critics: it’s not my native language so I try to use words to communicate my opinion, nothing else :-)
Oct 17th, 2011 / 12:27 pm
This reminds me of a brilliant professor I had who on the first day explained to us the difference between something working and liking something. He didn’t care if we liked or disliked anything. He cared if we thought it worked or it did not work.
In this case, liking/disliking is the person who thinks they’re being critical but really are just sharing personal opinions on how everything relates to them and not how something functions or appears to others.
I’m very thankful I met him as it taught me that people like and dislike things for no reason and can never logically explain why. However, if something doesn’t work, there is a reason and depth behind it.
Oct 17th, 2011 / 2:02 pm
Good critique requires not only being able to say what isn’t good but why and how it could have been done better.
Oct 17th, 2011 / 4:35 pm
the funny thing about design is ask 10 people what they like and they’ll all tell you something different.
my favourite though is “Don’t like it… I can’t tell you why… but once you show my something else that I like I’ll know.”
This is exactly what a client once told me after a third revision… I asked the client to find another designer.
Oct 17th, 2011 / 4:42 pm
We all have blind spots, and it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to distinguish with certainty between poor work and that work which just doesn’t speak to you. So all negative criticism should be offered with due humility
Oct 17th, 2011 / 6:43 pm
I wasn’t thinking of people who criticize or admire my own work when I read this quote. It struck a chord because of that feeling I get when anyone is spraying criticism in many directions .
After the second or third comment in a conversation with anyone who can’t seem to or don’t want to find – yes, “what’s working” – in the work of others, I find myself not only discounting their opinion but avoiding their company.
“To be wary of those who are” fond of disliking is a wise advice, to me, because people who are invested in the action of appreciating draw from deeper wells. My time is limited, as Steve Jobs said. I’d rather spend it with people who are actively engaging the world, not just dismissing it. People who have learned to be fond of liking and who know why they are.
Oct 18th, 2011 / 9:11 am
You can be a creator, or you can be a critic of the creation.
I differentiate between the opinion of a troll or an expert. An expert is one that has given feedback and critique so often that they know exactly how to improve an artist without tearing them down. A troll only tears the artist down because they feel poorly about themselves or their art.
Oct 18th, 2011 / 9:14 am
That isn’t exactly a balanced view. It is important to listen to others. While one doesn’t necessarily have to react to what other say, it’s good to revaluate yourself occasionally, and often a criticism is a sound foundation for triggering some introspection. Honest self-evaluation is often ignored in favor of “positivity” these days, with a cost of people being extremely individualistic, rude, and mean to each other. Also, “hate” doesn’t always have anything to do with a criticism, and neither does maturity.
I’m an electrician, and if I see someone doing something clearly dangerous with electricity i’m going to criticize them. When I see people endangering the lives of other with their vehicle, being a negligent driver; i’m going to criticize them. NOT all criticism is bad, and you wont know what it is unless you LISTEN and THINK about it first.
Oct 19th, 2011 / 10:12 pm
So, if I see someone doing or saying something hurtful, misogynist, racist, dangerous, spiteful etc, and I call them on it, I’m subject to this appraisal? Or I’m subject to it if I don’t handle said racist/other asshat “gracefully”? I appreciate the “why can’t everyone just be nice to everyone else?” thing, but it’s a rather unworkable utopian ideal. If no one ever criticised anyone else the world would be a pretty slap-dash place, as Alex says — we’d all be getting electrocuted, apart from anything else. To be honest, I think the whole statement is rather backhanded (overtones of “people who criticise others are childish”) and petulant (“if you criticise me that makes you a lesser person, ner ner ner!”), not to mention unrealistic. And um, dishonest… because who’s _never_ criticised someone else? Who’s _never_ criticised someone else in a not-very-graceful way, even? Honestly? Finally, I’d rather be criticised if I’m doing something wrong/badly/hurtfully. So I call bullshit on this.
But I guess I’ll be ignored, because I’m criticising it…
Oct 20th, 2011 / 12:09 pm
re: “There’s no particular sophistication required to be a critic.”
I think here what we’re saying is the very common “it’s easier to be a critic than to make something”. I make things; my friends make things. I take seriously critical thoughts from people who make things. For all those others, I account for them in a very surreptitious and secret way:
That’s what a hater is to me: someone who doesn’t have the courage to put themselves out on the same plane of vulnerability but has an megaphone for people who do.
Oct 20th, 2011 / 11:31 pm
very nice. the song ‘Haters’ by TC sums this up in a very consise British way if you need some quick reasurance… http://youtu.be/bAwHQwPnjOg?t=38s
Nov 13th, 2011 / 11:03 pm