Ask Adobe Design: What's the most helpful advice you've received during a design critique?

Four brand designers on sharing their work with their team

At the center of a vividly-hued digital illustration against a red background is a hybrid animal—with big ears and two sets of eyes—wearing a track jacket, shorts, and high-top sneakers, and playing a two-necked guitar in front of two large speakers emitting lightning bolts, flames, and sound waves. A hand giving a thumbs up is in the lower right corner and a hand giving the thumbs down is in the lower left.

Illustration by Eirian Chapman

Ask Adobe Design is a recurring series that shows the range of perspectives and paths across our global design organization. In it we ask the talented, versatile members of our team about their craft and their careers.

During a design critique, receiving constructive, actionable feedback can help widen a designer’s perspective and impact how they approach their work moving forward. We asked four designers from our Brand & Experience team to reflect on moments from the early stages of their careers and share the lessons they’ve carried into their design work.

“Always gather direct feedback from the client and the audience.”
Alexandra Fernald, Staff Designer

“Back when I was a graphic student at Laguna College of Art + Design, I took a foundational brand identity class. Our classes would often have critiques where industry professionals would provide feedback and perspectives on our work. During one of those critiques, I learned to always gather direct feedback from the client and the audience.

“Everyone has opinions and advice, and as designers it’s our job to gather it, look at it holistically, and ask ourselves whether it serves the audience so our designs—whether a logo, app icon, or illustration—can be the best they can be for the use case. It’s important to have sound reasoning behind every design decision, so design elements can be intentional and serve a specific goal. Understanding the audience helps designers make informed design decisions.

“I’ve brought the lessons from these critiques into my career at Adobe by considering and incorporating client and user feedback into our final designs. Last year our Brand & Experience team partnered with the Marketing team to create a new identity for Adobe Express. Our team developed multiple concepts, which were then tested with users and stakeholders to determine whether the logo, form, iconography, and colors were being understood. The feedback helped guide our branding decision on the final identity to ensure the audience would receive it well.”

“Learn to be okay with feeling uncomfortable during a critique and be able to let go of your attachment to your work.”
Isabelle Hamlin, Design Manager

“Last year our design team worked on an update for Spectrum, Adobe’s design system. Because everyone had a different perspective on the business, it was important that my presentation during the design critiques addressed those, while also touching on findings that were relevant to the wider design audience, across organization stakeholders, and with leadership.

“For me, good design critiques include moments that swing between best- and worst-case scenarios, communicated in rapid succession and accompanied by new and more questions to answer. The result is a collection of feedback fragments about the work scattered among complex conversations. Learning to be okay with feeling a bit uncomfortable during a critique and being able to let go of my attachment to my work are two things that have helped me focus on the productive insights that eventually improve my designs.

“Those things allow me to listen thoughtfully to all feedback—from blockers and pain points to moments of delight—about the experience we’re building. Ultimately, it’s the constructive quality of feedback that helps improve user experiences, and that’s what matters to the people who use our products every day.”

“Trusting in yourself and your ideas produces more meaningful results.”
Doroteea Ionascu Ispas, Production Designer

“Looking back into my creative past, one moment that’s stuck with me was my final B.A. presentation. I was studying graphic arts with a focus on printmaking and the medium that I chose was linocut—presented in the form of a handbound book. All the student work was presented in a gallery, and we were all waiting one-by-one to be critiqued and graded by the ‘jury’ (our professors).

“It was at the very beginning of our careers, a time when we were still deciding which paths we would take, so everyone was nervous and impatient. I wasn’t feeling optimistic, because during the process of completing my project, my ideas and outlook clashed with those of my guide lecturer. His opinion was that the book ‘wasn’t enough’ and he suggested adding a series of wall-mounted prints to ‘elevate’ the project. Unfortunately, his feedback left a lingering feeling that the work that I was doing was not good enough—especially because I chose a traditional approach instead of something more contemporary.

“During the critique, the jury was impressed and the feedback I got from them was in some way opposed to what I’d heard from the guide lecturer. They were thrilled by the book but didn’t see a meaningful reason for the wall-mounted prints, so I lost points. It felt a bit unfair to be penalized for an idea that wasn’t mine, but it was a great learning experience.

“I realized that a piece of advice—even from someone you believe has the right answers—could turn into unexpected or contrary feedback from others. Trusting in yourself and your ideas usually produces more meaningful and solid results. Moving forward with my career, the environment and medium I was working in changed, but I still think about that time, and realize that it made me determined to have more faith in myself (while also staying open to different points of view).”

“A designer’s best friend is the paper bin.”
Marco Mueller, Staff Designer

“The best advice I’ve ever received was from one of my professors at university. He told me that a designer’s best friend is the paper bin—and to not be too attached to your work.

“This advice didn’t affect me much at university because it took me a couple of years—and feeling stuck on more than one project—to fully understand it. There is a strange, thin line between not being too attached to your own work (so you can start over at any time) but at the same time embracing it (because that’s what makes work fun).

“Tossing ideas that aren’t working is easier now—because I can save a new version without feeling that I've lost the work entirely—but the ability to let go of them is still important. When I approach design work now, I’ll start with an idea, and let it grow as long as it seems feasible. If I hit a blocker and the idea no longer seems viable, I’ve learned that’s the best moment to start over by saying ‘thank you’ to my first idea, tossing it, saving a new version, and starting again with a blank page.”

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