Don't Read the Comments...



Much ink has been spilled in the past few weeks over a number of high-profile rebrands; the critical response to Paula Scher's work on "The New School" culminated with her dry reading of select "mean tweets" just days before Hillary Clinton's "H-and-Arrow" found itself the focus of the Twittersphere’s most critical. Throw the less-than-impressed responses to the winner of "Canada's 150th" design competition into the mix, and it only underscores the passion, vitriol, and impatience of those with an opinion and a social media account.

It's been critique-by-140-characters, and it's been as ugly as the brands in question are purported to be. 


For the record: I think Scherr's work on The New School is going to play out with a consistency the haters have completely disregarded; Clinton's H-and-Arrow actually makes a statement ("We're going somewhere!"); and although I'd rather have seen the logo for Canada's 150th procured through different means (and the design itself distilled), it's not going to ruin the party for me.

What will ruin the party is if we continue to pile on the critique as if we’ve forgotten that we also work for clients, from a brief, for purposes often beyond our control. We don't sign our work (like an artist) because it's not about us. Design isn't about self-expression, it's about the expression of others—a reality that means our design will often fall short of our own potential. 

In such an environment criticism can be exasperating at best, and downright demoralizing at worst

So how do we start a productive conversation about design across social media?

Start with empathy.

Start with compassion.

Start by recalling the last piece of work you had to release into the wild based on time, money, or a client who simply loved it "as is." 

Here's what I suggest: next time you see a design that makes you go "meh," consider that perhaps the designer behind it needs a shoulder to cry on after the horse they presented was turned into a camel by the committee who received it. Better yet, do some digging to see if you can discover the greater context within which the work will exist.

Start there and if you feel the need to say more, focus on where the work could have gone, not where it went. 

Point the way forward and you just may preemptively spare the world another uninspired design(er). 


James Kingsley is the Creative Director at Ellipsis Digital.

He's currently removing his portfolio from the Internet before this gets out of hand.