Don’t let them pat your back

Whatever industry you’re in, I bet you’ve seen this kind of scene played out multiple times; someone has made something that looks pretty rad, but has no use, reason or excuse other than because the maker wanted it to exist, and his co-workers congratulate him without a second thought, amazed how good work he has done and that they’d never be able to do the same, and the thing made is something like a rocket ship when the guy was supposed to make a TV-remote.

This is a problem that encompasses the creative industries, anything from designing to film industry, from music to simple paintings.

Getting positive feedback is not a problem in itself. On the contrary;positive feedback is most often the driving force to keeps us doing anything. The problem lies where the positive feedback isn’t constructive, has no validation and is basically meant for wank off the illusionary world that the industry has; the trophy product.

Trophy product is something completely asinine that should be avoided as much as possible if you’re intending to do good work. There’s shelves full of books that nobody really buys or reads because they’re not good, but the writer got them out and that was enough for him. Same with films, musics and whatever people ever create. These products more often than not are simply not good and have no real reason to exist as a finished product. The problem within these products is that the industries value trophy products to a point, thou different industries put different weight on the product’s properties.

As such you can imagine that trophy products mostly stem from the artist side of things.

In all reality a perfect trophy product, or rather what a trophy product should be, is something that demands everything from the maker and fulfills almost every niche the said product can fill, thus ensuring high amount of success and the overall feeling of achieving something. These products may be flukes or can happen with no intention. Literature is filled with books that the author never intended to be the main part of their story, game industry has loads of games that saw success even thou they were not intended to be blockbusters, there are films that broke records and of course, music has insane amount of songs that nobody ever expected to strike true.

Yet most of the time we receive large amounts of these products that just don’t hit their target. Part of the blame for this is because the people working in these creative industries live in a bubble. Within these bubbles they only get feedback from their co-workers that are just blind to the reality as the artist. A craftsman should be able to overcome this and view his work from the customers’ perspective.

Say that you’re designing a logo. After finding the perfect one you’re completely satisfied with it and you ask your fellow designers for opinions, and they say that yes, it looks pretty good and that they love the typography in it. You feel content, happy that you’ve made a pretty good logo and that people actually like it. Correction; designers like it. Then you ask your random friend who studies citizenship education and politics, and he mentions that the few shapes of the logo remind him too much of numerous other shapes already used by various companies, and another friend pops from behind your shoulder and tells that it’s rather lacklustre in overall shape. At this point you should realize that you can rely on your design partners in making the logo on technical level, but the actual feedback, the feedback that matters over anything else, is the people who see it most outside your workplace.

There’s a reason why companies want to know what their customers want and need. Every artist and craftsman should do the same. In this way we can ensure that we gain historically and culturally important products.

Let’s use Citizen Kane as a kind of example here. Or the original King Kong, either one works fine. Both films are great; masterpieces in many minds. They both, especially King Kong, invented new methods and techniques to film at times when techniquesand technology was limited. Nowadays we don’t see similar levels of ingenuity, because the industry doesn’t really demand that and the customers really don’t understand to demand such thing. Both stories are timeless, but not because of the artistic talent of the makers, but the craftsmanship they had. You could actually set either King Kong or Citizen Kane into any time period, in past or future, and in any genre, be it porn or sci-fi, and they’d work because they’re universal and make use of timeless motives.

To make a perfect product is to know what you’re making, the right reasons the product should exist and the knowledge to make thesaid product. An artist paints and writes whatever he wishes and should be content with it. A craftsman should make a product that has a meaning to the customer, and not to him.

As such I wish my readers to take a different look at your work, be it school or not, and ponder whether or not it has a meaning. Not a meaning just to you, but to thosewho the product is made for.

I believe getting negative feedback is more important than positive, as it drives us to make things better. Of course, if someone is giving negative comments in a dickish way, be my guest to punch them in the face and ask them to try again in a more civilized manner. Negative feedback allows us to make better products, but most of the time we are unable to give proper feedback if we’re too close. That’s why it’s so important to get outside feedback from people from who don’t even know what the hell you’re talking about. It’s important to get a proper outside opinion on your product beforehand.

Next time you find yourself getting congratulated by your co-workers and people close to your station, stop for a moment to think; are these people just patting each other for being an awesome designer through you, or is your product actually good enough?

Eight times of ten you need to get to the drawing table, and this is a good thing. It’s not about being a perfectionist, it’s a matter of being just good enough.




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