Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis Better to Critique Than Create

It kills me to write that title. I pride myself on being a creator first, and a critiquer second, and never critiquing something without offering solutions. However, I'm also aware of how easy and natural it is to critique.Any blog, website, or newspaper is filled with opinions, both professional and unprofessional (hello, blog comments!) about what's wrong with everything. On the other side, it's much harder to create. Many people are not able or willing to create something new, but they know how to meticulously analyze what's been created. Is this a lack of creativity, a subconscious avoidance of critique, or some other social factor? No matter the cause, the reality surely exists. Anyone in a design profession, particularly those with clients, understand the annoying reality of "the rock game". This situation is the endless "fun" that results from a client or manager who is does not know what they want, but knows exactly what they don't want, especially when they see what you've created. The result is a back-and-forth of design iterations where each "rock" you bring back is met with a response of "not that rock, bring me another rock". 

Anyway, this is nothing new to anyone, but I'm wondering how to put this phenomenon to more useful purposes. I've been designing beer labels lately for my own brews as well as those for friends involved in home brewing. It's a nice way to de-stress for an hour after a long workday or hours of thesis work. What I've learned from designing these labels is that my best designs come from utilizing the ease of critiquing verse the slow process of creating. What I do is essentially a design version of a brainstorm, just quickly playing around with concepts and giving very little planning to the process. The logic is that it's easier to recognize what you want when you can see what you don't want. In this sense, you're learning about your design and constantly tweaking the course, which I personally think is far more effectively than planning up front and executing in a straight path. I suppose this is a surrender to the fact that design iterations are inevitable, so you might as well use them to your advantage. Is what I'm doing just rapid iteration that every decent designer does? Sure - I'm just pointing it out that the power and ease of critiquing can be leveraged to speed up the creation process. 

Here are a few iterations of Christmas beer label I created for a friend of mine, in addition to a few other designs that I created for my own brews and brewpub concepts. For a point of reference, I probably created 24-30 unique Elfin Good Christmas concepts in under an hour. I hope this concept helps you in your creative pursuits. Happy Holidays!