Fear of Failure

One of my graphic design professors once said that sometimes the craziest ideas are the best. These are the ideas that might initially promote boisterous laughter and a, “That’s stupid!,” by a committee of critics or that guy you always meet in traffic on your way to work. I’m pretty positive that Henri Matisse was talking about this stage of the design process when he said, “creativity takes courage,” because it truly does. It takes guts for designers (or anyone, really) to put their ideas and craft out there for clients to judge. Sometimes they judge it fairly and with tact, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it will be judged by people who know what they’re talking about and sometimes they won’t have a clue.

As Mr. Glaser mentions in this video, the fear of being judged by others is often what leads to the fear of failure. We assume that if we fail, if that crazy idea doesn’t turn out to be the best one after all, people will judge us and our work because of it. …and they will. But, in reality, people will judge us and our work no matter what. They’ll criticize the work because it contains the color pink; they’re least favorite color, don’t you know. …or because the design doesn’t “pop.” In these instances, it’s simply best to meet the client in the middle. If they don’t like pink; try blue. If there isn’t in enough “pop;” spice things up a bit.

Sometimes, though, clients will turn the opportunity to criticize a designer’s work into a personal attack on the designer. Though it may be hard at first, it’s best to ignore this type of criticism. It’s not constructive in the least because it doesn’t do anything to improve our work. It also doesn’t give us any perspective on how to make our work more pleasing to the client.

But, before we ignore all the criticism that comes our way, it’s best to remember that, more often than not, it’s meant to be constructive. It comes from a place of honesty and from people who genuinely want to improve our work. As a designer, this honest and constructive criticism is the kind we want to hear because it teaches valuable lessons and helps us grow.