A Good Defense Is The Best Defense

by Daniel V. Licht (@thedvl)

The art of self-defense should be taught to all designers.

All of them.

Everyone is out to get you …


No one likes your work. It’s crap. They all know it, even the nice ones (they’re just lying to you).

SHHHHhhhhhhhh …

Come closer, I have a secret to tell you.

You can convince them it’s not crap. It’s easy. Just tell them WHY you made your decision. Make sure your reasons are sound, because if not, you’ve got nothing.

So, am I full of a certain waste product?

No. Well, not about this anyway.

My earlier statements were not false, but perhaps they need to be explained.

You see, there is a school of thought that teaches if you prepare for the worst, you will be prepared for what ever does happen, good or bad. I like that. It even suits our little interactive world. When presenting work, much like those days of art school critiques, you need to, in some cases, defend your artistic decisions.

When we design or architect (or paint, draw, compose dance or do anything else creative) we are making choices. Subjective choices. Ones that others might not agree with. Especially the person paying for said creative endeavors. Does this mean their choices or subjective opinions should be overruling or override ours? No. It shouldn’t. But we, of course, need to respect them – they are the client and the client is always right, they just might not know the right answer yet.

There is a reason they chose you, or your company. A reason they have placed their trust (and money, never forget the money) in you. Now here is the key … they hired you. This means you are the expert. So stuff all that expertise into your work. And sell it. ‘Cause, it’s not just about selling your company, you need to sell your design, your thinking, and your decisions. If a client wants to change the logo from the nice square one (that is the approved logo & happens to be on ALL the collateral) to a thin wide one, to save space. Tell them, NO. But tell them why. Defend your decision. Make a stand. And who knows … maybe, just maybe, they will listen to the expert, to the reasoning. Explain there is no need to change said logo, as it’s on all their collateral, because there is brand recognition in it, and because ALL the content is above the fold.

Show them you covered all the bases. That those awards in your office aren’t for being a snazzy dresser (which, of course, you are) but because you have helped countless clients make those hard decisions and they are the decisions that paid off, for both parties.



One thought on “A Good Defense Is The Best Defense

  1. Interesting post. In my case, I prefer to use “sustain” instead of “defend”, because most of the times you’re defending when somebody is attacking you, and this is not always the case when you’re receiving feedback.

    Some time ago I read this article http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/10/01/how-to-respond-effectively-to-design-criticism/ with some useful tips about the heavy duty of receiving feedback. Unfortunately, sometimes is easy to read and less easy to apply on our daily basis, but we’ll keep it going!

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