Why Criticism Is A Good Thing

March 13, 2009 by

One of the challenges to working with the church is some of the very opinionated feedback you receive from the pastor, committee, etc. When you get criticism what do you do? Do you get defensive, put up walls? Or do you embrace it in a way that results in great design?

Sitepoint has a great post that every designer working with the church should read. Excellent post. In fact, go read it and come back. I’ll wait …

See? Good stuff.

What did you think of the question posed at the end of the post? Is there ever a time when you don’t readily take feedback from a client and try to incorporate it into the project?

Here’s my take.

I always need to hear and consider the feedback, but I don’t always have to implement it. We have to get out of blindly thinking “the pastor is always right,” moving forward without any creative input … take their input, but the end product should be communication that is effective in carrying out the desired end result. That is success even if not everyone on the committee thinks it’s pretty. I want the pastor to love the design, but I also have a responsibility to speak into the process and educate the client. Remember this is not You vs. Them. Use the critique as a conversation starter and find the right way to express the message God has given them.

If you find that the critique is just critical and not constructive, guide them in how to give criticism. Ask them to fill in the blanks such as “I was hoping it would be more ______,” “It’s not telling people that _____,” etc. If you walk away wounded, if you find that those wounds are starting to have lasting scars, please have that conversation. Don’t let an offense build because as important as effective communication is, it’s not more important than people.

Post By:

Michael Buckingham

With the goal of making the church the most creative place on the planet, Michael founded Holy Cow Creative, the church’s creativity and design studio. He is the former creative director for the Center for Church Communication and Church Marketing Sucks, and is currently the experience pastor at Victory World Church in Atlanta.
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4 Responses to “Why Criticism Is A Good Thing”

  • Miles
    March 13, 2009

    Ah! This is just what I need to hear. I had heard third-hand that my pastor wasn’t fully happy with my work, and some of the criticism was a bit vague to me. Of course, I immediately jumped to a defensive attitude, but took some time to think and listen to others I work with to see where I could improve.
    This really helps me to focus what I can do to foster good communication in very tangible terms.

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  • Graham
    March 14, 2009

    Great post! I’m sure you’re talking about more than just web design here. This concept applies to all aspects of creativity. I’ve seen it happen all too often where someone on the team will have an idea that is really better than the pastor’s but the team goes with the pastor’s idea because… well… he’s the pastor. Usually it’s last minute stuff. If the pastor hasn’t had time to dissolve the new idea he’ll likely just go with what was already on the table. Sometimes this slow approach to ideas is a bad thing and doesn’t let these good ideas see the light of day.

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  • Michael Buckingham
    March 14, 2009

    Actually Graham often web design isn’t questioned nearly the way print and sermon series branding are concerned. They tend to be scared away by the tech talk and sense they have experience experiencing print, etc. they more easily see themselves as an authority on it.
    We get the most push back on print material, sermon series and logos…but we do more of that too.

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  • Huw Tyler
    March 25, 2009

    This is a fine line for any designer – Keep the client happy but at the same time there’s that voice in the back of the head shouting “BUT THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT”. Yes, design stuff is subjective (from the Sitepoint article), but it’s also a science – calculated and researched.
    A designer has the skill of mixing the artistic creativity with scientific communication. Pastors, clients, whoever we’re working for, often don’t, and this is where strong designers select the constructive criticism wisely to deliver a job that appeals to the clients audience more than the client.
    More here… (sorry for the British analogies): http://www.sharecreative.co.uk/blog.php?id=49

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