Thoughts on Engineering, Photography, and Design.

Hey, I'm Ryan Heath. I design & develop things for a living and play with cameras for fun. This is where I share my thoughts on all of that — and probably more — along the way.

On Design Criticism: Out With the Negative, In With the Constructive

Whenever something relatively large launches (like a Facebook update or New Twitter) there are always a slew of “haters” disrespectfully attacking the design from all angles. The problem is blatant disrespect is rarely constructive.

Take the whole Gap logo redesign ordeal. That was a prime example of how not to be. Other designers were mocking the logo with “Crap” (instead of Gap) and being incredibly demeaning toward those who worked on the redesign. It was an awful display of character by so many people.

Currently it seems that the hot, fresh out-of-the-box target is the Mac App Store. For example, take a quote from this response (titled, Mac App Store UI is so hideous that it makes me want to kick a swan):

As expected, it pretty much confirms my thoughts that someone decided to shoot most of Apple’s designers some time around when brushed metal appeared, along with giving everyone at Cupertino a taste-ectomy. The app UI is just hideous, kicking conventions in the bollocks, laughing in the face of clarity, and mercilessly setting fire to UX and pushing it off a cliff.

Seriously? That bad, huh? Even if so, I don’t think it deserves such a degrading response. Nothing does, really. What that quote could have been:

I’m not a fan of the Mac App Store UI. A few common conventions have been broken and the overall experience isn’t as good as it could be, especially coming from the UX experts at Apple. For example, …

That post does go on to make several valid points, but it’s the link-baiting negativity in the title and intro that bothers me. There’s simply no benefit in barefaced negativity toward someone else’s design.

The same thing happens in sports. There will always be fans who get pissed off at a coach for a bad play call, when more often than not, the person complaining couldn’t do a fraction of the job the coach is doing. In sports I expect it, but I really hate to see this behavior make its way into design communities. Every single designer to date has produced crappy work. It’s part of getting better.

It’s challenging to produce good design, there’s no doubt about it. There are many problems to solve within a single solution. But what’s not challenging is to come along at the end and pick out the 5-10% that may be off kilter and run it into the ground because “you could do better”. It’s a different view when starting with a blank slate, I can assure you.

Next time try to remember that there are caring people behind both good and bad design who, in most cases, put a lot of time, thought, and effort into what they do. Maybe they’re not professionals (yet), but they’re trying.

So let’s declare 2011 the year for constructive criticism and we can raise our glasses to better design as a result.