07 September 2023
2 minutes read

By Jeremy Willmott

“Well, I don’t hate any of these designs...” she proclaimed enthusiastically. Not a great start to my design review.

Admittedly, the reviewer in question was a member of my sports club who, as part of a sub-committee, had assembled to give their thoughts on my t-shirt designs, of which I’d volunteered my time in helping create. Design by committee (which this literally was) is never a fun prospect but more so when being reviewed by a person who doesn’t work in a creative industry and isn't aware that their choice of words might crush someone’s soul.

As professional creatives, we should know better. But jumping to the negative seems to be a pastime for some in our industry.

Negativity is rife in advertising. Just take a look at the comments section on Campaign Brief if you need proof that we have a problem. The commentary there can be toxic and goes way beyond giving constructive feedback on the work. I’ve had creatives seriously consider their choice of career off the back of reading some of the comments on their work. For myself, I descend into a fug of gnarly bitterness after reading comments on the work I’ve proudly put out into the world.

You’ve gotta have a thick skin to work in this industry.

When I hear this phrase I feel sorry for the person. They’re like a foot that has run a marathon without shoes, protected by a calloused layer of hardened skin. But underneath that tough exterior is a sensitive sole. I’m that sensitive soul. I think most creatives are.

In an industry with a talent crisis, surely we need to start fostering a culture of constructive feedback. We have an undercurrent of poor mental health too, which is only exacerbated by this issue. Isn’t it time we start building each other up instead of tearing each other down?

I started Drop The Shade, a collaboration between Paper Moose and Innocean, to address the issue of normalised vitriol in our industry by agreeing on a code of conduct for giving useful, actionable, creative feedback. Over the coming months we’ll be building out this resource with our research findings. We’ll also be hearing from junior creatives and creative directors alike who sit on both sides of creative feedback about what it takes to give good creative feedback and why it’s important.

Read more about it and take the survey at: www.droptheshade.com

Creative Director

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