Ask DN: How do you stay emotionally detached from your work?

over 8 years ago from , UX Designer @ Bluebeam, Inc.

Designers always give the advice of not getting too attached to what you are making, but honestly no one really says how you do that. When you spend hours on end creating and perfecting a project only to have it criticized by people who have no investment in it at all it feels very personal. What are some things can actually do to make sure you're being as objective and detached as possible?


  • Matt FeltenMatt Felten, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )
    • Keep doing it.
    • Make sure you know who the user is.
    • Have reasons for everything.
    • Dig into their critique to understand what the actual problem is.
    • Accept that you can make mistakes.
    • Don't be afraid to throw work away.
    10 points
    • Max Bailey, over 8 years ago

      Good points. I especially agree with "Have reasons for everything.", that's a very good way to stay objective. I've found if I can't justify why I've done something, it's usually open to debate.

      1 point
  • Pasquale D'SilvaPasquale D'Silva, over 8 years ago

    Have other things you can focus your emotions on. I put mine into art (illustration, painting, music).

    6 points
  • Eric Foster, over 8 years ago

    I think a lot of it comes with time.

    As a pretty seasoned professional, I now see my work as a potential solution to a problem, which can only benefit from the criticisms of others, rather than a masterpiece which is above criticism, whereas when I was just starting out in the business 8 years ago, it was the opposite.

    That being said, keep in mind, you should take feedback with a grain of salt. Everyone has his/her own ideas about how an idea should be communicated. That doesn't make any one of them (including yours) the completely right (or wrong) one. The goal is to provide something to the client (whoever that may be) that accomplishes whatever he or she has chosen you to use your skills to accomplish.

    Ego is the driving force behind the attachment/devastation/resentment you feel. When a designer is driven by ego, the produced piece is perceived as an extension of the self, cautiously exposed and guarded preciously, rather than what it is at its core: a product/service in which the designer may not be the key stakeholder.

    Ask yourself questions along the way, like: is this design serving the purpose it's meant to, or am I just producing work that I like which actually contains more self-interest than problem-solving? Remember you are not just an artist. You are more than that. You are a problem solver. Artists have it easy because their expression is unbounded by constraints of project briefs or business goals.

    Bottom line: Keep at it.

    6 points
  • Saffad KhanSaffad Khan, over 8 years ago

    I like to remember that your design (the solution) should be solving a problem. For every design work, I am aware of the higher level user and business goals. It should have some sort of flow or story and you could frame some questions about what the design is intended to do and what the scenarios are.

    So it always goes back to answering those questions and meeting those goals. That's what I try and aim for.

    See here for more: http://scottberkun.com/essays/23-how-to-run-a-design-critique/


    Hope that helps.

    2 points
  • Taurean BryantTaurean Bryant, over 8 years ago (edited over 8 years ago )

    • Learn to distinguish the difference between identifying a problem and the solution you decide on. There can be more than one solution to a problem and some are more elegant than others.

    • Make sure that feedback is always about solving problems and not about preference. Its easier to stay objective that way.

    • Make sure that you work isn't getting its final polish before you're including feedback from others. You're wasting your time and theirs that way.

    • Have personal projects. Thats when your say is final and you can do whatever you want. It makes it easier to stay a team player when at work.

    2 points
  • E PE P, over 8 years ago

    3 things help me:

    Get as many stakeholders (and designers) as possible to participate in the design thinking process. Getting everyone to connect the dots at the beginning of a project helps remove subjectivity and diffuse strongly held points of view.

    Remember when you've been the difficult client: substituting ingredients in a chef's perfect creation; ignoring a mechanic's advice because obviously they were scamming you; telling a cab driver which route to take. Yup, you've been that client too!

    Have a hobby outside work – outside design. Don't overly identify yourself with your job.

    0 points
  • Josh TregenzaJosh Tregenza, over 8 years ago

    Unless you are working on your own project, your project isn't for you, it's for the audience. If you make choices by your gut, have analytical evidence to back up your decisions. You are the professional who aggregates all the knowledge that you have and the information you have from research and client meetings.

    At the end of the day, you can have pride in doing good work, good work is achieving the client's stated goals

    0 points
  • David SinclairDavid Sinclair, over 8 years ago

    You shouldn't 'stay' emotionally detached.

    I have a mental switch that allows me to switch off at the right moments- I think just practicing switching that side on and off is a great skill to have.

    When it's time for review/feedback - its time to listen and take 'yourself' out of the equation.

    If that person isn't invested in what you are doing, then why do they have a voice at all? Nevertheless, good feedback can come from anywhere.

    0 points