Creative Problem Solving Process

Art 200/ Art 260 / Greg Clayton

8th Stage: Evaluate

Creative Problem-Solving: Evaluate

So how’d I do?

Compare your design to your concept statement.
How does it compare?
Remember that your concept statement declares what you're going for — it is your measure of success. Review your concept statement and look critically at any and every aspect of your design.

Here, as in the Selection stage, you judge strengths and weaknesses. But unlike the Selection stage, here you judge outcomes, final results, the net result of your ideas, selections and implementations.
'How does it really work?'

Honesty is one of the biggest issues here.
Can you honestly recognize what works well? And can you also recognize what is weak, missing or merely adequate?
This not about judging yourself, but your work. There is a connection between you and your work, and there is an important difference — your work is an expression of an idea within a particular context. Neither that context, nor that idea are you. They are things that you deal with. It is important to see the difference between you and your work — if you do not separate you from your created works, you will not be free to either criticize or praise your designs. You need to be able to do that — your designs and your audience need you to be able to see your own work clearly.

What would you do differently next time? What is the most compelling aspect of your solution? What detracts from or compromises the success of your solution?

Revise, Revise, Revise... (repeat)
Remember, also, that you will go through this stage several times during a single project.

After evaluating your design, you will might return to Ideation or Analysis so that you can improve your design. Often you will be evaluating sketches or models, rather than the final, completed design. Let your process continue — iterate repeatedly through the creative problem solving process.

Some Basic Crit Questions

An artist and designer needs good self-crit question in her toolbox.
The more eye-opening questions you have collected, the more clearly you can notice things that you would not otherwise notice.
Collect crit questions that work for you. Not every question works every time. You will find your own "perfect fit" questions over time. Reserve a couple of pages in your sketchbook or journal for reliable critique questions.

What is inconsistent with the concept?
Sometimes your design argues with itself — either visually or in content. Sometimes the forms argue with the content. Remember, good design is a well-integrated whole— form and content aspire to be unified.
Gradually, you will learn to discern the message of form as well as the message of text, imagery, symbols and so forth. Self-conistency is a trait of mature form and concept.

What distracts or interferes?
Distracting forms irritate you. You may not know what is really wrong, but you know its there...right there. Ask yourself what distracts from a clean, complete, well-integrated solution — very often some intuition will speak up and say "that!".

This question often draws attention to craftsmanship flaws and presentation glitches. Any glue stains, torn edges or loosely-glued parts will get the viewer's attention. Viewers may not know your concept, but he knows sloppy when he sees it. Like it or not, presentation communicates professionalism as well as passion — if you care about your design, you will eliminate poor craftsmanship.

What is missing or unclear?
If something is supposed to be said, make sure it's said.
If there is some hole, gap, or weak part, then identify what or where it is.
If something is vague or ambiguous, catch it now. Note that it is really helpful to ask other people what they see, what the "get" — find out how they "read" your design. You will see things through their eyes that you will often overlook through your own. Learn to borrow the eye's of others.

Is anything prominent that is unimportant?
Graphic Hierarchy includes the idea that conceptually important parts of a design should be graphically prominent. The converse is that unimportant parts should be graphically subdued — less visually prominent.
Look for things that jump out at you visually, but are not really contributing much conceptually — they're not helping your mission.

Is anything lost that is important?
This is the flip side of the prior question. Make sure that features that are essential to getting your message across, are visually prominent— you don't want the viewer to miss them.
Often emphasis and relief are not be handled well. Do your key features have enough value contrast? ...enough clarity? ...big enough? ...isolated well? ...positioned prominently? Do directional features lead to my focal areas?
On the flip side... Do my unimportant areas have too much of those things (above)? Are parts of lessor important overwhelming the important parts?

What’s working?
Identify what you're pleased with.
What traits feel right?
What features or parts are right on target?

What’s not working?
What get's in the way of enjoying this design? What get's in the way of understanding its message?
What is too ambiguous or vague? What is to precise or literal?

What can be improved?
What do you know you can do better on? What changes do you already wish you'd made?
Its not always necessary to figure out the "whole" problem — just identify several of the minor problems. When in doubt, fix what you know to fix. Then critique again.

What must be improved?
What is really a top-priority change? Look for the elephant in the room — whether you know how to improve it or not, you can see that it has to be changed before you'll be content with your solution.

Eliminate Excess.

In general, simpler is better. So what can I do without?

If you can leave something out, and still achieve your goals, leave it out.


Don't Assume Too Much

Don't assume that the viewer can read your mind. You know exactly what your design "means" — or, at least, what it is supposed to mean or do or be. But you've been working on this for days, weeks or months. You are now so close to it that you can hardly see it anymore — that's a typical designer's pitfall.
Designers often have trouble stepping back and re-seeing their work for the first time, with fresh eyes and an unbiased mind.

Ask others what they get out of your design. Find out what they feel or think about. Borrow their eyes.
Listen particularly for what they "don't get." Find out if you've assumed too much and communicated too little.

Is my essential content obvious? Too obvious? (Am I talking down to my viewers? People don't like to be patronized.)This is the opposite of the prior point.
Is my message too obscure...too erudite? Will most people "get it" or only a dedicated few? Who am I aiming to communicate with, anyway?
The challenge, in design, is often to find the happy medium between "too much" and "too little'. No two designers will agree on exactly where that is. That's why no two of us create the same design.

Personal Crit Issues: You are not your design

It is really, really important to separate yourself from your design — don't identify with it. That is, your work is your work and you are you — you are not the same thing as your work.

Why is this important?

If you cannot recognize that your work is only a product that you have made, then you will not be able to accept criticism of your design. When you identify with your design, you will take critical comments personally — and it will hurt. You might then react, you might stop listening, and you might stop creating. We each respond to confrontation and criticism differently. Some ways are healthier than others. Your job it to know your own pattern — know thyself. The better you know yourself, the better you can learn from others.
Your design is not you, it is a designed solution to a problem. It was created with many constraints, problems and limitations involved. Your design represents a single creative solution to a single problem within a particular context. That's not you.

Observe your own response to critical comments — sense whether you are getting too close to your design. In order to grow as a designer, it is necessary to see your work with a critical eye and to accept what others see — or don't see. Whatever they see.
In order to design solutions that serve well, we must learn from critiques.
It is important.

Of course, there is another side of this. Some of us have low self-esteems. We've not yet discovered our own worth. In this case, you may not be able to hear compliments.
When someone says that your design is great, what do you think?

"Nah, it not that good."

If you hear yourself consistently discounting praise for your design, then two things are probably true:
a) your own self-esteem is low
b) you identify too closely with your created works.

Both of these conditions will effect how you design. Some of us will overcompensate, obsess and work until we have perfected the design...often at great cost. Others of us will never commit to a particular solution (week keep avoiding the Select stage) and just keep our design in an early, "rough draft" status...forever.
It is possible address and make progress with personal crit issues. But you've got to decide to do it. Issues like this are just one more kind of creative problem in search of a solution.( remember...Accept )

You've got to be honest, otherwise, you can't grow — you can't improve if you aren't willing to see what needs improving. And you are not likely to exploit your gifts if you do not recognize what's strong about the work you create. You need to see both sides honestly.

Creativity | Creative Process | Prior Stage—Implement | Next Stage—Let Go

Accept | Analyze | Define | Incubate | Ideate | Select | Implement | Evaluate | Let Go


Greg Clayton
2D Design
Color Theory


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