The Art of Getting Great Feedback

Feedback is an integral part of any design process but how do you get good, quality feedback on your work that you can trust? Open yourself up and read on to find out why feedback is so important, what kind of feedback you should seek, who to get feedback from, who you just need to ignore and more. Why Should I Even Ask for Feedback? It’s My Art. The biggest benefit of asking for feedback ultimately is to improve yourself as an artist or designer and raise the quality of your work. No matter what level you are at, a mature artist knows there is always room for improvement. Allowing a second set of eyes is also about admitting that you don’t know everything, and that maybe you're "too close" to the project to see it without bias. After a while you can begin to use others feedback to help measure yourself as an artist. With each feedback cycle, you will learn new approaches and techniques to get better results. What Questions Should I Ask? Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and the type of work you’re seeking feedback on determines the type of questions you should ask. Two key points of feedback to ask for are:
  1. What things are working well and what things are not? Why is that?
  2. If this was your piece, how would you have done it differently?
Here are some things to consider depending on what area you’re focused on: Illustration If you’re a newer artist to illustration, technical feedback on the composition, color, anatomy or lighting of your art can be the most helpful. If you are more experienced, feedback on the overall concept of the piece or how successful your technique is at solving the overall problem can go a long way to helping you strengthen your creative skillset. illustration 3D Modeling Relatively new to 3D modeling? You'll likely need feedback on volume and proportion, contours and the finish of edges. If you're using a reference, share that with your work so those giving feedback have something to compare with. More experienced in 3D modeling? Try getting more focused feedback on those areas that you know are weak. At this point, the feedback could get rather subjective, and you may not find a consensus. When you get a critique on an aspect of your project that you're finished with, it's up to you to make a judgment on what to modify and what to leave as is. 3D Rigging If you’re new to the world of 3D rigging, reach out and see if there is anything else you can build into your rig to make it more useful. Ask for a pair of eyes on how well your skeleton articulates and where you could place your joints to achieve a more natural rotation for each bone. A much appreciated question is always around how concise and consistent your naming conventions are on your rig so anything is easy to search for. As a more experienced artist, feedback on how your characters maintain volume as they deform is helpful. Ask what type of system you could develop to preserve any volume being lost. Speed is another important factor to focus on. How can you speed up the performance of your control rig? What method of rigging can you use to automate the movement of things like tails, hair, clothing and other accessories to help save animators time? 3dRigging 3D Animation As a newer animator, seek feedback on how you can make your character’s actions as clear as possible. Are there moving holds you can add anywhere? Are your animation cycles seamless? Is there enough weight in your character’s performance? As a more experienced animator, focus on finding ways to make your animation feel convincing. Great opportunities for helpful feedback can be found on how well you’re achieving natural arcs in your animation. Where can you improve them so the performance feels more natural? Also, are there ways you can optimize your use of tangents in the Graph Editor to keep your function curves clean while maintaining quality in your animations? Overall, are you animations too rigid or unnatural and how might you correct this? 3D Lighting and Rendering If you’re a newer rendering artist, you should ask if your lighting feels "flat" or "plain" and how you can fix this. Also consider asking how your materials look. Are there any materials in your scene that look oddly fake or artificial? If you are more experienced with lighting and rendering, you should ask if the "mood" of the lighting fits with the intended style of the shot and whether or not there is any post-work that can be done to improve the look of your rendered image. 3dLightingRendering CAD Drafting If you’re relatively new to drafting, proper line weight selection and using surface and cut patterns can make your plans read much better. Ask if your line weights make your plans easier to read or seem too busy. Another point to consider is whether or not someone can differentiate between floor finishes with the surface patterns you’ve used. If you’re someone more experienced in drafting and you’re working on a connection detail you may ask if the bolts connecting the beam to the column are the right size or gauge. Do you need to add a weld or a strut? Do you need additional reinforcing to support a particular beam? Did you take into account all the loads for this design scenario? CADdrafting CAD Modeling When you’re new to modeling, feedback on proportions and material selection can be very helpful. For instance, do they feel your roof is proportionate to the rest of your building? Did the materials you used look realistic or fit the design? If you’re more experienced in modeling and are working on a site design or plan, you understand your building is going to have an impact on the site. So look for feedback on the proportion of your building in relation to the site and surrounding buildings. Does this compliment and blend in with the site or does it disrupt what's going on with the site? Do the elements you’ve included in this site model provide you with the right level of detail? Is this model an accurate enough representation of the actual site? All of these are important considerations when it comes to site design. CADmodeling Game Art As a newer game artist, you may find asking how your topology looks and if there are any areas that need more or less resolution to be helpful. How you can make your textures look even better is another great question. Presentation is an additional area where you can’t go wrong asking for tips on how to make it stand out even more. As a more experienced game art artist, you can like elements of your game assets but feel as though something feels off and asking others if they agree and have any suggestions can help you improve your work. game_art Motion Graphics and VFX If you’re relatively new to motion graphics and VFX, ask if there are any issues with the timing of your work that they think make it hard to absorb the message you’re trying to communicate. Find out if they think compositionally speaking that your work is strong. You can also ask if there are any areas that could be improved by pushing the contrast of values, colors, animation, speed and fonts. For more experienced motion graphics and visual effects artists, challenge yourself and ask if at the end of the day is your work just a repackaged form of something that still does not feel original. For example, if you have a Rube Goldberg-esque design did you reinvent it in a way that people will say, “I would have never thought of this concept in this light”. mograph_vfx What Feedback Should I Ignore? Asking for feedback and putting your work out there requires a certain level of trust on your part to the person you are seeking feedback from. Feedback shouldn’t be overly critical, laced with personal opinions or be unrelated to what you’re asking feedback on. To help explain what you should perhaps not ignore but definitely avoid implementing into your design process are the Rules of The Feedback Game: 1) Be lovingly honest and respectful, whether it’s good or bad, just as long as it’s necessary 2) There are positives in every piece of work. If you have to deliver critical feedback do it in a constructive way with a “compliment sandwich” and start with something that is going well, then something that could be improved and follow up with something else that is going well. Isolated feedback is sometimes not the best feedback. For example, if one in ten people said that something was wrong and needs to be fixed, that may be something to take with a grain of salt. Feedback from those without artistic experience should usually be avoided. If you need affirmation about a piece, asking friends or family that are not artists is absolutely fine but remember they may not have the critical eye that’s needed to help you improve. How Can I Tell if It’s Genuine Feedback or They’re Just Being Polite? If someone is ambiguous or tells you it’s perfect, they are most likely not be taking your request seriously. They could also not have the knowledge to answer effectively and are just being polite. When in the Design Process Should I Ask for Feedback? The need for feedback tapers off with experience. If you’re a newer artist, ask for feedback early and throughout the process because it’s easier to fix something like color or composition earlier rather than later. For example, after completing a rough sketch you may ask for feedback on the composition of your work before addressing color. Be careful to avoid becoming too reliant on feedback during your design process; however, because once you finish your education it’s harder to get feedback as a working professional. You should strive to be self-efficient enough to create your own artwork. If you’re more experienced in your craft then you should wait until after a project is complete to seek feedback. In this case, feedback is not to fix or salvage a project but to offer insight on for future growth. Who Should I Ask for Feedback From? If you’re in a school, professors are a wonderful resource. Other students you have trust and are studying in the same field as you are can provide welcomed peer reviews too. A working professional can lean on coworkers doing similar work or an art director may be available to solicit feedback from. Regardless, make sure whoever you ask has the knowledge and experience to offer constructive feedback on your work. Who Should I Avoid Asking Feedback From? Even though this has pretty much been answered already, it’s important. Family are most likely not the best to seek feedback from. People who don’t have the core knowledge or background should also be avoided. Anyone unwilling to play by the rules of The Feedback Games and offer lovingly honest feedback should not be on your list to reach out to. Where Are Good Sites to Ask for Feedback? There are a number of communities where artists in your area of interest can post their work for feedback. A word of caution that there are trolls everywhere that set out to hurt the confidence of any artist they need improvement and often people in public forums forget how to play The Feedback Game and can be rude without constructive criticism. Digital-Tutors Community Forum strives to be a positive place where designers can find constructive criticism in a friendly environment. Here’s a short list to help narrow down your search for other great sites for feedback: General CG www.digitaltutors.com/11/community.php www.behance.net www.deviantart.com www.cgsociety.org Illustration www.artfeedback.com www.fanartreview.com 3D Modeling www.zbrushcentral.com www.cgsociety.org 3D Lighting and Rendering www.cgsociety.org www.cgarchitect.com CAD www.revitcity.com www.cgarchitect.com www.revitforum.org Game Art www.polycount.com www.gameartisans.org Motion Graphics and Visual Effects http://area.autodesk.com www.motionserved.com If I’m Giving Someone Else Feedback, Are There Any Do’s and Don’ts? Do remember the compliment sandwich. It’s easy to focus on the negative and even if you’re presenting it in a constructive, respective. The message communicated isn’t always the message received. Do clarify upfront what someone is seeking feedback on, whether it’s the entire piece or one specific aspect of the piece. If someone is asking for feedback and you begin to tell them how wrong the color is and they’re just wanting to know how well they rendered the anatomy you may have just closed the door on any future feedback opportunities. Don’t forget about the constructive part of constructive feedback. Offer solutions to problems you find and don’t just point out the problems. Do respect the other artist most of all. They worked hard on their work like you do and they’re exhibiting a level of trust in you and making themselves vulnerable. What’s the Best Way for Me to Take Feedback from Someone? Should I Take It Personal? Absolutely do not take anything personally. Part of receiving feedback is removing yourself regardless of the countless hours that you’ve put into your work. The point of feedback is to make your work better. If you’re asking for feedback, be prepared to receive it and not get defensive, especially if multiple people come back with that same feedback. If you find yourself compelled to explain your approach in response to someone’s feedback, do so only to find out how you could have accomplished the goal of your approach better and not to persuade them to retract a constructive piece of feedback. Final Thoughts Learning how to receive feedback you can count on is almost as much of a skill as it takes to design the work you’ve made. It takes practice and patience to make yourself vulnerable and find the best people you can rely on. Ultimately, your hard work will pay off as continue to grow your design skills with feedback from others to push your creative limits.