Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I just read a headline on Ad Gabber that said, "Being Nice Will Kill Young Creatives."

The article says, "It's true being nice just to be nice doesn't help anyone. In fact, according to this video for the Denver Ad Club, it can cause a person to drown. Of course, no one in advertising is ever nice just to be nice. In fact, going into advertising offers the perfect platform for a person to rip the shit out of another person and toss it of as simply "critiquing the work."

So, so true. Yesterday I was chatting with another Advertising instructor. He normally rips the shit of of his students with the full intention of making them better creatives. We were talking about how this somewhat harsh method was really for the best of the students. Being tough pushes them and results in better creative. The sucky kids won't care and will end up hating the teacher, but the good ones will care, will work harder and will create better work.

We all know what we mean when we use the word nice. How was your date tonight? Nice. How do you like my new haircut? It's nice. Nice is the word we use when we can't think of something more substantial to say.

Is that really what you want to hear about your portfolio? Sure, being nice to you (with regard to your work) spares everyone's feelings. But, back to the Ad Gabber article -- Being nice will kill young creatives.

Keep that in mind when a creative director or an instructor rips your idea apart. In fact, seek out criticism. I always feel bad when I don't like work in someone's portfolio and they are sitting right in front of me waiting for my response. I will always try to give some suggestions as to how they could rethink or rework or even just start over with their idea. I might feel bad that I didn't praise the work, but I do know better work may come out of my advice.

Mostly, I think I am too nice. I struggle with what to say about a book that I don't think is strong. Usually, it's "you have a good range of work." Which is true without being judgmental. Starting today, I will taper that practice. Of course manners and politeness won't be tapered. But everyone deserves honesty and genuine feedback and maybe my being too nice in that regard is the exact opposite of being helpful.


Anonymous said...

being nice can be as simple as "unfortunately, I think your portfolio still needs a lot of work, and here's why"

being nice will help you get ahead in ANY industry because people don't like to work with people who aren't nice.

there's nothing wrong with being honest—everyone appreciates honesty. but being an ass just makes pathetic people feel better about themselves (and only for a short time).

i think you should stick to being nice. and i'd be willing to bet it's how you got where you are today.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with your observation. I think I disagree with your conclusion. You may be confusing what vs how.

What junior creatives need is candid and informed feedback. That's how people grow. If they don't want to grow, they will ultimatel fail.

How this feedback is conveyed should be supportive and non-judgemental. Your feedback should come across as having their best interest at heart.

In other words, nice.

Amanda said...

I have been in the graphic design industry for 5 years and have had the experience of listening to "nice" people tell me in a very sweet way that I need to work on my craft. For me, this made the critism very weak and didn't motivate me at all. It made me question their own background and opinions. The advice didn't stick.

Now...I've never had someone yell at me or tell me I'm a piece of poop but I have had the pleasure of people telling me like it is, in a very diplomatic, honest way. This form of critism made me want more, made me want to become a better designer, it brought out my passion, it gave me the feeling of knowing I could do better and what the hell was I doing settling for less? It stuck.

So really, being too nice doesn't help anyone but being too mean doesn't either.

I think there is a fine line when it comes to constructive critism.

Cecilia Gorman said...

Amanda, perfectly said.