You like it when people like your work. During a critique, when comments such as “I like it” or “I love it” or even “that’s awesome!” are made about what is on the wall, you feel good. Getting the approval of your peers is a great way to build confidence as an artist or designer. “I like it” puts a smile on your face as you proudly stand by what you have made. However, there is a catch: as a way to become better at what you do, “I like it” is worthless feedback. There is nothing from a bunch of “I like its” that helps you make better work (or, for that matter, from a bunch of “I hate its” either).
We can call this kind of feedback critiqueiness—the feeling that you are giving someone comments on their work that sound like a critique, but are really just internalized, superficial reactions to what you see. Critiqueiness is an illusion of feedback rather than an actual evaluation of work and a critical dialogue to help someone become better at what they do. Stephen Colbert famously coined the term “truthiness” on his show The Colbert Report to explain the idea that if you want something to be true, and you say it like it is true, then it must be true (at least to you). Critiqueiness is the same idea—if you want something to be critique, and you say it like it is critique, then it must be actual, valuable critique.
It is important to recognize the extremely gray area that art and design lives in. There are no rules or simple metrics on what is right or wrong, therefore an emotional, gut reaction carries more weight in the context of art school than it does in the context of hard science. Liking work is a good thing, and you should tell the artist or designer that their work has brought you joy. Our personal reaction to art and design does matter, but in the context of a critique, the value is not in affirmation or validation, it is in evaluation, context, and insight. “I like it” should come after the classroom, after the peer review, after the final prints or site has launched. Within the design process (and even the “final crit” is still part of the design process), you need help from your classmates or coworkers to know how to make the work better, more resonant, and more engaging.