Fran Rosa

3 March 2017

Design

Design Reviews: How Social Media Killed Them

Bēhance is a site — a network of sites, really — where designers can show their work. There is curated collections of work in any design field, and you can have a profile and show your work. It has been now eleven years since it was launched, so the platform has changed a lot in these years.

Bēhance allows comments on the projects. People can ask you about your process, your decisions and the production of your project and it’s a great way to learn. Back in the day you had the option to choose if you were looking for feedback on every project and that was nice because before you wrote a thoughtful critique on a project there was an indicator that the designer was open to receive it. It was a nice balance between turning the site into a crossfire of designers always critiquing other’s work and enabling review by peers that is a common practice in design.

So eight years ago I left a comment on a project from a graphic designer who was looking for feedback on a project. The reasoning and concept behind the design was brilliant and it fit the project brief perfectly, but execution of the idea was poor. It seemed rushed because it didn’t fit the concept entirely. There was an imbalance between a brilliant idea and a poor execution. It’s not that the style or the graphic quality of the final product was bad, it just fell way short for the concept developed. My comment was removed shortly after.

I sent a private message to the designer asking why was my comment deleted, and the answer was ‘Inappropriate and far from the spirit of the site’. I apologised if my comment seemed rude, but after exchanging some more messages the conclusion of that designer was ‘This is a place to receive appreciation and positive feedback, not to critique other people’s work’. I was shocked.

After a short while Bēhance removed the ‘Looking for feedback’ option from the site and replaced it with an ‘Appreciation’ button with an icon of a hand with its thumb up.

Even at the time when I left that critique most of the comments on the site were just congratulatory messages. ‘Good work.’ ‘Nice!’ ‘Love it.’ But from time to time critique showed up because the other users are also designers — and other professionals of the design industry like photographers or illustrators. All of that is now gone.

Bēhance just followed the same path ever social media site shifting from an open platform where you could have discussions choosing to put your own work on the table to an ego focused competition to be featured, get ‘Likes’ — labelled as ‘Appreciations’ — , and have an infinite feed of inspiration. Also project descriptions are now just visible on a bubble when you place your mouse over a little button labelled ‘About’ — although you can also add text to your project view if you want to.

On one hand Bēhance just went with the flow trying to emulate a social media site, and on the other moved from an insightful view on the projects to a more visual interface for quick consumption à la Dribbble. But this is not a critique solely on Bēhance but on the design industry as a whole, because we have to move away from getting meaningless ego-driven numbers and more discussion over our own work. It as really helpful to me have feedback and meaningful discussions over my work as a student and when I started my career. Now my profile on Bēhance is just abandoned.