Monday, December 8, 2008

Jason Schleifer's Blog

It's back up..

I always find Jason's posts to be really insightful...He also mentions a great post on, well, how one's reactions in the workplace ripple outwards.

One of the toughest things to learn in any commercial art field is how to gracefully receive and take criticism. It's something I've struggled with over the years, especially in games, where the hierarchy of decisionmaking isn't always clear, and sometimes aesthetic decisions can take a back seat to a designers taste. It's not always fair, but I've found the only way to make the process work is through good relationships with your team, and learning how to take critique without personalizing it.

Which brings me to a little aside. Being a professional is a learned thing, but I believe the path to being a great team player starts in school. Animation is tricky in that it's subjective to a degree, but there are enough 'rules', or solutions to problems out there to enable a framework for critique.

The hardest thing I had to learn in my professional career is to just listen without responding. If your lead or whomever is looking at your work and doesn't like it, as an employee, it's your job to put on your empathy hat and figure out what they want. Sometimes it's a matter of style...sometimes the motion isn't fluid enough..whatever the reason, it's your job to figure it out, and deliver it not only graciously, but in a positive way. The thing about being in a collaborative environment is that you don't have full ownership of your work. You have ownership of how you do the work, and probably the first pass, but some of the best work comes from collaboration, so being receptive to ideas that aren't your own is key. Back when I worked as an Art Director, the running joke amongst my peers is that a client would come in and ask us to 'make it cool.' Uh, sure. Cool. I would often get frustrated until I noticed a friend of mine as the question back..'well, what's Cool to you.' Then he got somewhere. Once I learned that trick, my job became much easier. Letterspaced type is cool? Great. Drop shadows on everything is cool? Happy to oblige! Once I realized that I was there to help them articulate their ideas, my job became much more enjoyable.

So step back for a second...if you show someone an animation, ask for a critique, and instantly respond with an excuse, you're in a way, disrespecting the person giving the critique. You don't have to take the advice, but what you can do is listen to it, consider it, and if the person missed your intent, explain what you were trying to go for in a clear way. I'm not saying change your animations based on what everyone tells you..that can be a dangerous thing, but learning how to talk about your work in way that's not personal helps you learn to articulate your opinions and become a better communicator. It also opens you up to a better critique if you can express yourself clearly. If you can express intent, your fellow critiquers may have a more targeted solution.

Getting, and receiving feedback, is a tricky endeavor - it takes a while to thicken your skin up and takes practice.

But listen to that Schleifer guy..he knows his stuff.

Make sure you read the animation mentor monthly newsletters (subscribe if you haven't)

Great link on this subject to a much higher degree by the wise Nick Bruno - a primer on making it as a freelancer, and, really how to conduct yourself in the workplace...I wish I'd had this when I started out.


jason said...

heya jeff!

thanks so much for the link! You've got a great blog here, too.. I've just had time to peruse it, but I'm going to subscribe and spend more time reading! woot! :)

Oh! just a quick note.. you spelled my name wrong! it's Schleifer.. one "f", not 2. :)

thanks man!

jeff said...

darn that Jules Pfeiffer...

Thanks for reading Jason, and all is edited back to one F :)

jason said...

no worries man, cheers! :)