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Feedback is inevitable

The creative tools of today have democratized feedback, making it omnipresent. Comments litter documents, images, and design files. While accessibility fosters participation, it also creates a "free-for-all" environment where thoughtful critique gets lost in the noise. Everyone is literally one link away from a place where feedback can be deposited.

Feedback culture

The constant influx of feedback, especially in large organizations, can feel like a participation trophy rather than a valuable gift. Thinking twice before dropping a comment is a dying practice. The startup mindset and its flat hierarchy incentivized an overly democratic feedback participation.

Most people with a pair of functioning eyes have an opinion on anything visual. My design work included. While I appreciate the enthusiasm, I’d often prefer to do my thing in peace. This is called a silo and is regarded as a highly undesirable behavior.

Creative space

On the flipside, there is also strong advocacy for the need for creative space so each contributor brings his best. Creative space, once a natural part of the process, is now squeezed into a calendar slot called "focus time". This highlights the inherent tension between focused work and constant feedback, especially at scale. Too much feedback makes any system go crazy.

The prevailing logic in corporate environments is that more feedback equals better outcomes. Even if I accept this premise there is the question of how to manage the correlated anxiety and frustration. The correlation between feedback volume and pain is undeniable.

How helpful can one be in a comment box?

Remote, asynchronous feedback shares issues with remote work in general: less focus and less empathy. This requires significant effort to establish context, further adding to the burden. Fast-paced feedback loops created by "the design sprint method" exacerbate pains like anxiety and reactive comments.


One can't talk about anything design-process-related without touching on Figma. I learned to love Figma. That's the design software I spent the most time in, a lot of time. It's a great tool, but it has flaws. All of these flaws add to the pain of receiving feedback as Figma is the place where it all happens.

  • Adds to the noise of the current design process: Comments, comments, comments everywhere
  • Incentivizes bad file hygiene: oversized files with too many internal pages
  • File management is a mess
  • Account management is janky
  • It's expensive, subscription only
  • The community aspect has limited value: self-promotion, few freebies here and there... expanding on the trend of design marketplaces
  • Plugins are cool but they won’t scale well. Look at what happened with Adobe and WordPress ecosystems
  • Designed for design system and product not brand and yet...
  • A jack-of-all-trades, master of none? The UI's increasing complexity and the influx of AI features raise questions about the focus
  • Limited offline functionality

Feedback is inevitable

Feedback and its friction are inherent to communication and interpersonal relationships. It’s frustrating for everyone. I’m not mad at anyone at the end of the day. I’m part of it. Of all the fools I hope to be one who considers when not to contribute.

I don’t have many answers to offer. Figma is here to stay, other tools are following the global focus on collaboration - because nothing great is made alone. But for your sanity, reduce indirect channels by making files read-only. Make feedback possible for everyone but just a bit harder, raise the stakes.

True creation requires both the stillness of the pool and the ripple of the pebble. Listen, but do not be swayed by every current. - Zen parable

← Index / Published on 2024-07-03