Handling Rejection
Graphic design rejection

In spirit of all the MacEwan and U of A design students graduating this season, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on rejection in the design industry. As these bright, wide-eyed students step out into the big world of design, rejection becomes a big part of the design process. In school, sometimes you feel the cushion of not actually creating work for real clients so the blow doesn’t hit you as hard. Here’s what I’ve learned so far in my journey.

1. Sometimes rejection is the best thing that can happen.

When I applied to go to post secondary for design I had my eyes set on one particular school. A few weeks after submitting my carefully crafted portfolio I received a templated letter in the mail declining my acceptance. I was crushed initially, but it lit a fire under me. I applied late to the Grant MacEwan Design Program (we’re talking August, weeks before class started) and was accepted on the spot. Turns out MacEwan was a way better option for me in the long run.

This also happens with client work, or even your Art Director. Yes, it’s frustrating to start again from scratch, but I’ve created some of my best work by being sent back to the drawing board. The important thing is to get over it and push through. It’s through challenges that we see major improvements and grow as individuals. 

Which brings me to my next point:

2. Don’t get too attached to your ideas.

You can’t hold onto your ideas too tightly. It only sets you up for bigger disappointment when feedback is handed out. Be open to change; design is a process and nothing is ever created perfect the first time. Keep an open mind, or just accept that some artwork isn’t portfolio worthy.

3. Be constructive with criticism.

So you get rejected, you panic, you’re embarrassed, you enter fight or flight mode, nod your head and walk away. Then you sit down later and the whole event is a blur. It is important to accept criticism, then ask questions. Don’t let them get away with a straight “no.” Ask the “why” and figure out what isn’t working, this will only help you grow.

4. Don’t give out stone cold silent rejection.

It’s a copout and it’s cruel. And don’t expect to get what you want the next time around if you don’t ask for it.

5. Sometimes there is no reason for rejection.

Sometimes there is no explanation. The client just doesn’t like orange, they think comic sans is the font of the century and their logo should be three times larger. It’s just one of those battles you aren’t going to win, so accept the rejection and don’t always blame yourself.

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