How To Judge Creative Work in a Better Way


Yesterday I had the pleasure of judging creative work for the Design Week Awards 2019. It was a great day, filled with inspiring work and lively discussion.

Some of the conversations that stood out, involved how we objectively view creative work. How we set and define parameters to determine whether a project was effective or not.

This made me think of my own creative process at Bunbury Co, and our experiences working with clients. And it is my opinion that the criteria by which we judge creative work, is shaped by our understanding of marketing. This understanding also dictates whether we’re positioned to make effective evaluations of creative work. Whether we’re making the right calls about what we see.

So though we may have a subjective reaction to a piece of creative work (very common in client work), that reaction is less instructive, than a wider objective view.

That’s not to say whether we ‘like’ something or not is not valid – there has to be an immediate reaction and emotional response to seeing work for the first time.

But in establishing whether a piece of communication is good/bad, better or worse, we need to take step back from the subjective. Instead, we might ask ourselves:

Who’s it for, what does it need to do, and does it matter?

It’s Not For You, But It Might Be For Someone

To begin with, we need to establish who the work is for. For a client working with a creative, often the assumption is that the work is for the client. But that’s incorrect. The work is for the client’s customers or audience.

The client is trying to serve someone. Their business is in service to a particular group (demographic/psychographic) or target market.

And that’s the opinion that truly matters. It’s not whether the people involved in the project like ‘hot pink’ – the evaluation should be whether the target market like ‘hot pink’.

If you – the person seeing the work – is in fact the target audience, then you might be better positioned to offer insight. But in the realm of business, design and marketing, this is rarely the case.

For this reason we have focus groups, questionnaires, soft launches and product testing. Or we can rely on our empathy and experience, and put ourselves in our customer’s shoes.

But too often I see instances where both client and creative fail to do this. Our need to be creative and produce clever, admirable work can blind us from creating ideas that truly connect.

So we must be objective in our evaluations. We need to understand that when we see creative work, it might not be for us, but it most likely is for someone. The next step is define that someone.

When we have a better idea of who the communication is targeting, we can use empathy and analysis to gauge whether it works.

But that stands, even when the communication is targeting a group that doesn’t align with our values

Getting Over Ourselves

I don’t watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians – but someone does. A whole lot of people, in fact.

But the fact that I don’t care for it, doesn’t influence my evaluation of its success or effectiveness. It’s not really about me, or the things I personally value.

It’s not for me, but it is for someone. 

Though our beliefs inform our view of the world, there’s a difference between establishing whether something works, or whether it is right. Right is more difficult, more divisive. Right involves values, morality and personal belief.

And there are instances where that might be more appropriate. For example, in discussing marketing for online gambling or tobacco.

But more controversial areas notwithstanding, we need to remain objective in trying to figure out whether creative work is effective.

So if I see a communication targeting the same target audience as Keeping Up With The Kardashians, as a professional I should be able evaluate it based on its strategy – and not how I feel about Kim.

If we’re able to cultivate this approach, we’ll be better poised to creative more meaningful work, and recognise it along the way.

– Greg Bunbury




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