Judging Creativity

Michael Kiruthi
September 6, 2022

Judging ideas is both an innate talent and a skill. It’s both rational and emotional. It’s where Personal Tastes and Preferences can collide with Process and Consensus.

It requires imagination, leadership and trust

While judging an idea or a piece of work, consider multiple aspects of it. Does it solve a problem? Does it intrigue or excite you? How unusual is it? Is it fit for purpose? Is it original?  Keeping an open mind is essential as judging creative is almost as hard as crafting the creative itself. On one hand, you must refrain from passing judgment in order to allow creativity to develop, but, on the other hand, you must determine whether an idea is the right move to go with. 

There’s no shortage of creative thinking and as such, there are different ways you can approach judging it. Here are a few tips you could use while critiquing creative:

  1. Be knowledgeable in advance

    To assess ideas you need to be able to place them in a broader context and compare them against ideas you have seen elsewhere and considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Consider other ideas presented and applied in the same field and use them as a benchmark. Which ones were most pleasing to you? Why do you think they worked?
  2. Come expecting to enjoy yourself!

    Join the creative presentation hoping to enjoy yourself and ready to be inspired. When people are having fun, they listen and contribute.
  3. Get back to the brief

    Reminding yourself of your brief is essential. It provides you with a framework against which to evaluate the idea. Make sure the agency does this too before they present. Without understanding the brief, it’s hard to get the job done. Ask questions, and then ask more questions to gain a full understanding in order to accurately judge whether a creative work serves its purpose.
  4. Empathise

    Try to empathise with the people bringing the ideas to you. Creative people are different. It matters less to them that a job is done on time and within budget than that it is done really well. Be gracious and give their work the attention it deserves as a way to appreciate all the work that went into it.
  5. Clarify

    If the idea is not simple and single-minded, then perhaps the brief was not simple and single-minded either. Is it on brief? What exactly is the idea? What sort of an idea is it? What sort of an execution is it? How is the idea going to work? Get as much clarity on the direction the creative took with their work as possible before dismissing or accepting it.
  6. Question yourself & the idea

    Your first reaction to the work will almost certainly be subjective. Establish what influences may be at work on your opinion before you start to concentrate on it objectively. Those who know how to use open questions are those who end up with great work, because they encourage ideas to develop. Start with who? What? Why? Where? How? When? These questions are involving and they stimulate.
  7. Reflect & Refine

    Listen to the creative, make notes, then go away and think. Reflection is when you ask the How questions. How can we take the idea on? How can we adapt it? How can we make it better? Refining refers to the why questions. The first is, why change anything? The less you do to a new and challenging idea, the more you might learn about it in research.
  8. Relax

    You’ve done everything you can to help the idea survive and flourish. There is every reason to believe the idea will be a success.

To sum up, judgment is a definite part of the creative process. Without it a project may crumble under lack of direction. With the above steps, regardless of who is judging them, there will be a component of objectivity that makes sure the best ideas do see the light of day.