July 15, 2022

The kitchen cynic

It’s often said, or at least I’ve heard, that, ‘well, everyone’s a designer’; the inference being everyone’s opinion is equally valid when it comes to really subjective stuff (like ‘design’.)

But criticism is really important (as critical thinking and questioning the what of the how, etc.) and I’m not here to pick fights with points of view and their holders.

I want to draw your attention to our internal critic, old Nagging Doubt, who follows us (well, certainly follows me) around, leaning over my shoulder and whispering ‘Really? You’re going to do that? Well, it’s your choice…”

Along with everything else I need to deal with on a daily basis (emotionally carrying all the things, including the proverbial kitchen sink) its often easier (actually, no, it’s harder but bear with me) to just ignore Your Cynic and press on regardless.

But learning to live with this kitchen cynic, though, is actually a rather useful relationship. There’s nothing quite so grounding as a daily dose of gritty honestly. Not convinced?

In the middle of the last century, just after the war, there was a rash of films which drew on the grit of real life, especially around the ordinariness, routine and the disillusion of (usually, typically) ‘angry young men’ as the protagonists in the lives they had been dealt. The genre – ‘kitchen sink realism’ – focussed on (to quote the BFI):

“…raw human stories (which) revolved around crumbling marriages, the drudgery of unskilled work, sexual orientation, stymied aspirations, backstreet abortions, disenfranchised youth, homelessness and gender, class and race discrimination.”

Phew. Films like Kes, Poor Cow, Room at the Top, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning to name just a few, brought an unflinching (well, for the era anyway) focus to real life, insofar as the lens of cinema can be ‘real’. Back in the day, when there were only four channels on the TV, a Sunday afternoon wasn’t complete without an hour of self-indulgent pathos.

I wouldn’t claim for a minute that these films helped me discover and channel my inner critic, my watching tastes we’re far too Catholic (in fact, I’d watch almost anything), but taking a self-critical look – and often – affords me a certain resilience.

When it comes to (and it always must) taking criticism, I’ll always listen carefully knowing I’ve already been my own harshest judge (ha ha, well mostly!) and can take other’s views, positively, with me.

Hmm, that got a bit saccharine at the end. Apologies, I really should try harder.

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About Richard Hill

Creative director, writer, designer, illustrator based in the UK with global project experience and consulting skills across sectors.

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