A critique is one of the most important activities a designer can experience. Contributing and responding to design feedback is a skill, as much as drawing a line or choosing colors. Constructive feedback can advance the quality of your work, and ultimately your career.
A critique works best if there is an honest mutual desire to improve the work: ideally, those in the audience gain just as much from the process as the presenter. To maximize productivity, a few ground rules should be agreed to:
- Ensure that you understand the context. A critique is only valid if the purpose of the piece is clearly understood.
- Leave your ego outside the room. Open, honest dialog is key. Try your very best not to take things personally.
- Have reasons. “I like it” isn’t particularly helpful. Expressing how a work makes you feel is important, but you should also be able to articulate why something works or fails.
- Talk about the work as it is, not the person presenting it or the circumstances of its creation.
- “I would have…” is not useful. What you would do, or not do, is not helpful feedback. Instead, talk about what’s best for the work.
- Reference prior work. The success and failure of other pieces helps contextualize the work, and can help guide better design decisions. Ideally, use data. For example: “The illustrative content used here is strong, but it will increase file size greatly. Most users will give up if a site is not loaded after five seconds: how are you taking that into account?”
- Record feedback. As a rule, we remember very little of what we’ve been told verbally, and what we do recall is often fragmentary or distorted. Recording the feedback means being able to reference it clearly later.
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