Give, receive, and facilitate helpful feedback

Jared Spool

January 30th, 2018

It is always easier to find the flaws than it is to offer solutions. Many of us have gotten so used to looking for the fly in the ointment that we’ve narrowed our field of vision down to identifying error over opportunity.

This is the difference between delivering criticism, and critique, creating an environment that isolates and one that fosters collaboration. Understanding that difference can improve your team’s designs, the way you work, how you communicate with each other, and how you influence the way others communicate. Often misunderstood, critique is a technique, along with tools that foster collaboration and consensus that can raise your design game.

So, what do we mean by critique and why does it matter?

If design is the rendering of intent, then critique is the open exploration and discussion of that intent and the choices made to reach the designer’s objectives. Where have those choices succeeded, why were they made, and what can we learn from them? Where have they failed, and how can we improve upon them? Critique removes the element of personal opinion from the discussion and focuses instead on objectives and the choices made to reach them.

Criticism is the act of analyzing and judging a piece of work from one’s perspective. It is a process of finding flaws and delivering often negative feedback. Constructive criticism makes an effort to convey both the strengths and the weaknesses of the work.

Critique is an analysis that begins and is grounded by the design objectives. With critique, we weigh the work against the goals and objectives to be met and explore why choices were made and how effective (or not) they are in the context of the work. It creates a dialogue that extends far beyond formal reviews and helps teams focus and reach consensus. It delivers constructive, specific feedback to move designs forward, and it helps designers grow in their craft.

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