Embrace good ideas from every part of your team

Jared Spool

February 1st, 2018

The search for the right solution to a problem evolves out of the way we think about it: How decisions are made to meet specific goals and objectives, and why we made them. With critique, designers are able to explain the thinking behind the choices they’ve made and get feedback on those choices. It can help them refocus their work in areas that fall short, and bring to light those areas that shine (and why).

When we begin by focusing on the goals, and whether the design has met them, we move the conversation away from personal opinion. Critique is a balance between reviewing what works and what doesn’t in the context of the design.

Good critique, explains designers Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry, draws from the strengths of a given design decision to shed light on solutions for the weaker parts.

Over time, critique creates a more collaborative work environment, where teams feel comfortable discussing their designs in spontaneous and casual conversations, with less reliance on formal reviews. The practice helps teams relax into the process of giving and receiving feedback, and reaching a shared understanding of design problems to be solved.

Adam and Aaron break down the difference between critique and criticism a bit further.

When using critique, we try to:

  • Identify the objectives we think the creator is trying to reach
  • Understand those goals and objectives
  • Discuss the choices made to achieve goals and objectives
  • Review how effective design choices are in meeting their objectives
  • Identify strengths, potential challenges that arise from the choices made, and possibly missed opportunities

How can you integrate critique into your design practice? Both Adam and Aaron agree that starting small and casual is the best approach. Critique can be used in standalone reviews, design reviews, and collaborative activities. They suggest that teams consider the following:

  • Introduce critique into your process by starting small and informal, talking about designs in an analytical way
  • The more you communicate, the more natural critique will become a part of your language

Choose whom you critique with carefully and look for people who communicate well. (You’ll recognize who is less inclined toward the practice, such as some managers and executives who are generally part of larger design reviews.)

You need to start improving the conversations you have around design. To do that you’ll want to spend a day in this amazing UX Immersion: Interactions workshop with Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry. Adam and Aaron have been discussing design critique for many years and are authors of the book Discussing Design, which is exactly why you want to learn about Consensus and Critique from them.

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