A design leader’s guide to running effective group reviews.
The design review is a key part of the creative process. These days most sprint plans include some sort of review session, which seek out reactions from stakeholders/clients. Additionally gathering your design team to collectively reviewing each others’ work can be extremely valuable. Getting the most out of group reviews is not easy, so here are some things I’ve learned about making them as valuable as possible for your designers.
1. Make them regular a fixed time and location
Routine is the keystone to discipline, so creating an agreed time and place is vital to ensure they don’t fizzle out after a couple of weeks. My preference is to pick a morning slot of no more than 90 mins and a location away from the usual work space.
2. Make them a priority
It’s really easy to let projects invade your time with your fellow designers, but making sure everyone knows they are a priority, will help the whole team plan it into their sprints.
3. Enable them to happen when you’re absent
As with any function of a design leadership; creating a system that doesn’t rely on one person is vital to success. The same principle applies to design reviews. Your design team must have the confidence and tools to run them in your absence. Otherwise the self sufficiency you need to explore and expand won’t develop.
4. Only show work you can use feedback on
There is no benefit, for anyone in the team, to walk through the review/feedback steps if a design is already signed off. The work in a design review should always be at a stage of design development.
5. If you have nothing to show bring something that’s not yours
Again part of the discipline of reviewing work, as a team, is in the routine. However the reality is that at a weekly group review some of the team won’t have anything that requires feedback. In this instance it’s a good idea to bring something of (related) interest to review, so all the team to stay involved.
6. Don’t let one opinion dominate (especially your own)
As the design lead it would be natural to slip in to a mode of dominating the conversation. Be careful not to take over and let yourself become the loudest voice. Equally if you have differing levels of confidence amongst your team your role will need be the facilitator, ensuring all feedback is balanced.
7. Mix it up with review techniques
Open conversation is the simplest route, however this can get staid over time, so build in occassions when you change the format around. For example trying De Bono’s ‘Six hats’ technique or possibly delving in to some of Brian Eno’s ‘Oblique strategies’.
8. Periodically invite non designers
Another way to avoid falling in to bad habits is to invite along other disciplines to the occasional review. Sometimes bringing in Product Managers or Content Writers can help expand the team’s dynamic. It is also a great way to build relationships with others teams.
If you’ve got any other tips for running design reviews I’d love to hear them.