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A practical guide to running effective design critiques

Written by David Royer and Suelyn Yu

Have you ever left a design critique feeling defeated and less excited about your work? Or frustrated because you didn’t get the type of feedback you were looking for?

Learn how to run more effective design critiques that:

  1. Provide useful feedback to improve the design
  2. Leaves you feeling revitalized and excited to improve the design

3 critique roles

1. Presenter

The presenter is the primary designer who created the work. Her job is to provide the necessary context and content for the critique. Mike Monteiro has great books, articles, and workshops on effectively presenting work.

2. Facilitator

The facilitator enables the presenter to have a successful critique by enforcing the guidelines below. If there aren’t enough people to have a dedicated facilitator, the presenter can play the role of the facilitator after they present.

3. Critiquers

The critiquers are 3–4 people (other designers, engineers, product managers) that provide feedback on the design to help the presenter achieve her design goal.

Critique formats

Here are two different critique formats that maximize the time people can provide feedback and minimize the time spent on tangents.

Format 1: Presentation

How it works: The presenter starts by setting context, then walks the group through her designs, ideally pinned up on a board. When the presenter is talking, the critiquers write feedback on stickies and hold comments (unless they have clarifying questions). Afterward, cluster the stickies on the designs and discuss the feedback.

When to use this: Anytime during the design process, but especially on early concepts. Good for complicated designs that need more context and explanation.

Format 2: Go in blind

How it works: Critiquers start by reviewing the designs, printed copies or usable prototypes, and writing feedback on stickies without listening to the presenter’s design rationale. Afterwards, they can ask the presenter questions and discuss their feedback with the presenter.

When to use this: Good for remote teams, when the concept is further developed, when the concept is better explained with a prototype.

Critique poster

We put this poster up in our critique area to share with new team members and remind ourselves of the guidelines.

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Poster created by Jim Jones

Written by

Independent designer trying to slow climate change. Former designer @ Hillary for America, Opower, and frog. www.suelynyu.com

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