Torpedoes, stars, and the art of the blitz

Design critique for distributed teams

But, why?

#1: VC based feedback can be… awkward

#2 Capturing and sharing feedback is hard too

#3: Our sessions were too large to manage

OK, who’s got the mic?

A series of small improvements

Improvement #1: One ‘star’ to rule them all

  1. Each participant was asked to stack rank their own feedback
  2. Each participant was asked to star one, and only one, piece of feedback
  • Un-starred feedback was not getting captured. We asked everyone to add their remaining feedback to the page post-session but few did.
  • Not all ‘stars’ were created equal. Some stars were MASSIVE, while others were paper cuts.
  • The feedback quality was often dependent on one’s familiarity with the project.
  • We were still awkwardly going around the room, one location at a time.

Improvement #2: Tell me everything, but don’t say a word

OK, this is a bit of an extreme example — but do expect a lot of feedback!

Improvement #3: Torpedoes, potholes, and stars

  • Torpedoes: Something that could really sink the ship and needs to be addressed asap
  • Potholes: A minor usability issue or inconsistency that should be addressed but doesn’t necessarily need to be covered during the blitzing session
  • Stars: Something that’s working really well (Because we can say nice things too!)
  • Even better feedback prioritization that begins with only the most critical bits
  • An easy way to capture, organize, and communicate the sentiment of the session
  • A more natural session flow than simply ‘going around the room’
Typical output using Torpedoes, Potholes and Stars


  1. Session intro: Go over the ground rules for giving and receiving feedback.
  2. Session topics: The designer takes the floor and presents their work.
  3. Silent feedback: Feedback is added directly to the design spec during 5–10 minutes of silence.
  4. Categorize: Optionally label feedback as torpedoes, potholes or stars.
  5. Discuss: Resume the conversation, beginning with any torpedoes then moving onto the potholes and stars.
  6. Post-session: Iterate on the design and keep the conversation going on the spec itself.

When to blitz

What’s next?



Tales from the Atlassian experience design team

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