Preparing for a design critique has always been anxiety-inducing for me. I’m often left wondering, what is the best way to present my work? What workshops should I conduct to get the information I want? What if my design sucks and everybody laughs at me??
Oftentimes, the design critique happens in a whirlwind. Sometimes I get great feedback and sometimes I’m left with a broken morale and no concrete solutions.
After many design critiques, I’ve come to a few revelations about hosting and presenting at design critiques. I’ll share them with you now.
3 Steps to Clearly Present Your Designs
Step 1: Start the session by identifying what you want out of the design critique
This step is incredibly important because the point of design critiques is to bring more brains together to help you solve a design problem. You should therefore know what the problem you’re trying to solve is.
Are you stuck on a user problem and need help finding a solution? Are you trying to find out if your solution meets the project’s goals? Or maybe you want to elevate the quality of your design.
Let the team know so they know how to focus their constructive feedback and help you solve the problem.
Step 2: Point out any blockers or constraints the project may have
This provides the group guidelines to their critiques so you don’t end up at a solution that isn’t feasible. By knowing what can’t be changed or what constraints are set on your project, the group will work to solve the problem around these constraints.
Examples of constraints:
- Set deadlines
- Limited budget/resources
- Finalized content
- Fixed style guides
Step 3: Present the actual design and explain the details of your work
Now it’s time to present the work you’ve done. Explain your design decisions clearly and concisely. Provide any research that contributed to your design decisions and any alternative designs you’ve created.
Your entire presentation should only last 10 minutes. Any longer and you risk losing the team's attention.
Now it’s time to keep an open mind and remember that design critiques are solely meant to help you create the best design solutions, it’s not an assessment of your personal design abilities. No one will laugh at your work, I promise! If they do, I’ll personally kick their butt for you!
How we at Femmecubator do Design Critiques
Hosting remote design critiques is an interesting challenge that we’ve recently begun tackling here at Femmecubator. Our approach isn’t necessarily new, but it’s been refined by experienced UX Designers through multiple iterations with our UX Mentorship Program. We’re excited to also begin hosting them with Danny Setiawan’s UX Support Group soon!
Here’s how we approach it.
Each presenter fills out a questionnaire letting the Design Crit Leads know ahead of time what their project is about, what solutions they’re looking for, and any other specifications we should know about.
Then the Design Crit Leads choose workshop activities they believe best fit the presenter’s design problem. The activities are then built out on a Miro board which will be accessible for all participants to engage with and comment on.
Our Remote DC Activities include (the list is always growing):
- Silent Crit
- Crazy 8s
- Affinity Maps
- Empathy Maps
- Small-Group Break Outs (2–3 people)
- Digital Gallery Crit
- Dot Voting
Our Design Critique sessions are an hour long with a simple structure:
10 minutes for the presenter to share their designs.
40 minutes for critiques & workshopping.
10 minutes for final thoughts, feedback, and next steps.
The Miro board with all the commented feedback is then shared with the presenter for their reference.
What to keep in mind when providing feedback
Very often we enjoy silent critiques at Femmecubator which allows for multiple streams of conversation and opens the floor to all participants.
This prevents groupthink and the Loudest Voice in the Room effect, where the most outspoken person’s ideas dominate the discussions.
Although these critiques are done through comments on Miro, we still have a set of Design Critique best practices.
Here are our rules:
- Always remind yourself of the goals of the critique to avoid giving irrelevant feedback.
- Give feedback off of performance and usability, not off of personal opinion.
- Always ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand something. This avoids misinformed feedback.
- Be clear about what is a fact, opinion, or assumption.
- Don’t be dismissive of other’s ideas.
- Don’t get attached to your ideas.
- Assume a “Yes and…” mindset.
- Be kind and assume good intentions.
- Personal attacks are UNACCEPTABLE (you’ll be banned for life).
Now that I’ve laid it all bare on how we conduct design critiques, it’s your turn! Be confident when presenting and share with us all the great solutions your team comes up with!