How to Give a Critique
Regardless if you work as a creative professional or not, there are many times where someone may ask for your opinion or evaluation. Most people share how they personally feel about the thing being critiqued, but don’t bother to go any deeper beyond that.
The person who asked for your opinion gets defensive and then begins to over explain why it is the way that it is. You come back, trying to tell them why your advice will actually make it better. Eventually, you two won’t see eye to eye, and will just agree to disagree. The conversation went nowhere, and you may both walk away feeling a little disdain for one another.
I see this happen all the time working in the creative space.
Luckily, there are much better ways to effectively offer a productive critique (and stay friends).
Here’s the process I use, when I critique work:
- What do I feel?
- Why do I feel that way?
- What specifically about this thing, makes me feel this way?
- What would I recommend to help realign with the original goals or intent?
- Ask the person receiving the critique, what they think about my evaluation?
- Then we confirm and agree on a direction forward.
I use this whenever I have to review my team’s work, or if a colleague needs a second opinion. It’s helpful to keep judgment out of it, remain objective, and focus on what can be improved to achieve their desired result. It’s also important to Illuminate your thought process transparently, so you can be clear with your evaluation and have a better understanding with your peers.
I know what you’re thinking: my boss or superior never talks to me this way. They just give me vague feedback. “I’m not feeling it.“ or “Make it more exciting.”
Well if you’re on the receiving end of unclear advice or direction, it’s also your responsibility to ask questions until it’s clear.
Here’s how you might respond to vague feedback:
- Why do you feel that way?
- What specifically about this thing, makes you feel this way?
- What would you recommend to help realign with the original goals or intent?
- Do you think if we move in this direction, it will solve the problem?
- Can we agree that this is the best way of moving forward?
Don’t walk away from someone just because they can’t articulate why they are reacting the way they are. They have a gut feeling– chase that down and understand where it’s coming from. If your original intent is not coming through, it’s your job to asses why, so you can communicate it more clearly.
The next time someone asks you for your opinion, go through this process yourself. If you can’t offer up anything that would be constructive, or productive towards their goals, don’t say anything. It’s not helpful to them. But if you do have a thought, make sure you articulate why you feel that way, what is causing it, and how they might resolve the issue.
About the Author
Matthew Encina is a creative director at Blind, focusing on brand strategy, design, and video content. He’s also an educator at The Futur, teaching about creativity, productivity, and how to have a sustained career.
Follow him everywhere @matthewencina