Design critique: purpose, attitude & love
The word “Critique” comes for the Greek word krino, which means “to judge”. Long before the act of judgment started to carry connotations of blame, accusations and punishment, it was a way for us to apply our intellect in making decisions that enabled progress and desirable outcomes. We use the word “criticism” today as a way to apply the power of judgement to drive innovation.
Since the art of critique is a fundamentally human experience, it involves people, behaviors and interactions. All of which require a proper mental and emotional space. Let’s begin by examining what gives a critique proper form as an experience:
Act of critique: _Objective, _Grounded, _Constructive
Attitude of givers : _Positive, _Caring, _Inspiring
Attitude of receivers: _Open, _Interested, _Decisive
Act of critique
There is an illuminating vibe about a good critique session. People leave feeling inspired, excited about taking actions, and curious about what comes next.
Focus is on the situation, the challenge, the underlying problem. In other words, the intent. Your attention should be on acknowledging and highlighting what gives the idea its value and what gets in the way of its full manifestation.
Comments are based on facts, reference points or previous experiences. Clarifying questions are asked to expand on understanding of the ideas versus assuming where they come from.
Discussions are around insights not opinions. Dialogues start with “Yes and…” or “What if…” sentences. This way ears are more prepared to accept the new deviations by acknowledging what works. You help them enunciate the building blocks of their ideas in order to recognize a stronger foundation for desired outcomes.
Attitude of givers
The right attitude comes from having the right intention. It’s not about satisfying your need to be helpful. It’s about cultivating the love and desire to nurture an idea, and by doing so inspiring its beholder to help it grow.
Believe in the potent nature of ideas and uncover opportunities hidden between cracks of execution or those missing in communication. Such approach gives rise to open-ended feedback instead of prescriptive ones. Posing questions to underlying assumptions affords moments of discovery while instructing direct solutions cuts their creative process short.
Respect the person and the work that’s been done, small or large, when cultivating an idea. Pay attention to details of the work and acknowledge them as they come to your attention. Present your suggestions in ways that relate to the person’s needs, asks and aspirations.
Decide whether you want to suggest an improvement or propose a new direction. If suggesting an improvement, show how and why to go from an existing value to a better one. If proposing a new direction, try to surface different perspectives, highlight their contrasts, and synthesize them into a new vision.
Attitude of Receivers
The internal tension in receiving critique comes from the conflict between two core human needs — the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted. In order to fulfill both needs, receivers should be the ones who ask for a critique and the ones who direct it. This attitude affords them the ability to collect what they need for growth while receiving and reflecting on feedback in a way that matches their internal process.
Prepare your work for a critique by placing doors and windows for others to see it. Telling the story of your process gives you the power to anchor attention to specific parts of your work where their insights and feedback would be most fruitful. Preparation also shifts your own attention from details to see your own work in its totality. That opens up your perspective and provides a place for the feedback to sit.
Place yourself in a givers’ perspective by asking questions. Make sure that you understand their points of view fully. Re-frame what you hear as takeaways that apply to your upcoming work.
Clarify the format and type of feedback you wish to receive. Decide whether you are inviting expanding, diverging or radical critique. Intentionally pick and prioritize between all the insights you receive, with respect and care. Always leave a session knowing what your next steps are.
Are you breathing? A sign of a good review session is the amount of joyful silence experienced in between moments. There is a healthy tension in silence. It opens up a space for give and take of concepts. Embrace it.
Find the focal point of your work. Design a suitable theme that threads everything together. Ask yourself, what is the most important thing that wants to been seen and heard in your work?
🍔 Sandwich it
Start with strength, then provided critique, and finally reiterate on strength & next steps for positive results.
“Get the right idea, then get the idea right.” ~ Patrick DiMichele
“Don’t talk about the interface, talk about what it does.” ~ Shanon Marks
“Most of your best ideas are inspired by others.” ~ MU/DAI