Fostering good criticism

3 years ago from , Designer

After a number of years working in the design industry, one truth seems to keep coming to forefront: criticism and feedback help make a project better, but conversely opens up the door for arbitrary opinions to degrade the quality of the final product. It's easy as a designer to get protective and not value external input (I've been there many times), but I don't want to be like that. I want to get better at fostering constructive feedback and protecting against the unhelpful stuff. In your experience, how do you do that?


  • Blake Reary, 3 years ago

    Here's how I like to go about it:

    • Frame the problem. What/who are you designing for? What are the goals and metrics you intend to influence? How do you define quality?
    • Set expectations. How far along is the work? What are your specific questions about it it that you hope to get answered?
    • Be specific about what type of feedback you want. Narrative flow? Information architecture? Visual design? Detailed or general?
    • Moderate the conversation. Call on specific people to talk one at a time. Make sure it's staying on track with regards to the former bullet points. Teach people to ask questions rather than make statements about what they like or don't like. Don't let it get personal, keep it about the work. Have someone moderate for you if you can.

    And finally, remember that you're asking for feedback for a reason: to get better. Try to be vulnerable. Be open to the possibility that you didn't get it right. Defend the work if you feel that your reasoning hasn't been effectively communicated or understood. But be willing to accept others' opinions and tastes in relation to your own.

    12 points
    • Evan MacAlpine, 3 years ago

      This is great feedback. Thanks Blake! Do you find you have a different approach when getting feedback from designers vs non-designers or do you find a similar approach works well in both cases?

      1 point
      • Blake Reary, 3 years ago

        I think the biggest difference is that designers tend to have some experience already with critique, while others may have never been exposed to the method and may need a bit more guidance in how to give proper feedback. Other than that, I've used this method for both running designer-only crits as we ll as soliciting feedback from engineers, PMs, marketers, etc.

        1 point
  • Ryan Blackwell, 3 years ago

    This echoes a lot of what Blake said, but maybe putting it another way can help someone as well.

    I think most feedback is a form of evaluation, and, in order to evaluate something, a person needs a standard of value as a frame of reference. Without establishing proper standards, you're leaving it up to whatever standards they might assume they should use. Often, this means the other person will default to using their personal preference as the standard (not helpful). Instead, position the request in relation to the standards that matter to you in your professional decision-making process. In design, these might include:

    • Design problem (why should this design project exist?)
    • Design goal (what will "success" look like?)
    • Target audience (to whom is this design meant to communicate?)
    • Available content (photos, graphics, copy, videos, etc.)
    • Context (the "where, when, and how" of the project)

    When formulating your feedback request, specify what standard you want the other person to use in their evaluation. You'll still get feedback that isn't exactly what you need, but it should be much easier to open up a dialogue once you agree on standards.

    To that point, framing your feedback request in reference to proper standards can be helpful, but it can be difficult to establish common ground mid-project. Initiating preliminary conversations and documenting what was agreed upon makes it much easier to bring up later.

    This can also help when you're receiving unprompted feedback. In the event that it happens, you are better able to steer the discussion back to the essential purpose of the project that has already been agreed upon.

    1 point
  • Hugh Bee, 3 years ago

    Quick thoughts:

    • Check your ego at the door, it's never about you but about the work.
    • Nobody has the best idea, the fastest way to get good work and get good ideas is through collaboration.

    It's easy to be insecure about stuff and get protective, sure, work on yourself.

    All that may not come natural to everybody, but it really helps soaking feedback and growing fast.

    0 points
  • Thomas Michael SemmlerThomas Michael Semmler, 3 years ago

    Practice Vipassana. You only get protective when your ego is attached so the best way is to notice that and to then detach from it.

    0 points