Discussing Design: The Art of Critique


Discussing Design:
The Art of Critique
#wvpdx webvisions 2012


Slides: http://t.co/u9mMXXBl 
  • What is critique?
    • critique and feedback are not the same thing.
    • feedback: gut response. instance reaction to something.
    • critique is an ongoing process: built on refining to create a better product.
    • it needs to be presented in such a way that it is actionable.
  • critique is about critical thinking
  • there are two facets to critique
    • giving and receiving
    • at their foundation is intent. the “why?”
    • why am i asking for feedback? why am i giving feedback?
  • giving critique with the wrong intent is selfish.
    • “I’m smart, this is wrong, I want to be validated that I’m smart.”
  • it’s about approach as well: “hey, congratulations on your launch. that’s awesome. i love the product. when you get a chance, i want to give you some feedback. can i buy you lunch or a beer or send you an email?”
  • Tips for giving critique
    • Use a filter: Gather initial thoughts and reactions. Revisit them in the right context.
    • Don’t assume: Find out the reason behind thinking, constraints or other variables.
      • Odds are, they had many constraints.
    • Don’t invite yourself: Get in touch and ask to chat about the design.
    • Lead with questions: Show an interest in their process?
      • What were your goals?
      • What were you trying to do with that?
    • Talk about strengths. Critiques are not just about things that aren’t working. It’s also about understanding what is working well: to maintain or to build on.
  • Receiving critique with the right intent takes humility and meekness
    • Remove yourself from the setting. It’s about the product.
    • Don’t ask for feedback if you aren’t ready to receive and act on and think about.
    • Remember the purpose: critique is about understanding and improvement, not judgement.
    • Listen and think before you talk back. Do you understand what the critics are saying?
      • Don’t be thinking about your rebuttal while they are talking.
    • Refer to the goals. Is what you’re hearing pertinent to the goals you’re trying to achieve?
    • Participate. Analyze your proposed solution along with everyone else.
  • Critique is a life skill, it is not a design skill.
    • It applies to sports, cooking, anything that you can do.
  • Making critique part of your process
  • Design Reviews
    • This is not part of design review. You can have 30 people in a design review. Half the people there don’t care.
    • design review is not a critique
    • critique is impromptu, or scheduled, but it comes before design review.
  • Critique is a skill. You only get better with practice.
  • Start small.
  • Think before you speak.
  • Choose who you critique with carefully.
  • Rules of Critique
    • Avoid problem solving and design decisions.
    • The designer is responsible for follow up and decisions.
    • Everyone is equal.
    • Everyone is a critic.
      • Don’t let people be silent...because they’ll come back two months later with feedback, and it’ll be too late to address it then.
  • Goals are critical for successful critique
    • Scope the critique session: “today i want to talk about flow”, “today i want to talk about this one UI component”.
  • Who should you invite?
    • 4-6 people.
  • Tools and techniques
    • Active Listening, question for clarity
    • Round robin
    • direct inquiry
    • quotas
    • six thinking hats: emotional perspective, behavioral perspective, etc. 
    • Facilitators
      • Helpful in the beginning, but as you get more experienced, you will want to take control of your conversation yourself.
  • Handling difficult people
    • Set expectations at the beginning. “We’re not here to talk about the color. We’re here to discuss this UI component.”
    • Make sure everyone understand critique.
    • Ask quiet people for feedback directly.
    • Refer back to personas, goals and principles.
    • Use laddering (the 5 whys).
    • Critique with people individually ahead of time.
      • Get them out of a group session. It’ll be more civil. They won’t flare their peacock feathers.
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