Discussing Design: The Art of Critique

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In this presentation we’ll discuss the importance of critique and a language for discussing design. It can be easy to complain about the way things are and theorize on the way things should be. …

In this presentation we’ll discuss the importance of critique and a language for discussing design. It can be easy to complain about the way things are and theorize on the way things should be. Progress comes from understanding why something is the way it is and then examining how it meets or does not meet its desired goals. This is critique. Critique is not about describing how bad something is, or proposing the ultimate solution. Critique is a dialogue, a conversation that takes place to better understand how we got to where we are, how close we are to getting where we want to go and what we have left to do to get there.

The contents of this presentation will focus on:

understanding critique
best practices for incorporating critiques into a design practice
identifying common challenges to critique and ways to improve our ability to deliver, collect and receive critique

More in: Design
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  • Note time for questions.\nnote informal vs formal aspect.\n
  • Aaron\n
  • Adam\nIt’s all about asking “why?”\nThink through the gut response.\nGiving critique means trying to understand what the designer/creator was trying to do as well has how what they created did(n’t) meet that goal\nHarvest the wheat and throw out the chaff.\n
  • Adam\nCritiquing well is about understanding what makes for good feedback, how to give it, and how to get it.\n\n
  • Aaron\n“Critical thinking is vital in the process of improving. In our personal lives this takes the form of self-evaluation, and input from other individuals.”\nCritique is a relational interaction, and with all relational interactions communication is key.\nThe ability to communicate principles based on the results of critical thinking can determine the path of our own self improvement and the path/improvement of our personal relationships.\nIf this is true, then critique/critical thinking are actually a part of our everyday lives.\n\n
  • Adam\nIntent is the initiator of critique.\n It is the why.\n It defines the purpose of the critique process.\n The success of critique hinges on intent. Critique only works when the intent is right on both sides.\n\n
  • Aaron\nIt is focused on personal goals at the expense of the team or other individuals.\n
  • Adam\n
  • Aaron\nIt is focused on helping facilitate conversation and critical thinking that leads to improvement.\n
  • Adam\nOnce you have gathered your initial thoughts, put yourself in the other individuals shoes, look for context.\n
  • Aaron\nSo we have to ask ourselves... Why? What is our desired goal from the process? \nIf we are unsure, then we should hold onto our thoughts and revisit them when we have a clearer picture of what our intent is.\n
  • Aaron\nRequesting feedback for personal validation. If you need a hug just ask :)\nAsking for feedback with no intent of listening.\nDon’t just hear... Listen.\nDon’t take it personal... even if someone else seems to be going there.\nEven if you know that someone else is wrong, or in the wrong, take their insights into consideration. \n
  • Adam\nRecognize that there is no such thing as a perfect solution, there is always room for improvement.\nThink before you talk back. Are you being defensive? Protective?\nRemember that you are (supposed to be) in control. It's up to you to decide what feedback to act on and what not to.\n
  • Adam\n
  • Adam\n
  • Aaron\n
  • Adam\nAlways make sure to review these (and any other) ground rules with clients to gauge how comfortable they are with them before planning a critique.\nAlso, post the ground rules in the room where the critique will be held.\n\n
  • Aaron\nPeople to invite:\nExecutives/Business Sponsors/Stakeholders\nSubject Matter Experts\nMarketers\nDevelopers\nBiz Analysts\nOther Designers\n
  • Adam\n
  • Adam\n
  • Adam\nTips for critiquing in Agile:\nInvolve your team from the beginning\nInvite developers, customers and maybe even the product owner\nComplete at least one critique per iteration\nDepending on the goal, you can have it either in the middle or end of the iteration\nAccount for critique session during estimation\nAttach to specific stories as necessary\n\n
  • Adam\nTips for critiquing in Agile:\nInvolve your team from the beginning\nInvite developers, customers and maybe even the product owner\nComplete at least one critique per iteration\nDepending on the goal, you can have it either in the middle or end of the iteration\nAccount for critique session during estimation\nAttach to specific stories as necessary\n\n
  • Adam\nTips for critiquing in Agile:\nInvolve your team from the beginning\nInvite developers, customers and maybe even the product owner\nComplete at least one critique per iteration\nDepending on the goal, you can have it either in the middle or end of the iteration\nAccount for critique session during estimation\nAttach to specific stories as necessary\n\n
  • Aaron\n
  • Adam\n
  • Adam\nRequest specific feedback from people with regard to their areas of expertise (development, marketing, etc)\n
  • Aaron\n
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Transcript

  • 1. What is critique?How is it different from other feedback?• Identi es where/how a design meets it’s goals.• Identi es where/how a design doesn’t meet it’s goals.• Is delivered in a form in which the person receiving it understands and can act upon it.
  • 2. Critique is critical thinking.
  • 3. Why is critique important?• Helps establish a common framework for discussing designs and ideas.• Creates opportunities for more team interaction, building collaboration and trust• Allows for cross-pollination of ideas• Learning to critique makes us better communicators.
  • 4. Critique is a life skill,not a design skill.
  • 5. There are two facets to critique:giving and receiving.At their foundation is intent.
  • 6. Giving critique with the wrongintent is sel sh.
  • 7. Sel sh Critique:• 140 characters of one sided, open ended critique every time an app/site is launched or updated.• Providing unwelcome or un-timely feedback, without context, or consideration (in a team environment or otherwise).
  • 8. Giving critique with the rightintent is sel ess.
  • 9. Sel ess Critique:• Uses a lter, gathering initial thoughts and reactions to be revisited in the right context.• Works to understand why design decisions were made, what the designer was trying to achieve.
  • 10. Giving Critique:• Don’t assume. Find out the reason behind thinking, constraints or other variables.• Don’t invite yourself. Send an email, DM, @reply to someone asking if you can email them or chat about the design.• Lead with questions. Show interest in their process.
  • 11. Receiving or requesting critique with thewrong intent is also self-focused.Receiving critique with the right intent takeshumility and meekness.
  • 12. Receiving critique• Remember the purpose: improvement, not judgement.• Listen. Do you understand what the critics are saying?• Think before you talk back.• Refer to the goals.• Participate just like any other critic.
  • 13. Formal vs. Informal Critique
  • 14. Formal Critique offers...• An introduction to participants unfamiliar with giving structured feedback.• A safe(er) place to practice giving and receiving feedback.
  • 15. A few things to remember...• Critique is a skill. You will only get better with practice• Start small (internal only)• Always think before you speak• Choose clients you critique with carefully
  • 16. The Rules of Critique• Everyone is a critic.• Everyone is equal.• It’s up to the designer to decide which feedback will be acted upon and which won’t.• Problem solving and design decisions should be avoided.
  • 17. Who should you include?• 3 - 6 people• Choose attendees based on the goal(s) of your session.• Consider personality, not just roles.• Don’t use the same people every time.
  • 18. When should you have critiques?
  • 19. When should you have critiques? All The F***ing Time!
  • 20. What should you be critiquing?
  • 21. What should you be critiquing? Every F***ing Thing!
  • 22. When and what should you be critiquing?
  • 23. When and what should you be critiquing?BeginningWhat You’re Working On• Setting high level user & business goals• User research, competitive analysis• Initial concepts & visionExample Goals• Get feedback about a set of different concepts / approaches• Explore the designs of competing productsWhat You Might Look At• Competing products• Conceptual models/ sketches/ ows
  • 24. When and what should you be critiquing?Beginning MiddleWhat You’re Working On What You’re Working On• Setting high level user & • Detailed interactions & business goals product behaviors• User research, competitive • Identifying variations in analysis ows• Initial concepts & vision • Solving for constraintsExample Goals Example Goals• Get feedback about a set • Compare the design of of different concepts / system components approaches • Identify potential usability• Explore the designs of issues competing products • Get cross-functional team feedbackWhat You Might Look At• Competing products What You Might Look At• Conceptual models/ • Screen- ow diagrams sketches/ ows • Wireframes / Prototypes
  • 25. When and what should you be critiquing?Beginning Middle EndWhat You’re Working On What You’re Working On What You’re Working On• Setting high level user & • Detailed interactions & • Finalizing detailed design business goals product behaviors • Solidify answers or• User research, competitive • Identifying variations in solutions to issues analysis ows • Solving for constraints• Initial concepts & vision • Solving for constraints Example GoalsExample Goals Example Goals • Analyze design details and• Get feedback about a set • Compare the design of the product’s full impact of different concepts / system components • Discuss usability issues approaches • Identify potential usability • Get cross-functional team• Explore the designs of issues feedback competing products • Get cross-functional team What You Might Look At feedback • High Fidelity PrototypesWhat You Might Look At• Competing products What You Might Look At • Beta/Pilot Systems• Conceptual models/ • Screen- ow diagrams sketches/ ows • Wireframes / Prototypes
  • 26. Preparation and Kickoff• Send out materials ahead of time.• Clearly describe the goals of the product but not how it’s intended to achieve them.• Present quickly.• Be careful when talking about constraints.
  • 27. Tools and Techniques• Active Listening / Question for Clarity• Quotas• Round-Robin• Direct Inquiry• Six Thinking Hats• Moderators
  • 28. Dealing with Difficult People• Set expectations at the beginning of the sessions• Make sure everyone understands what critique is.• Ask quiet people for feedback directly.• Use personas and documented goals to help ensure everyone stays focused
  • 29. Follow Up• Document any observations and open questions and post/share them.• Follow up with individuals to for more feedback or to explore an idea.• Communicate next steps: what activities will occur prior to the next critique.
  • 30. In Summary• Critique is a life skill, not a design skill• Critique focuses on what works, what doesn’t and why.• Intent is critical component to the success of a critique, both in giving and receiving.• Learning to critique well improves our ability to communicate with teams, clients and others and only improves with practice.• Critique can be done both internally and with clients. Use 3-6 people in 30 minutes to 1 hour.• Be sure to clearly communicate the goals of a critique session as well as ground rules to all participants.
  • 31. Additional Resources• The Art of the Design Critique (Aarron Walter - Think Vitamin) http://thinkvitamin.com/design/the-art-of-the-design-critique/• Dealing with Design Critiques (Jacob Gube - Design Instruct) http://designinstruct.com/articles/project-management/dealing-with-design-critiques/• Design Criticism and the Creative Process (Cassie McDaniel - A List Apart) http://www.alistapart.com/articles/design-criticism-creative-process/• Everything I’ve Ever Learned About Giving Design Critiques I Learned from Tim Gunn (Dan Saffer - Kicker Studio) http://www.kickerstudio.com/blog/2010/11/everything-ive-ever-learned-about-giving- design-critiques-i-learned-from-tim-gunn/• What Goes into a Well-Done Critique (Jared Spool - UIE) http://www.uie.com/articles/critique/
  • 32. How’d we do??? Aaron Irizarry (Aaron I for short) User Experience Designer http://thisisaaronslife.com aaron@thisisaaronslife.com @aaroni268 Adam Connor (no catchy nickname) Senior Experience Designer http://adamconnor.com adam@adamconnor.com @adamconnor