Discussing Design: The Art of Critique - Webvisions Portland 2012

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In this presentation we’ll discuss the importance of critique and a language for discussing design. It’s 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 the 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

Published in: Design, Technology, Business

Discussing Design: The Art of Critique - Webvisions Portland 2012

  1. 1. What is critique?
  2. 2. Critique is about critical thinking.
  3. 3. There are two facets to critique: giving and receiving. At their foundation is intent.
  4. 4. Giving critique with thewrong intent is selfish.
  5. 5. Giving critique with theright intent is selfless.
  6. 6. Tips for giving critique...
  7. 7. Tips for giving critique...• Use a filter Gather initial thoughts and reactions. Revisit them in the right context
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 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• Don’t invite yourself Get in touch and ask to chat about the design
  10. 10. 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• Don’t invite yourself Get in touch and ask to chat about the design• Lead with questions Show an interest in their process
  11. 11. 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• Don’t invite yourself Get in touch and ask to chat about the design• Lead with questions Show an interest in their process• Talk about strengths Critique isn’t just about the things that aren’t working
  12. 12. Receiving critique with the right intenttakes humility and meekness.
  13. 13. Tips for receiving critique...
  14. 14. Tips for receiving critique...• Remember the purpose Critique is about understanding and improvement, not judgement
  15. 15. Tips for receiving critique...• 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?
  16. 16. Tips for receiving critique...• 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?• Refer to the goals Is what you’re hearing pertinent to the goals you’re trying to achieve?
  17. 17. Tips for receiving critique...• 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?• Refer to the goals Is what you’re hearing pertinent to the goals you’re trying to achieve?• Participate Analyze your proposed solution with everyone else
  18. 18. Critique is a life skill... ...not a design skill.
  19. 19. Making critique part of your process...
  20. 20. A few things to keep in mind...
  21. 21. A few things to keep in mind...• Critique is a skill. You only get better with practice
  22. 22. A few things to keep in mind...• Critique is a skill. You only get better with practice• Start small
  23. 23. A few things to keep in mind...• Critique is a skill. You only get better with practice• Start small• Think before you speak
  24. 24. A few things to keep in mind...• Critique is a skill. You only get better with practice• Start small• Think before you speak• Choose who you critique with carefully
  25. 25. The Rules of Critique
  26. 26. The Rules of Critique• Avoidproblem solving and design decisions
  27. 27. The Rules of Critique• Avoidproblem solving and design decisions• Thedesigner is responsible for follow up and decisions
  28. 28. The Rules of Critique• Avoidproblem solving and design decisions• Thedesigner is responsible for follow up and decisions• Everyone is equal
  29. 29. The Rules of Critique• Avoidproblem solving and design decisions• Thedesigner is responsible for follow up and decisions• Everyone is equal• Everyone is a critic
  30. 30. Goals are critical for successful critique.
  31. 31. Who shouldyou invite?
  32. 32. When should you have critiques?
  33. 33. All the f***ing time!
  34. 34. What should you critique?
  35. 35. Every f***ing thing!
  36. 36. When and what should you be critiquing?In the beginning of a project...
  37. 37. When and what should you be critiquing?In the beginning of a project...What You’re Working On•High level user & business goals•User research, competitive analysis•Initial concepts & vision
  38. 38. When and what should you be critiquing?In the beginning of a project...What You’re Working On•High level user & business goals•User research, competitive analysis•Initial concepts & visionExample Goals•Feedback on different concepts / approaches•Explore the design of competing products
  39. 39. When and what should you be critiquing?In the beginning of a project...What You’re Working On•High level user & business goals•User research, competitive analysis•Initial concepts & visionExample Goals•Feedback on different concepts / approaches•Explore the design of competing productsWhat You Might Look At•Competitors products•Conceptual models/sketches/flows
  40. 40. When and what should you be critiquing?In the middle of a project...
  41. 41. When and what should you be critiquing?In the middle of a project...What You’re Working On•Detailed interactions & product behaviors•Identifying flow variations & solving for constraints
  42. 42. When and what should you be critiquing?In the middle of a project...What You’re Working On•Detailed interactions & product behaviors•Identifying flow variations & solving for constraintsExample Goals•Compare the design of system components•Identify usability issues•Get cross-functional team feedback
  43. 43. When and what should you be critiquing?In the middle of a project...What You’re Working On•Detailed interactions & product behaviors•Identifying flow variations & solving for constraintsExample Goals•Compare the design of system components•Identify usability issues•Get cross-functional team feedbackWhat You Might Look At•Screen-flow diagrams•Wireframes / Prototypes
  44. 44. When and what should you be critiquing?At the end of a project...
  45. 45. When and what should you be critiquing?At the end of a project...What You’re Working On•Finalizing detailed design•Solidify answers or solutions to issues
  46. 46. When and what should you be critiquing?At the end of a project...What You’re Working On•Finalizing detailed design•Solidify answers or solutions to issuesExample Goals•Analyze design details and the product’s full impact•Identify usability issues•Get cross-functional team feedback
  47. 47. When and what should you be critiquing?At the end of a project...What You’re Working On•Finalizing detailed design•Solidify answers or solutions to issuesExample Goals•Analyze design details and the product’s full impact•Identify usability issues•Get cross-functional team feedbackWhat You Might Look At•High Fidelity Prototypes•Beta/Pilot Systems
  48. 48. Preparation and Kickoff
  49. 49. Tools & Techniques
  50. 50. Tools & Techniques• Activelistening, question for clarity
  51. 51. Tools & Techniques• Activelistening, question for clarity• Round Robin
  52. 52. Tools & Techniques• Activelistening, question for clarity• Round Robin• Direct Inquiry
  53. 53. Tools & Techniques• Activelistening, question for clarity• Round Robin• Direct Inquiry• Quotas
  54. 54. Tools & Techniques• Activelistening, question for clarity• Round Robin• Direct Inquiry• Quotas• Six Thinking Hats
  55. 55. Tools & Techniques• Activelistening, question for clarity• Round Robin• Direct Inquiry• Quotas• Six Thinking Hats• Facilitators
  56. 56. Dealing with difficult people...
  57. 57. Help with handling difficult people...
  58. 58. Help with handling difficult people...• Set expectations at the beginning
  59. 59. Help with handling difficult people...• Set expectations at the beginning• Make sure everyone understands critique
  60. 60. Help with handling difficult people...• Set expectations at the beginning• Make sure everyone understands critique• Ask quiet people for feedback directly
  61. 61. Help with handling difficult people...• Set expectations at the beginning• Make sure everyone understands critique• Ask quiet people for feedback directly• Refer back to personas, goals and principles
  62. 62. Help with handling difficult people...• Set expectations at the beginning• Make sure everyone understands critique• Ask quiet people for feedback directly• Refer back to personas, goals and principles• Use laddering (The 5 Whys)
  63. 63. Help with handling difficult people...• Set expectations at the beginning• Make sure everyone understands 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
  64. 64. Following Up
  65. 65. In Summary
  66. 66. In Summary• Critique focuses on what works, what doesn’t and why. It’s a form of analysis
  67. 67. In Summary• Critique focuses on what works, what doesn’t and why. It’s a form of analysis• Critique is a life skill. It makes us better communicators and collaborators and only improves with practice
  68. 68. In Summary• Critique focuses on what works, what doesn’t and why. It’s a form of analysis• Critique is a life skill. It makes us better communicators and collaborators and only improves with practice• Intentis critical to the success of a critique on both sides: giving and receiving
  69. 69. In Summary• Critique focuses on what works, what doesn’t and why. It’s a form of analysis• Critique is a life skill. It makes us better communicators and collaborators and only improves with practice• Intentis critical to the success of a critique on both sides: giving and receiving• Theright intent is to understand the design and provide information to help the designer make better decisions
  70. 70. In Summary
  71. 71. In Summary• Agreed upon and mutually understood goals are critical both when asking for and giving critique
  72. 72. In Summary• Agreed upon and mutually understood goals are critical both when asking for and giving critique• Thereare basic rules that should be followed to help ensure good critique
  73. 73. In Summary• Agreed upon and mutually understood goals are critical both when asking for and giving critique• Thereare basic rules that should be followed to help ensure good critique• Critique can be done both internally and with clients. Use 3-6 people for about 1 hour
  74. 74. In Summary• Agreed upon and mutually understood goals are critical both when asking for and giving critique• Thereare basic rules that should be followed to help ensure good critique• Critique can be done both internally and with clients. Use 3-6 people for about 1 hour• Be prepared to deal with difficult people
  75. 75. Additional Resources• The Art of the Design Critique (Aarron Walter - Think Vitamin) http://thinkvitamin.com/design/the-art-of-the-design-critique/• It’s Not Working For Me: #crit (Mark Boulton - Mark Boulton Design) http://www.markboulton.co.uk/journal/comments/its-not-working-for-me-crit• 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... (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/• Do you want critique, or a hug? (Jon Kolko - AC4D) http://www.ac4d.com/2012/04/30/do-you-want-critique-or-a-hug/

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