Discussing Design: The Art of Critique

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Critique is a vital skill for any good designer. Here we talk about it's application in everyday life as well as the formal work we do with clients as UX Designers. …

Critique is a vital skill for any good designer. Here we talk about it's application in everyday life as well as the formal work we do with clients as UX Designers.

This talk has been given at a number of conferences by myself and the amazing Aaron Irizaryy (http://www.thisisaaronslife.com/)

We'll be keeping the most up-to-date version of the slides uploaded here. If you'd like a copy from a previous iteration, please get in touch with either Aaron or myself, and we'll happily get one to you.

Updated 5/55 to the version used at WebVisions Portland in 2012.

More in: Design , Technology , Business
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  • Intro\nTell story\n
  • Aaron\nWe talk about critique in the context of giving feedback\nOften it’s equated with giving feedback, but it’s more specific than that. It’s a deliberate, active process\nFeedback is nothing more than how we react to something.\nCritique identifies where/how a design meets or doesn’t meet specific goals.\nIt’s a form of analysis.\nIs delivered in a form in which the person receiving it understands and can act upon it.\n
  • Adam\nActually it’s kind of the reverse of critical thinking\nWhere critical thinking is about problem solving, critique is about trying to understand what problems the designer is trying to solve, and how\nWhy is it important to talk about critique:\nIts something a lot of us talk about doing, but often have challenges with. Particularly with clients.\nHelps establish a common framework for discussing designs and ideas.\nCreates opportunities for more team interaction, building collaboration and trust\nLearning to critique makes us better communicators.\n
  • Aaron\nIntent is the initiator of critique.\nIt defines the purpose of the critique process.\nThe 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.\nSelfish Critique:\n140 characters of one sided, open ended critique every time an app/site is launched or updated.\nProviding unwelcome or un-timely feedback, without context, or consideration (in a team environment or otherwise).\n
  • Adam\nThe right intent is wanting to improve the product\nIt is focused on facilitating conversation and critical thinking that leads to improvement.\nThe best critiques are a discussion.\n
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  • Aaron\nRequesting feedback for personal validation. If you need a hug just ask :)\nAsking for feedback with no intent of listening.\n
  • Aaron\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
  • Aaron\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
  • Aaron\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
  • Aaron\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
  • Aaron\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
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  • Aaron\nAn introduction to participants unfamiliar with giving structured feedback.\nA safe(er) place to practice giving and receiving feedback.\nCritique vs. Review meetings\n
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  • Adam\nThe “I like/don’t like” situation.\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
  • Adam\nThe “I like/don’t like” situation.\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
  • Adam\nThe “I like/don’t like” situation.\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
  • Adam\nThe “I like/don’t like” situation.\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 \n3 - 6 people\nChoose attendees based on the goal(s) of your session.\nConsider personality, not just roles.\nDon’t use the same people every time.\nPeople to invite:\nExecutives/Business Sponsors/Stakeholders\nSubject Matter Experts\nMarketers\nDevelopers\nBiz Analysts\nOther Designers\n
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  • Aaron\nSend out materials ahead of time.\nClearly describe the goals of the product but not how it’s intended to achieve them. (flesh this out further)\nPresent quickly.\nBe careful when talking about constraints.\n
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  • Aaron\nTake note of how people participated\nDocument any observations and open questions and post/share them.\nFollow up with individuals to for more feedback or to explore an idea.\nCommunicate next steps: what activities will occur prior to the next critique.\n
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Transcript

  • 1. DISCUSSING DESIGNThe Art of CritiqueAdam Connor Aaron Irizarry EXPERIENCE DESIGN DIRECTOR PRODUCT DESIGNER
  • 2. So, what is critique?
  • 3. The new Spotify design is perhaps even worse than the old Spotifydesign. The visual hierarchy and underlying IA are terrible. We should make that a dropdown instead of radio buttons. I would never use this. I don’t like the layout. This is terrible. I have no idea what the lines mean. Were disappointed in this solution. Were going to have our own designers Looks ugly. Make it pretty. come up with one. I like the paper form better. What. The hell. Is this? None of this is what I asked for. Make it look moreHere is a rewrite. My intention is What kind of company shuts down a much-loved service like SharePoint.to sharpen the language, make it like Google Reader but keeps the vegetative Google Plus?more precise. Im just not feeling it. I dont know what, but it isnt right yet. Just needs to be more innovative. It doesnt have enough spunk. The wireframes are still not answering our problem Change the order of the screens so that the and are not providing enough an easier solution for 3rd and first one are switched. the page. It needs more flululululuh!! No. That won’t work. What if we It’s laid out too much like [popular service]. We should be different. do it this way...
  • 4. Critique is about critical thinking.
  • 5. There are two facets to critique: giving and receiving. At their foundation is intent.
  • 6. Giving critique with the wrong intent is selfish.
  • 7. Giving critique with the right intent is selfless.
  • 8. Tips for giving critiqueUse 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.
  • 9. Receiving critique with the right intenttakes humility and a bit of restraint.
  • 10. Tips for receiving critiqueRemember 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?Participate.Analyze your proposed solution with everyone else.Set the right foundation.Use knowledge and prior agreements to get everyone on the same page.
  • 11. Questions to ask yourselfWhat problem was the designer trying to solve or whatgoal were they trying to achieve?How did the designer try to solve that problem orachieve that goal?How effective is what the designer did at solving theproblem or achieving the goal?Why is or isn’t what the designer did effective?
  • 12. More things to think aboutAre there any problems the designer could or shouldhave solved, but didn’t?Do any new problems arise as a result of the choicesthe designer made?These kinds of questions can be important to think about and ask, but beprepared for them to be beyond the scope of the designer’s work, andtherefore not something to focus the remainder your critique on.
  • 13. A few things to keep in mindCritique is a skill. You only getbetter with practice.Start small.Think before you speak.Choose who you critiquewith carefully.
  • 14. The rules of critique Avoid problem solving and design decisions. Everyone is a critic. Everyone is equal. The designer is responsible for follow up and decisions.
  • 15. Who shouldyou invite?
  • 16. Set the right foundation for good critiqueScenariosShort narratives that the describe the desired behaviors, thoughts, reactions,emotions, etc. of the user. Describes what happens, but not how.PersonasUser Archetypes that describe their average behaviors, goals, expectations,knowledge, etc.GoalsDesired, measurable outcomes of the user interacting with the product orservice. Can be user oriented, business oriented or both.PrinciplesDesired qualities or characteristics of the solution. Describe what happens, butnot how.
  • 17. The Mini-BriefA Mini-Creative Brief is a short writeup of a projectAbout 1/2 - 1 page that recaps the foundation and context for why something isbeing created.It includes...A brief summary of the problem statement and business goals.The key users (personas) of the solution.The main scenarios in which the solution will be used.The design principles to be followed.Note: This isn’t necessarily the full documentation for these individual elements.Review this at the start of a meeting or discussion.Doing this helps to ground the conversation and ensure everyone is workingtoward the same goals.
  • 18. Preparation & kickoff
  • 19. Facilitating critiqueCritique GoalsActive listening, question for clarityRound RobinDirect InquiryQuotasSix Thinking HatsFacilitators
  • 20. Dealing with difficult people
  • 21. Dealing with difficult peopleSet 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.
  • 22. What comes next?
  • 23. Making critique part of your processStandalone CritiquesDesign ReviewsBrainstorms and Collaborative Activities
  • 24. Standalone critiques are awesome because they can...Provide an introduction to people unfamiliar withcritique.Provide a safe(r) place to practice giving and receivingfeedback.Allow teams to focus feedback on specific goals,topics, etc.Increase the sense of collaboration in team members.Two approaches: Impromptu and Scheduled
  • 25. When can you have critiques?
  • 26. Anytime!
  • 27. What can you critique?
  • 28. Anything!
  • 29. Critique is about iteration andimprovement. So long as you’re looking to improve on whatever it is you’re doing, you’ve got an opportunity for critique.
  • 30. Making critique part of your processStandalone CritiquesDesign ReviewsBrainstorms and Collaborative Activities
  • 31. Design Reviews and their challenging for critique because...They’re used to get approval or some kind of blessing.Their timing is driven by project timeline.They often have too large of an audience and manyattendees have the wrong intent.Their output, if not approval, is typically a list ofspecified changes.
  • 32. Making the most of a Design ReviewTake control as much as possible.Recap the goals and principles of the design.Use the same tools as you would for dealing withdifficult people.Don’t rely on them for critique. Be prepared toschedule a more focused session.
  • 33. Making critique part of your processStandalone CritiquesDesign ReviewsBrainstorms and Collaborative Activities
  • 34. The problems with brainstorms Artist Unknown
  • 35. The problem with brainstormsThey lack focus.They progress too quickly into group think mentality.They fail to generate more ideas than would beproduced by a single contributor. Artist Unknown
  • 36. A loose framework for collaboration Divergent Convergent Thinking Critique Thinking Individual Exploration Group Refinement Your Super Innovative Brainstorm Session
  • 37. To sum it all upThere are 2 sides to critique: giving & receiving.The right intent (on both sides) is to try to understandthe decisions made so far and their impact towardmeeting goals and objectives.Critique is a skill. It takes practice to improve.There are basic rules that should be followed to helpensure good critique.Mutually understood and agreed upon goals are criticalboth when asking for and giving critique.
  • 38. To sum it all upLearning to facilitate critique by asking the rightquestions is key to introducing and fostering a cultureof critique.Critique can be done both internally and with clients. Useup to 6 people for about 1 hour.Be prepared to deal with difficult people. You willencounter them.Critique can be incorporated into the design processboth as an activity and as part of other activities.