A guide to design critique

Credit: Icon from Flaticons

There are different ways a problem can be solved and as a designer we often find ourself blocked or are unsure of the design direction we should take. This is where the design critique comes in. Design critiques should be part of every design team. The work of critique or any feedback is to help unblock the person to move them forward so that the individuals can deliver quality results. It is not about a bunch of people’s opinions on the work of the person presenting but rather collectively supporting the person to be able to get to the end result. Critique should be constructive, effective, professional, useful, and respectful.

Different critique methods (Credit Figma)

We will be looking at a standard Critique below.

Roles in critique

Facilitator: Makes sure that the critique stays on time and prompts in case the feedback is irrelevant and needs to move the discussion offline.
Notetaker: This person takes notes so that the presenter is fully focused on the discussion.
Presenter: The person receiving the feedback.
Listeners: People giving feedback.

Time slots

Time for critique: 1 hour
Number of presenters: 3 people
Time for each presenter: 20 minutes

How to do it

To get the most out of the design critique, you must have a clear format. Below are a few ways to present your work.

1. What is the context:

  • Tell about the work — Background about project/features, problems you are trying to solve, scope, platform, how the product fits in the overall company.
  • Goals about the project and how are you going to measure the success?
  • Who is going to use this? Where? How will be they discover it?
  • How far are you in the progress (early ideation, sketching, brainstorming)

2. Soliciting a Critique (what are you looking for):

What is the feedback you are looking for? What are you blocked by? What is the objective? Scope of the feedback you are looking for and not looking for? Be specific about What do you need — what questions you want answers to?

Don’t

  • Do you like it?
  • What do you think?
  • The design is completed.
  • Which one do you prefer?
  • Tell me anything that I am missing?
  • Do you have anything valuable to add to this?
  • This is where I am (don’t show and tell i.e. don’t show the progress).
  • What I am missing (this is your job, you need to figure out this yourself, the critique is not for that, you can do that in a brainstorming session)

Do’s

  • I am struggling with this pattern
  • I am pursuing this problem, I am trying to figure out the choice between direction A or direction B
  • What I am trying to figure out is…
  • The design problem I’m trying to solve is…
  • What I’m struggling with is…
  • What I’d specifically like to gain from this session is…

3. Clarifying questions

After you finish presenting your work, take a few minutes to allow listeners to jump in with anything that needs further clarification. This makes sure that everyone is on the same page.

4. Receiving feedback

Don’t defend your work and just listen. Be open to new knowledge and perspectives.

  • If you need further clarification, just say, “Can you help me understand and add more to what you said”? “Can you expand on the thing you said about…?” “You said you didn’t like this part — can you help me understand why?”
  • If you find that the feedback you are given is not relevant to what you were looking for. You can say, “That sounds interesting however the feedback is out of the scope of what I am looking for here but let’s sync afterward”
  • If you agree with the person just say, “Sounds like good feedback, I will look into this direction and explore further”

5. Concluding the critique

Thank everyone and you can say, “I have enough information to do another iteration and try out different design directions.”

What to do with the feedback you received:

You shouldn’t take all the feedback at face value. You are the owner of the product and you have more context than the team and so you need to make your own decision. Go back to the feedback and see if it worth pursuing. Also, document, why you don’t move forward with the feedback you received. List down all the issues in priority order of importance and start working on them.

Sample example videos of critiques

Credits and further read / listen:

New layer podcast — Design critique
Design critiques at Figma
UX critique guide

Product Designer with an experimental mindset

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