Going Critical: How To and Why To Give and Take Proper Criticism

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It will probably go poorly, feelings will be hurt, and people will be defensive. You may even become even less likely to deliberately seek out feedback.

  1. Accepting Positive and Negative Criticism | Ideas by We;
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  3. 7 Tips for Giving Constructive Criticism?

Two weeks is a really long time to go before a course correction. The other direction this goes is that people wait so long in-between getting feedback, that no one is willing to speak up.

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  • The demo happens every two weeks, people clap, no one says anything, and then you move onto the next demo. How valuable is an internal demo without feedback? It will also be a much more empowering process. The goal is to talk about what can be improved AND what was done really well The second part of this is so critical.

    If someone delivers a design that is really thoughtful and meets user and business goals, go over the specific areas they did well and why. You want them to internalize what they are doing well and make sure they do it in the future. Critique is good at finding areas for improvement.

    This is also critical. This helps a design and product become more thoughtful. But if you only focus on the areas of improvement, people are missing a very important signal on the things they should do more of in the future. Feedback must be both actionable by the person you are giving it to, and actionable in the sense that it is related to the problem trying to be solved.

    Feedback must be actionable The point of receiving critique is to get actionable that you can use to improve what you are currently working on or to help you with future work. Non-actionable feedback can be true. That feedback is way out of scope and prevented us from addressing the actual problem we were trying to solve for users.

    Accepting positive and negative criticism

    If there is already an established design system in place, that would be an inappropriate time to talk about making a large-scale branding or design system change. Feedback should be in context The design may be displayed on a device or in a context that is not a typical use case. A lot of designs are demoed on large monitors that are high resolution in conference rooms, which can lead to the design being critiqued in an atypical context. How many of your users are using your website, for instance, on a big p monitor with the browser going full screen? This can lead to people complaining about excess white space or the design being too sparse.

    How to Give and Receive Criticism | Scott Berkun

    But if your user base is overwhelmingly on inch laptops and you design for this, the critique should consider this context. This is a misalignment with how your users see the product. Telling someone they need to work harder or that they are doing bad work is not constructive.

    You also want positive, affirmational feedback to be focused on the quality of the work and how it helps users, and not on the person. A key part of feedback when done in a setting with a team is that other people can learn from each other and the feedback that each other is given. We build products to delight users. Give critical feedback in the form of a question as much as possible People try to respond to statements with rebuttals.

    The goal of feedback and critique is to get everyone involved in the process to think more expansively and to work to improve the designs and products. It should be a collaborative process that yields better results for everyone. This will also give them the ability to give a thoughtful reply that changes the thinking of the question asker. Also, when you think of feedback as about asking questions and less about making statements, those giving the critique will think more expansively and start asking questions that they themselves have no preconceived notion as to what the answer is.

    Questions are empowering and expansive.

    Good vs bad critique

    Critique is about empowering the entire team to do better work together. Encourage people to ask questions and be expansive in their thinking This goes beyond trying to phrase critical feedback in the form of a question. Questions help people and teams expand their thinking.

    A question may be a simple clarification about the design or a feature of the product itself. Feedback and critique sessions are a great time for people to push each other to keep thinking of ways to refine and improve products and designs. Everyone giving feedback should understand user problems and goals Good product design is user centered. Everyone giving feedback should understand the problem that is being attempted to be solved with this design. This means that everyone giving feedback should be apprised of your latest user research and should ideally have direct exposure to customers through user research or other methods even if just as an observer.

    It also means that everyone giving feedback should understand what problems this particular design is trying to solve. If good product design is ultimately about how something works, everyone giving feedback should have a sense of what they are even working towards. Everyone giving feedback should understand business goals If you are making a product to sell, the designs that are made and the reasons for them should ultimately serve business goals. The difference between selling mass market ad-supported business-to-consumer products and enterprise software as a service products SaaS are vast.

    Everyone should be engaged Close laptops and put phones away. A critique session is not a meeting where you can just idly check email during. This is a time to sweat the details.

    1. Time it right.

    The exceptions to this rule are if you are getting ready to present or if you are taking notes. I try to take notes on pen and paper during these sessions or use a white board to help myself stay as engaged as possible. Mix it with a critique session, and it can be downright toxic. My job as a design leader is to shield my team members from negative and toxic influences. Some people never provide actionable and meaningful feedback. Others provide good feedback, but not in a constructive way. Cartier-Bresson is celebrated precisely because his mastery of the art of photography was such that he knew when and why rule-breaking was called for.

    As a result, he expanded the horizons of photography as a medium. In this article we explored how the critic has two key tasks: to separate the good from the bad, and to form an overall judgement on a work. We took a look at the qualities of good critique, and described it as occupying a middle ground between the extremes of negative and positive. But if you take just one thing from this article, it should be this: just as iron sharpens iron, we as designers and design students should seek feedback and provide quality critique as often as we can.

    By giving and receiving critique in a spirit of generosity and good faith, we will help each other to improve our craft. To help you offer feedback to fellow students and colleagues, check out our point design critique checklist, available to download for free as a PDF. Want to learn more about design?

    2. Check yourself.

    Click here to find out more. What is critique, and why does it matter? In short, critique matters because it enables us to improve our work. Bad response Rivers between columns Font is crazy small! Poor font choice — try a serif Margins too small Good response Hey!

    Let me know if I can help with looking at the next draft.

    Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ

    How to receive critique well Understanding good and bad critique in this framework not only helps us to give better feedback to others; it also helps us to assess critiques of our own work. Avoid interrupting or contradicting the critique — the other person has taken time to engage with your work and they deserve your patience and respect. Listen attentively. Take critical points on board and consider them with an open mind. Defending is adversarial, and can shut down further discussion. Explaining is neutral, and can lead to further discussion and better mutual understanding.

    Take time to reflect. It will also take time to see the right way forward in terms of changes to your work. Iterate and seek further critique. Implement changes you decide upon in a new version, and seek further feedback if necessary.

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    Pro tip: how to accept praise Quite a few of us find it almost as hard to accept praise as we do to value critique. A cautionary tale Before we sum up and take a look at the point checklist, a cautionary tale about how critique can backfire. Summary In this article we explored how the critic has two key tasks: to separate the good from the bad, and to form an overall judgement on a work.

    Download the checklist To help you offer feedback to fellow students and colleagues, check out our point design critique checklist, available to download for free as a PDF. Get the free point critique checklist! Enjoyed this article? Try another! Best of the Blog. More from the Designlab Blog.

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