352 Inc. / Digital Marketing / December 5th, 2008

Tips on Painlessly Breaking in Critique Newbies

Part 2 of a 4 part series on design critiques.

Here’s an obvious statement: critique can be a very
intimidating and potentially traumatic experience for new designers. But, group
critique is a crucial part of all designers’ growth and it can’t be avoided.  The good news: it can be confidence building
and rewarding — as long as it’s handled right. So, here are some handy tips
for breaking in those newbies painlessly J.

Make Them Want It
It’s
really important that the designers understand the feedback they get in
critique is an invaluable part of their growth. 
No amount of reading or classes or research can substitute for the
growth that critique facilitates. Sell the new designers on the mindset that
critique is a long-lasting benefit of the job …one that will stay with them
long after their salary, medical or dental benefits are gone.  

Set Expectations
Preface
the first critique with a discussion about critique etiquette and expectations.
 Let them know that you are all invested
in each others success. Everyone has their own set of rules and guidelines they
feel comfortable with.  I will be
outlining ours in the final post of this series.

Ease Them In Slowly
If
you can, start them off by critiquing sites designed by people outside of your
critique group. This helps them get used to critically thinking about and discussing
design without ego issues. When you remove the awkwardness of digging into your
peer’s designs and vice-versa, you can focus on engaging conversation about
design more clearly.

Respect
Foster
a sense of camaraderie and trust within the group of designers participating in
the critique.  It’s important to keep the
focus on the common goal of helping each other get better. 

Laugh
Stay
light hearted and loose during the discussion. A little self-deprecation goes a
long way and humor always adds levity. Sometimes I like to show new designers
the first HORRIBLY ugly site I never designed to lighten up the mood. 

Recognize Patterns
As
you have repeated critiques, you’ll be able to spot patterns in each
designer.  As their strengths and
weaknesses emerge, point them out during critique. This will help them be more
self aware of their design habits.  They can
build on their strengths, improve their weaknesses and most importantly, be
more versatile as a designer. Everyone has their own design crutches. Becoming
more aware of them will help them break out of their rut.

I
hope these tips help improve your critiques. 
Group feedback is such a great tool for improving all designers, not
just new ones. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving!  Happy critiquing!

P.S.
Our blog redesign is FINALLY in the works! I’m so excited!

Up next…Part 3: Getting the most out of Group, One-on-one and Self Critiques