“How is this design?”
“It’s nice, but something is missing.”
“What about it?”
“I don’t know but how about you change the position of the slider to make it more obvious?”
I just didn’t know what to do with that review from my friend. The next day I just decided to go ahead and give a presentation in class with my design solution. As I walked in, I was surprised to see a guest in class; we had a presentation in front of him. It was my turn to present and I started sharing details about my research and how I created a questionnaire to ask my interviewees. I walked them through my personas and how I derived them from the interviews I conducted. I presented my solution in the form of wireframes,explained how it is solving the problem the users are facing, also imagining the digital interface and interactions the user would have with it. The most interesting part was the end result, which is a visual design, done by my group mate for me based on my requirements. The presentation ended with a very fired up conversation starting amongst the two professors about their opinions on the design solution.
I stood there listening to an interesting critique from the two professors. The guest professor started critiquing my work pointing out why I needed to work more on the development of personas and align them with the solution I am trying to propose and how he likes the visual design.
“ I really like the way you have evolved the story through the entire presentation. I feel though that the personas are not answering questions you are resolving later. I wonder if the solution is resolving the problem in the best possible way. Till the personas are not developed, it will be difficult to relate it to the design solution. ”
The research professor countered the statement,“ I in fact feel that with this solution you have gone one step ahead of what was asked of you. I appreciate the efforts you’ve taken to experiment with the way this looks. How about you trying to move further away from this representation and do something like this with the slider (draws and explains).”
As I watched the two discuss and the other students give their inputs, I realized how the entire conversation gave me deeper insights and ways to tackle the solution better than I had thought of. It was a rather interesting conversation to hear as the professors debated over why and what worked. It got me to think… How the review given on design is important and why I should be aware of the importance of my review in improving someone’s design? A constructive comment by my professor was far more useful than my friend’s vague suggestion. I happened to notice that the critique I got was part obvious and something I just missed and part significantly a refined and detailed observation that would largely help me in enhancements. Only if I learn to review my own designs and give more detailed reviews, my opinion will create some kind of value to the person needing it.
It is often that I face difficulty expressing my specific thoughts about what I like or don’t like about a design and hence the review I give is redundant and of no help as such. Design demands critique and constructive criticism helps accurate iterations. I started putting my thoughts into notes that would help me develop the ability to critique better.
Understand the concept : Empathy is being regarded as one of the valuable skills which helps you relate with a situation or person. Understanding the reasons and whimsies behind the evolution of a concept will truly put you in a better place while reviewing the design proposed.
Find anything and everything you can critique : It may be a poem you loved, an event you attended, a book you read or a piece of music you heard.If you try to start critiquing all kinds of creations you will further develop empathy towards each process and learn to start delving deeper into the nuances.
Learn the terminology: Knowing the terminology or subject matter to an adequate level plays a very important role in strengthening a critique. There is a thin line between giving a suggestion and giving a solution and knowing the terminology will keep your balance while reviewing. If you can find the right words to express your feedback, that will help build a strong case for the point you are trying to get across and also provide some positive comments to improve upon.
Struggle: Most often you will be in trouble to understand the ideas someone else is putting forth, forming your exact comments on it and questioning intent of the designer. It’s okay to grapple with such issues. What needs to be done is keep trying to improve the reviews you give. Try to know more about everyone’s work, what drove them towards the solution they have and ask questions. Right or wrong won’t specifically matter here, as much as asking them would.
Observe: The more you start observing with a close eye on details, the better you will get at reviews. Observe each colour selected, each decision made and how it reflects in the design. Observation should be expanded way beyond a design critique and should be developed as a practice in order to improve a detail oriented approach.
Learn from others: Experience enables a sagacious perspective of things. Every time you encounter a helpful review which substantially improved your design, try to analyze what went behind that feedback and which of the specific skills allowed the person to explain their opinion better. It might be the years spent reviewing designs or just a keen observation. Learn to appreciate the abilities someone has developed over time and inculcate the same.
Iterate and improve: Design becomes better with every little suggestion. Critiquing will undergo immense changes as you practice it more. Such opportunities will be available not just in design presentations but also outside of that. Every time you find yourself in a position of accepting critiques, learn from it and improve your capabilities. The more you receive critiques, the more you will start understanding what helps and what doesn’t as also what was a positive feedback and negative feedback, thus largely helping iterate the way you want to improve upon your own skills.
Critiquing a creation is a huge responsibility and it should be understood that someone relies upon your feedback of their work to improve upon it. It goes without saying that apart from the gaining the essentials of improving your ability to critique, the most important would be respecting the work done by some and treating it as your own while giving an opinion.