Critiquing to Have an Effect
There is a distinct difference between a good critique and a bad one. I have been involved in critique sessions that have turned sour. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a personal attack that has little to do with the design and more to do with fundamental differences in opinion.
I think that one of the reasons that many individuals fear either being created or being involved in one is the perception that a critique operates similar to a celebrity roast.
Let’s try to change that perspective.
The straightforward definition of a critique is “A detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory.” It comes from “cri”, which is Greek for “to judge.”
There are some strong keywords to pull from this one sentence definition: Detail. Analysis. Assessment.
In other words, pull apart what you are critiquing to a micro level of detail, analyze the details, and then form an overall assessment of those details. Are they doing as they are intended to do? Do they do it well? Are there alternative ways of achieving the same goal?
In the end, the whole intent of a critique is to provide as objective of feedback as possible.
10 Steps to Effective Critiquing
- Prepare the mindset of everyone involved. Avoid surprises or misunderstandings by clearly stating the critique’s intention.
- Define and use established criteria. Agree upon what is being discussed and how it will be discussed.
- Critique in proper context. Stick to the intention of what is being critiqued (purpose, audience, ROI).
- Use objective comparison. Keep your comments grounded in factual reality.
- Be clear and concise in what you say. Do not use vague, uncommon or obtuse terms and phrases.
- Do not impose a personal preference or style. It’s not about you; it’s about what you are critiquing.
- Work candidly. Be honest and open in both your critique and conversations with others.
- Explain your critique. Don’t be afraid to give substance to what you say if it helps build an understanding of your critique.
- Make suggestions for improvements. Provide ideas for potential solutions to noted issues. Be careful not to get too stuck on the solution.
- Be an effective coach. As a critiquer, your mindset should be to inspire and encourage, build rapport and help whomever you’re delivering the critique to see the potential of their work.
In the end, the whole intent of a critique is to provide as objective of feedback as possible. You want to identify potential problems and explore possible solutions.