Design > Critique > Repeat

There’s a lot of writing out there on how to run a productive critique.

One of my favorites is by Jake Knapp of Google Ventures where he lays out nine rules to follow. For example, one great rule is to write it before you say it – this requires 5-10 minutes of silent time to look at the work and write down your initial reactions. It allows you to respond to the work individually – eliminating groupthink. Scott Berkun also wrote a great guide on setting up a critique and goes into the details of specific questions to ask and what materials you’ll need.

So you’ve followed the best practices and just had a super productive critique.


Now what?

Here are a few steps to kickstart your process:

Interpret and refine

Don’t take feedback too literally – try to interpret and refine what you’ve heard. It’s not changing what you heard – but shifting it into a clear descriptive language. When you’re working with clients who aren’t so design savvy, it’s especially important to guide them through how they’re responding to the work.

They may say things like ‘it’s too busy’ or ‘this should pop more’ – try your best to interpret this. Furthermore, if a lot of feedback is centered around a certain element or area, you can start to make assumptions and draw some conclusions.

Organize the chaos

Try not to feel overwhelmed, especially if you just received a barrage of conflicting feedback. By identifying patterns in feedback, you can start grouping different thoughts. For example, if one person said, “The color palette feels busy and overwhelming and the icons are plain and generic” and another person said “The colors are too bright and the icons have a totally different style.” You can conclude from both thoughts that the icons and colors are not reading as a harmonious pair.

Once you start to group patterns you heard in feedback (just like in creating personas), you move away from iterating your design based on one person’s feedback and work toward addressing the main themes.

From here, you can create manageable design challenges to drive the next round of iterations keeping you focused on a specific area. A design challenge could be something like, “Explore hierarchy.” This gives you a clear prompt to explore hierarchy in forms of typography, scale, color, etc. Giving you a clear directive to quickly create a variety of focused iterations.

Jot it down

After a critique, quickly write down or sketch any big ideas. A productive critique can often stir up some ideas or spark an interesting conversation. Write down anything that’s swimming around in your head before you forget. The instinctual reactions people have to your design can offer insights into how it aligns with the overall brand or business goals.

Challenge yourself

Once you’ve created a series of design challenges – post them on a wall. Refer to them as you’re working and as you move through the process, challenge yourself to combine two or more design challenges. There are likely a few design challenges that could coalesce to create the perfect mixture of delight or inspiration. Be up for the challenge!

Follow your intuition

It’s ok to ignore feedback. You’ve studied this craft, spent countless hours refining your skills and have a good sense of what will work. Ultimately, you’re the designer who should provide the most appropriate direction for the best experience. Stay open to trying something you think might not work and allow yourself to play and explore rather than jumping to the quickest solution.

Presentation Prowess

Visual design is subjective – when you present your next iteration, walk your audience through the work by telling a story or presenting visual research to back up some of your decisions. Try as much you can to show instead of tell.

Christina Beard

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