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Things you should know before going into a Design Crit

UX Planet — Medium | Geunbae “GB” Lee

Here are some things I learned from my Product Design internship at Facebook. Going into a Design Crit is a huge part of a designer’s job.

TL;DR

  • Design Crit is NOT a review session. It’s rather a syncing session where you sit down with your co-designers or other design disciplines (research, content strategy etc)
  • Design Crit NOT a working session. It’s where the presenter provides a clear explanation of the problem, proposed solution and ask for feedback on specific parts of their design process
  • Presenter can share work at any stage of their design process. Sharing anything early and often is good practice
  • Presenter should state what kind of feedback they want from the session
  • No one should interrupt until the end. Unless there are questions that need to be answered ASAP, try to keep questions until the end
  • It’s extremely important to get everyone excited about the project!

POINT OF HAVING A DESIGN CRIT

  • To involve all the design members (designers, researchers, content strategists, product managers etc) in your design process
  • To ensure everyone is on sync with the ongoing projects
  • Opportunity to expose what everyone is working on to newcomers
  • To provide visibility of the ongoing work , all the way from problem defining, mockups, designs, prototypes, research results etc
  • To make sure the rationale behind your designs is solid and convincing
  • Let the presenter consistently flow through the project when stuck
  • Perfect place to get input and ideas from co-workers to improve the quality of work
  • Identify and manage design dependencies across the product teams to ensure that there are adequate amount of product consistency

It’s important to not shy away from sharing your work at any stage of your design process. There is nothing like, “it’s too early to get feedback.” Getting comfortable in sharing your work early and often is a good rule of thumb. Also, always try to be open to all the feedback rather than be defensive about your work.

PREPARING FOR A DESIGN CRIT

  • Define the stage you’re at and the input/feedback your looking for
  • Try to keep building up your case and update everyone step by step so that you don’t have to mention the previous stages again (which takes up unnecessary time)
  • Always have questions that you want to ask your audience ready to minimize the silence periods during feedback
  • Stay calm and relax, this is not a formal presentation session but rather a discussion and open feedback session
  • Define how long you would like to be assigned for the session so that the audience are aware and the designer after you can make their presentations
  • All the projects that you’re doing have reasons to be excited about solving. Let your motivation and excitement be contagious!

Again, be able to answer these questions:

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • How do you know it is a real problem?
  • Who are we solving for?
  • How will we know if we have solved this problem?

As long as your work is explainable and visuals can be easily seen, you can use any of these to present your work:

  • Keynote/Powerpoint
  • Text document
  • Whiteboard
  • Movie clip

ROLES IN A DESIGN CRIT

Design Crits are mainly comprised of a presenter and audience but having a facilitator and a note taker could be helpful in keeping the session organized.

The presenter need to be prepared for the following:

  • I am solving this problem for…
  • I know this is a real problem because…
  • I am at the stage of…
  • These are the steps that I took…
  • I am looking for feedback in…
  • Ready to answer the questions that weren’t addressed before and be honest and open about the ideas and previous processes
  • Be open to feedback rather than being defensive about their work
  • Explain thoroughly about the decisions and rationales behind your direction of approach and the designs you made
  • Sense the atmosphere inside the room and keep everyone motivated to listen and participate in the Design Crit. Make it a fun and exciting discussion session

The audience should help the presenter with the following:

  • Acknowledges that they understand and agrees with the problem statement or other design decisions proposed
  • Asks clarifying questions to help arrive at the root of the problem at every stage
  • Provide specific feedback and do it in an appropriate manner
  • Always be willing to listen to the presentation. The worse audiences are the ones who show up but look at their smartphones and laptops
  • Be a learner even though it’s not your project. Understanding what other people are working on is a huge gain for yourself
  • Be respectful for the time the presenter put into their presentation

The facilitator keeps the Design Crit flow fluidly, ensuring the work is presented with the allotted time

The note taker records the salient points of the discussion and captures action items, and the role should rotate each week

GIVING FEEDBACK IN A DESIGN CRIT

Giving compliments in specific areas of the process is also really good feedback. Designers have a tendency to look for negative things while going into the Design Crit. And this is good as long as you have reasonable explanations. However, try to also appraise for the things that the presenter did well:

  • “I like how you highlighted that option. It totally makes sense to me”
  • “Your clean layout and well-proportioned typography makes the page really legible”
  • I think how you approached this problem is very creative. And the fact that you explored a lot of different options clearly demonstrate that you are passionate about solving this problem

If you have any doubts or questions about the proposed designs or any point in the process, try to frame them as questions that let the designer explain their rationale behind what they currently have.

  • Could you explain to me why you decided to pick those people are your primary users?”
  • “How did the research session with the users influence your design in that way opposed to the other way you quickly explored?”
  • “Could you tell me why you specifically picked those colors to represent this chart? What was the context behind it?”

Open-ended questions are very useful to spark the discussion with everyone in the room. It’s a chance to get everyone concentrated and get input/feedback.

  • “Why did you choose this direction?”
  • “How does your solution help the user accomplish their goal?”
  • “What is their motivation to use this product?”
  • “Where do you think the design needs to be improved for a better UX?”
  • “Please clarify this point a little further…”

Closed questions are frequently answered with either a yes or a no which don’t really leave any room for exploration. It could even be a stopper to the momentum you had in the room with all the best and brightest people. However, you can always turn a closed question into an open question by tacking on a “Why” or “How” question at the end.

  • “Did you consider using a different component here? If so, why didn’t it work and how did you make the decision to not pursue in that direction?”

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRITICISM AND CRITIQUE

What I learned and read during my time at Facebook.

  • Criticism passes judgement — Critique poses questions
  • Criticism finds fault — Critique uncovers opportunity
  • Criticism is personal — Critique is objective
  • Criticism is vague — Critique is concrete
  • Criticism tears down — Critique builds up
  • Criticism is ego-centric — Critique is altruistic
  • Criticism is adversarial — Critique is cooperative
  • Criticism belittles the designer — Critique improves the design

More articles written by me:

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Things you should know before going into a Design Crit was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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