Discussing other peoples’ work can be an uncomfortable thing for some people. But the way we get better in design is to discuss the work and share thoughts about ways it succeeds and ways it could improve. Critique is about the work and not about the person who created it. Do not take critique personally. Instead, take it as an opportunity to improve your work. None of us create something perfect every time, so there’s always room to improve.

Helpful “Starters” for Critique and Discussion

It can be hard to know where to start when critiquing work. Here are a few “starters” that can help.

  • Basic Formal Qualities: Look at how the thing looks or how well it reads. Are colors or typefaces paired in harmony? Are the words in the paper well-chosen and pleasing?
  • Conceptual Content: Think about the concept the thing communicates. Is it a compelling idea? Do you “get” what the concept is? Does it “say” something deeper than just the face value?
  • Communication: Think about the message. Is the point clearly made? Are there any parts that are confusing?
  • Composition: Look at the parts and how they relate to each other. Are the paragraphs arranged in an order that makes sense? Are the visual components arranged so they hold together well?
  • Usability: Try using the design. Were you able to use it easily? Did it enable you to complete a task easily? Was it frustrating?
  • Joy: Think about if this was an enjoyable design. What parts made it pleasing? Was there anything off-putting? Why?
  • Connections with Other Designs: Think about how this relates to other things. Did the paper refer to other sources effectively? Was the thing designed to it could actually work in different contexts?

These are just starters, but they can be helpful talking points when you are in a discussion with others about design.

Though it comes from an art perspective, this “How to Critique” video touches on some very good points.

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Dennis Cheatham

Associate Professor, Communication Design

Miami University

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