Critique, Critiques, Critiquing...

...without being overly critical.

Art 200 / Greg Clayton

Strategies for seeing what's really there


Critique sessions involve one or more people exploring at a solution, or a proposed solution, while aiming to describe what is working and what is not.

Effective critique always has a clearly established basis for evaluation — usually the goals, limitations and priorities that have been outlined in the project's concept statement.

Critiques need to maintain a constructive and relaxed mood, while still being candid and insightful.

Critiques are not about whether the designer is good or bad, but whether this solution, as presented, successfully meets the stated goals. And if not, why not?


Types of Critiques — many varied objectives.

Every critique needs to have some ground rules — "this is what we're exploring this time."
Each kind of critique focuses on different aspects of a form, idea or concept. The type of critique depends on what we're trying to understand at the time. And the type of critique leads to the questions that are relevant for that critique.

Description* — "A verbal account of what is there."*
This type of critique aims to introduce us to the work — we need to be sure we're all noticing the forms and features that are present. (Never assume that everyone in the room sees it the same way...we don't.)
Try to describe as many aspects as you can: Colors...size...materials...imagery and subject matter...interactive features...alternate views...

Analysis* — "A discussion of how things are presented with an emphasis on relationships."* Focusses particularly formal relationships of relative size, relative position, relative color, contrast, etc.
For visual designs, recall your principles of visual design: balance, contrast, harmony, unity, repetition, emphasis, relief, graphic hierarchy, directional movement and so forth. These are all matters of relationship between forms.

Interpretation* — What does this mean? What meaning are we trying to convey — what is the content concept for this project? What might our audience interpret this to mean? Are there any aspects of this design that prompt an unwanted interpretation? Are there aspects of this design that are ambiguous or vague? Is that vaguery OK? ...just how explicit or unambiguous do we want the message to be?
How does imagery contribute to, or detract from our intended message? How does the copy contribute or detract? How does the form (composition, colors, balance, dominating formal traits...) contribute to or detract?

Craft and Virtuousity — How well are the materials (medium, tools, processes) being used? Do the materials offer more potential that is not yet being exploited in the design? Are there other materials/processes that would provide a better solution? Is virtuousity with materials dominating the work — overshadowing the core message or purpose of the work?

Feasability — Can this be constructed/completed as concieved? Can real-world tools, materials and skills be used to create the essential effects and features presented in these sketches or mockups? Can this be created in the time available — can we realistically meet the deadline? What steps or stages are most likely to have problems, delays, barriers or surprises? Where might we get the tools, materials or skills necessary to complete this? How might we test critical parts of this idea before commiting to them in the final implementation? z
Costs? Can this be completed with the available budget...resources...time?
(ask also about Durability, Efficiency, Eco-friendliness, etc.)

Graphic Impact — How successfully will this command viewer's/user's attention? Will it sustain their attention? Why or why not? What forms contribute to the attention-getting qualities of this piece? What imagery or copy? What concept or idea might hold the viewer's attention?

Impact & Sustained Attention — how well will this work hold the viewer's attention? Is this a quick hit — look for a moment, then look away? Or is this something that might pull a viewer in to explore further? Why? What about it commands or sustains attention? What kind of audience/viewer is likely to be drawn in? What sort of viewers will not find this interesting?

Roots and Sources — what prior works (artists, designers, ideas) does this build on? How does this work extend a dialog of ideas? What is it that makes this work a part of that conversation or tradition?

Competition and Peers — what else has been done, or is being done that is similar to this? What other designs aim for the same objectives as this? How does this compare? In what ways does this offer something that others do not offer? In what ways is this basically repeating what's already been done?

*from Design Basics 7th ed., p. 23ff

Critique Questions



Articles and Links

Essay on effective critique practices in design businesses.The author presents the priorities and practice that might enable businesses to facilitate effective critique sessions among the design and decision-making principals involved with a project.

Article/Essay on web design critiques. (comments?)

PDF | PDF (review)



Greg Clayton
2D Design
Color Theory


Photography Course
Course Schedule
Course Schedule
Independent Study