I answered: What’s the best way to present work during a design critique?

Design critiques can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. So, you’ve been working on a user flow or illustration for weeks and are finally ready to show it to the parties involved. You want this to go well so you can move on to the next phase, the next project, the next feature, so on. In order to do so, you’ll need to make sure that you set yourself up for success so you can get what you’re looking for from the design critique. I’ve listed a few ways of doing that below.

Action Items

Walking into the meeting confused about what you’re trying to get out of it is not just a huge waste of time but will also leave you more baffled than you were before the meeting. Have a clear sense of what your goals for the project and for the critique meeting are. Are you just looking for feedback on the visuals? Do you want to have an open brainstorm? Is the purpose of the meeting to make a final decision? Write down your goals ahead of time so you’re going in with a definitive plan. Once you’re in the room, take a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting to set expectations. Reiterate the goals of the project for context. Let everyone know what you want out of the critique session. Sometimes it’s also helpful to let people know what you don’t want out of the meeting (for example, “Copy is FPO, please disregard for now.”). It’s a lot easier to get valuable feedback when everyone’s on the same page.

This mostly applies to experience design but I can see it working from other design disciplines as well. Going into a critique meeting well-informed about the topic at hand is a smart move. You’re already prepared to talk about your designs, so, that’s no biggie but also having a grasp on metrics and industry best practices will go a long way. Gathering a little bit of information to support your argument or decision will help with confidence, in turn making presenting your ideas a breeze. If this is a critique session in which you’re trying to persuade, playing out rebuttal scenarios and having convincing arguments for them beforehand can definitely help. I’ve been in so many situations where I’ve had to defend my work and show its value (I’m sure we all have), it’s the extra bit of information (metrics/best practices/past experience/usability tests, etc.) that always comes in handy.

This one’s obvious but oh so important. Being designers, we’re used to hearing a lot of opinions about our work. All. The Time. After a while, it’s easy to become defensive or tune them out because you don’t think the feedback coming in is valuable. Don’t fall victim to this type of thinking. Listen intently. Ask lots of questions. Turn the critique session into more of a dialogue, an open discussion where you’re trying to understand where the other person’s coming from when they say something “doesn’t feel right” or “what if we tried a completely different approach?”. Ask them why they think so and how they came to a certain conclusion. As part of the discussion, point back to the goals of the project that you outlined at the beginning of the meeting. Show them results of the A/B test that prompted you to make the decisions that you did. Having open-minded discussions like these will help you get better at making a case for your decisions and also help others see your thought process, which will then help convince them more easily.

This is something that I’ve leaned the hard way. In my opinion, documenting feedback is one of the most important aspects of critique sessions. If you’re receiving lots of valuable feedback and there’s no record of it, it’s pretty much useless. You might think that you can retain it all in your head. Well, I have bad news for you: you can’t. Getting involved in the discussion is an all-too-common occurrence but you have to remember to type/jot down quick notes that you’ll be able to refer back to later. They will serve you well when your memory fails you 2 days later, when you decide to return to the project. Documenting feedback is also a useful habit to get into to ensure that the team is aligned on next steps. It’s a good idea to send out a brief email after the meeting to highlight some of the main discussion points and next steps for visibility. Your team will love you for doing this.

This answer was originally posted on Playbook.

Designer of many things. Currently, Head of Design at Unmind. Creating a community for dog lovers — Dear Genie.