Creating space for sharing expert advice, historical knowledge, and diverse perspectives in a team-wide critique session.

1  hour session
One Facilitator
Designed for small groups (under 15)
Problems with standard “show & tell” crits...
  • Presenters share work that is too underbaked or too overbaked
  • Critiquers taking up all the space constrasted by quiet participants
  • Not enough background information, fear of not being knowledgable about problem-space
  • Constraints are not clearly defined
  • Time isn't shared equally among presenters
  • Knowledgeable, experienced viewpoints may be given equal-weight to less-experienced, novice reactions.
Set the Stage
Rules for a Temporary World

Before any critique session, new participants are informed about the world they are about to enter.

A set of pop-up rules are posted in the invite as a reminder to all, along with the upcoming presenters name, link to their design brief.

General Assembly and Jared John Rogers

Pop-Up Rules

Work to be presented must be at least 25% to 75% baked

When the work is less than 25% completed, it’s too early and most decisions haven’t been made yet. The session is too likely to turn into group brainstorming and design-by-committee, which everyone wants to avoid.

When the work is too close to completion, it’s hard to take in the criticism and feedback. At that point, there’s just not enough wiggle room for changes.

Presenter Sets Objectives

Write down questions you would like answered. What decisions are you stuck on? What revelations have you had as you’ve iterated on the solution?

All designs are available as a collection in Abstract

This will ensure everyone has an opportunity to leave comments in one place, or if we don’t get through all screens, designers can asynchronously provide feedback. Please link to the design brief in the collection for context.

Welcome Critiquers!
Presenters as Welcoming Committee

Having presenters (two maximum) verbally welcome everyone in the Zoom room, grants each presenter automatic authority by default and indicates who will start.
A short-and-simple opener is perfect for time-constrained, regularly scheduled sessions.

Timing is strictly enforced in critiques.
Each presenter has up to 15 minutes to share their work.

Part I: Share
Presenting Design Work

1. Recap your design brief.
2. Present solutions using Abstract.
3. End with questions and/or assumptions.

Before Critique starts, ensure a notetaker is assigned (if one is requested from presenter).

Part II: Critique
Randomized Start

To kick-off discussion, we start with a randomizer. The selected participant opens the discussion in any way they choose. They can attempt to answer presenters objective or they can simply ask a clarifying question or pose "I was confused about the page-level "Save," can you tell me why you opted for that?"

Randomly choosing the person to start the discussion prevents the same persons from running the crit, I like it because it invites new or more junior participants to contribute from the start, even if they have limited working knowledge.
- Erica Mauser, Product Designer
Open Discussion
Getting through the Groan Zone

The second-half of critique allows me as a facilitator to practice stacking, tracking, linking, summarizing, drawing out, and balancing the group with a limited amount of time.

Ask the Expert

Participants can motion to bring in a colleague that has expertise with the product, domain, design system, to share their work.

If I were you...

Participant can call on someone and ask them directly, If you were me, what would you do...

Debate Team

Participant can motion for a debate between two highly contentious solutions. If majority vote for this, volunteers take sides and prepare arguments why one solution is best.

Times Up!

The session ends when the timer runs out. Remind presenter in the last two minutes: What are your next steps?

Presenter always leaves with a path forward!

Wrap Up
Parting Word or Phrase

What did you learn from the work shared today? In Slack, type in one-word or phrase to share what you learned from the session.

Facilitator Competencies

Creating a repeatable critique structure that introduces a temporary world, pop-up rules.
Structure offers opportunity for quiet participants to lead discussion.
Practice with facilitation of Open Discussion in the "Groan Zone", leading toward convergence.