If you work in any kind of content-based role, it is likely you will work with, or alongside, designers. In this post, I’m going to tell you how to get the most out of your designer’s work via creative review and critique. But first…
What is a review stage?
A review stage is almost always planned into any design workflow, and is a chance for you to look at the ideas your designer has created in response to your brief, evaluate those ideas, and consider any further actions to enable the designer to refine the ideas for a successful final output. It is a collaborative stage where the concept and the visualization comes together for the first time.
Here are my top five tips for a productive review and critique. There is also a FREE REVIEW CHECKLIST at the end to help you in your next critique session!
1. “Live with” the ideas
When presented with new visuals, everyone has an initial, knee-jerk reaction – usually of the “I hate it / I love it” sort. These should be noted, but then you should print the designs, pin them up in a place where you will see them a lot, and then “live with them” for as much time as possible. Design can be a funny thing – ideas that seemed too “out there” at the start can suddenly start to feel familiar over time. A dark colour that might have initially caused concerns about mood might actually allow something else to shine bright against it. Your designer will have considered all of this in their creation process so give it a chance to come through. Once enough time has passed, go back to your notes and see if anything has changed from that initial reaction.
2. Get face-to-face
Design creates discussion. For a productive and valuable review session where there are many stakeholders involved, get all stakeholders together in the same room to review and evaluate the designs together. (It’s a good idea to do this after Tip 1!) Opinions are bound to differ – collaborating face-to-face on the feedback for your designer will mean everyone gets to input, and requested changes are agreed as a team – all culminating in a smooth handover of refinements for the next stage to your designer!
3. Check the brief
Your designer has created everything you are being shown using the brief and brand guidelines you will have provided as their most important point of reference, so make sure you use it when evaluating the work! You should remind yourself of what you asked for, and evaluate whether the designs cover all key points. If you have changed your mind about anything in the spec between briefing and review, you should ask yourself whether this is a considered and effective change of heart, as you risk pushing the design schedule back a stage and lengthening the process.
4. Ask for context
Your designer will have thought a lot about everything. If they have done something you don’t understand, there is probably a reason. Ask your designer to talk you through their choices. Designers love to talk about design and will be happy to give you the thinking behind their work – especially as a thorough design research phase may have brought to light something you hadn’t considered yet! Many designers will include some “thinking” in their review presentations, too. You can still ask them for more and they will be happy to answer any questions you have. Remember, you are in a collaborative phase!
5. Tell your designer what you like!
Many people mistake critique for criticism. In fact, you can have an entirely positive critique session! Critique is the process of holding a design up to the challenges asked of it, and seeing if it delivers – the answer could be yes to everything! Telling designers what you loved about their work, even if there are a few changes to be made, not only helps your working relationship, but also helps the designer to see where they are really “getting you”, and will help them refine the rest of the work to be more in line with those things – a happy result for everyone!