BlogDesign and Development

What’s the Difference Between Critiquing & Criticizing?

Written by Siddhita Upare
Published on September 24th, 2020

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Picture this.

You’ve finished working on a particularly difficult brief. You’re pretty happy with the result.

When the feedback trickled in you weren’t expecting to see your supervisor gushing over your work, but you expected something positive at the very least. This is something that’s happened to all of us. We have all been guilty of sharing feedback that could have been better structured and better at getting our point across.

If the feedback you share is confusing, it doesn’t highlight the good aspects of the work, or if it’s just plain mean — that’s definitely going to lower your team member’s morale.

Haven’t we all taken what was meant to be constructive criticism, personally? It doesn’t feel great to be told your work so far isn’t yet up to the mark, and hearing about all the ways you could have improved your work can be really disheartening, especially if you’re being told the same in front of your colleagues.

The role of feedback in the creative process

The importance of clear, specific, and useful feedback for a designer or developer cannot be underplayed. It’s not easy to replicate someone’s vision into a website or illustration and it doesn’t get any easier if the brief or feedback you receive is all muddled.

There’s a clear difference between criticism and feedback — the former has negative connotations while the latter is something that designers and developers will most certainly use to improve their work. Good feedback incorporates critiquing — it highlights both positive and negative aspects of the work so the designer or developer knows which aspects need work and which are good as they are.

First drafts aren’t going to be perfect

As a web designer, one uses the knowledge one has gained through education and/or experience to create an attractive website or webpage for the client. Whether it involves adding some stunning new typography or creating beautiful illustrations from scratch, a designer is essentially working with a client’s vision for their website or product. It is inevitable that there will be a few mistakes and discrepancies since you can’t enter someone’s head to see exactly how they want their website to look like.

Every designer will create something new and personalized for each client. No two designs can be replicated (unless you want to get into trouble for plagiarizing) and this means that designers and developers will receive tons of feedback through their project and rework things multiple times. This is how superior quality websites and products are developed.

The benefits of critiquing incorrectly

Harsh or blunt criticism often elicits a defensive response, meant to justify the investment placed by the designer into the project. Constructive critique, on the other hand, can serve to nullify this defensive response, to help the designer work out the legitimate flaws in their product so as to be able to best satisfy the client’s needs exactly as per the requirements. It is thus important to learn how to give critique and not criticism, to help designers best assimilate the feedback into their work and optimize their product. Here are a few ways in which you can do so:

The art of giving good feedback

There is a certain way to go about sharing feedback, even if everything you want to say is negative. Try not to make it a sandwich — good, bad, good. People are usually too fixated on the negative aspects to really enjoy the praise for the aspects they aced. Keep positive and negative feedback independent of each other. Looping them together will make the designer or developer think you’re only placating them with a few positive but meaningless comments.

In the end, make sure you put yourself in the other person’s shoes before you share feedback. Make an honest attempt to understand the project, the effort that has gone into the creation, and the creator’s thought process. Share useful feedback that the creator can use to improve their work in a positive and easy to understand manner.

Sharing valuable feedback can result in creations that come back truly improved with great opportunities for learning all around.

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