Students on Critiquing

Over two years ago, I wrote developed the new curriculum for my department’s ARTC4308 course. Interactive II covers advanced topics in web design including web typography, Responsive Web Design, and an intro to CMSs, as well as introducing students to the professional practices involved with designing, coding, and presenting websites. To kick off the course, every semester, students read Cassie McDaniel’s article [Design Criticism and the Creative Process][1] as the first reading/response assignment. This fall semester is no different. Last week, I assigned it, as usual, and sent students on their way to a long Labor Day weekend. While I’m always impressed with the responses, I thought I would share some of the responses made by students this semester that really stood out.

Kristin N

I think this article could easily have been titled "How to Critique Without Unintentionally Being a Jerk," because though a lot of what Cassie McDaniels says in this article seems like common sense, it’s said in a very straight forward way that I hadn't thought of before...I think a lot of us see starting over as some sort of failure, and a frustration that isn't worth scratching the first try for. But more often than not the second go around will be much more in line with your initial goals because you will have already done it the wrong way once, and won't make those mistakes twice.

Luis P

After reading this article I feel as if I have a better understanding of how to behave in a critique. I’ve never really seen critiques as a team effort. In my experience, I’ve always compared it to an execution by firing squad. It’s just you and your work alone. Frozen like a petrified corpse in front of a bleak beige wall, facing a line of people waiting for your last words. After the presentation, you close your eyes, hold your breath, tense up your muscles and hope you come out alive from the barrage of comments that follow...One of the suggestions that I really enjoyed from Cassie McDaniel’s article was that a critique that means to help must have the fluidity of a conversation. I think this is a very simple idea that really makes the critique process less like a firing squad and more like a junction where ideas and people can be heard. I’ve been in critiques were peers fire off suggestions, changes, or criticism without a sound purpose. I understand that participation is key in helping each other while developing our own understanding of design principles and concepts. But when it gets to throwing disparate things into a critique just to get a grade, design suffers and frustration ensue.

It makes me really happy to see thoughtful and well-written reflection on critiquing. It helps me be a better teacher.