Critique Etiquette
Art Direction + Graphic Design

Critique Etiquette


Ashley Trommler

on 2/4/2021

Knowing how to deliver feedback constructively in a creative setting takes practice. That practice can be difficult and awkward at times, which is why I’ve carved out some tips on how to make the process go a little smoother. These tips begin with all the members of a critique leaving their egos at the door and being committed to making the work the best it can be.

1 — Initiating & Identifying Feedback

If you are not in a formal critique atmosphere, always ask if feedback is welcome and needed at this point in the project. Using phrases such as, "Can I give you some feedback?" "Are you open for feedback?" "What kind of feedback are you looking for?" is a great way to start the conversation and gauge the situation.

This goes without saying, but I see this happen all the time: don’t ask for feedback just to check a box. If you are nearing the end of a project and ask for feedback on something, make sure you have the time, budget, and motivation to implement the feedback. Dismissing ideas simply because you don’t have the time means you may have missed the boat on asking for feedback in the first place.

2 — Remember That It’s All Subjective

As the person giving feedback, using first-person pronouns (I, me, my) is a great indicator that your feedback is just your opinion. Sentences with “I feel that..” “I think..” “I see…” opens the floor for back and forth discussion, prompting others to engage and speak from their perspective as well.

3 — Nix The Ol' “Compliment Sandwich”

The idea of this is nice and it can be helpful if you are very new to critiques. However, the compliment - critique - compliment technique can come off a bit insincere. Definitely give kudos when you see something you like, just make sure you are being direct and honest with your feedback and are delivering it with respect and care.

4 — Ask Questions

If you are the one giving feedback and see an aspect of the work that you are unsure about, always ask the presenter how they got to that point or why they made that decision. Phrases that start like “Tell me more about...” or “What’s your thinking behind…” The answers to these simple questions will give the piece deeper meaning and provide more context around the work as a whole. If you still see room for improvement after you have listened to the explanation, respectfully express your thoughts. Asking questions invites reflection and is vital in sparking new ideas.

5 — Don’t Make Comments Just To Make Comments

In many critique environments where people are going around the table giving feedback, you may feel pressured to comment on the work. If feedback doesn’t immediately pop in your head, don’t feel like you have to come up with something just to make your voice seem valuable. If this is the case, take time to compliment the work and explain what's working for you.

6 — Receiving feedback

As much practice giving valuable feedback takes, receiving that feedback takes just as much. Giving context and listing the goals of the project before you begin presenting your work will help give viewers a solid understanding of the project. If you are the one receiving feedback, try your best to separate yourself from your work and not take things personally.

Follow these six easy steps and you are on your way to becoming a master at critique!

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