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Critiquing Design

Toxic critiques drive people away. They stop sharing. They stop learning from one another. They stop speaking up and eventually they leave. But done well, a great critique session can embody everything we love about working with a team of smart, creative people. It's a tool for creating better design and better designers. It’s also a tool for creating an inclusive, passionate, inspiring team — you know, the one you’ve always wanted to be part of.

Most advice about critique lives as a bunch of good ideas that you should try to remember next time you’re in a critique session. At Mozilla, the Firefox UX team has been using an approach, adapted from a process created by choreographer Liz Lerman, that completely upends traditional design feedback. It works by embedding all the things we strive for in a critique into a deceptively simple, step-by-step process. It changes the dynamic of critique and puts the designer in control of their feedback. It gives us a way to talk to each other about our work that’s respectful and inclusive. The process is also flexible. It doesn’t require design training so it can be used with a wide range of stakeholders and it even works with remote, distributed teams.


Credits

This process is adapted from the one created by Liz Lerman. Steve Bailey and Jump-Start Performance Co. introduced me to it many, many years ago. Sharon Bautista, Tiffanie Shakespeare, and Jen Simmons encouraged and supported me in adapting and bringing this to our work at Mozilla where the Firefox UX team has embraced and shaped it.

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What if design critique didn’t suck? What if it actually improved design and fostered inclusion instead?

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