Design critiques (crits) are a fundamental part of the design process. When done well, sharing design work with other creatives through healthy crits is the most reliable way to strengthen it between time spent validating with customers. Here's my playbook for creating a healthy design crit environment for your team.
1) Ground with context - A solid crit session begins with a clear background as to the challenge the design aims to solve. But there's more to it. Here's a list of things you'll want to provide your design crit members ahead of asking for input:
☑️ Information around what problem you’re solving
☑️ Who the design is for
☑️ Known constraints
☑️ The specific area you’d like feedback on
2) Leaders: Don't hijack the meeting - As a team lead, your role is to help maintain a healthy conversation around the work, not so much weigh in on the work with your top-down perspective. It is certainly okay to probe and add energy to the venue so that others will do the same, but if you spoke the most in the design review, stop doing that. If you don't, you'll become the central point of failure for a team that is trying to connect with and help one another grow.
3) Lead with questions - This gets difficult the deeper the conversations get, but it's incredibly well mannered to ask, "did you try this solution using..." vs. "you should change this to use..."
4) Don't design in the meeting - While it’s fine to suggest an alternate approach occasionally, don’t use your design crits to solve big problems. Design work–as with other kinds of critical thinking–is best done by an individual. Identify problems, but leave it up to the owner to figure out the answer.
5) Check perspective & bias - Remember that you are not the customer. When giving feedback, remember perspective. When analyzing work, also remember to balance your expertise against your customer's perspective, no matter how hard it proves. Ask yourself: “How am I looking at this?”