Why Critique Fails

Adina Feigenbaum
Kent State University


Adina Feigenbaum
Kent State University

Critique is an integral part of design education whereby students review and evaluate projects in order to learn design principles and develop skills such as self-evaluation and giving constructive feedback to others. 

This study sought to determine points of struggle for students and explore potential benefits of  an online design network. Participants included design students and instructors from four Ohio universities and design professionals from Northeast Ohio. Ethnographic research included: observations of design courses, surveys and interviews with students, instructors, and professionals, journal exercises, and a card sort and mock critique with students. Personas were applied to experience models.

This study found that students experience difficulty with communication and time-management skills, working with peers, and motivation to learn independently primarily during the initial and final stages of a project. Critique becomes a crutch for some students lacking confidence who often wait for instructor approval, fail to take initiative, self-evaluate, or request feedback. 

Crit-Chat, an online community of practice for design students, is proposed to help in skill-building, stress reduction, and confidence-boosting to enhance students' learning and motivation. This study outlines the components of Crit-Chat and explores wire-frames requiring testing and further development. Crit-Chat can benefit students throughout their education and career development.