Ground Rules for Group Critiques

Because every person has a different set of experiences and thus a different perspective, a group critique can be very useful for soliciting a broad range of views on a work. For the discussion to be most productive, however, certain ground rules must be followed:

  • Listen to others. In order to understand other people’s perspectives, you have to actively listen to what they say. Listening to others is particularly important when the group is critiquing your work, but it is also necessary when someone else’s work is the focus of the critique; in order to participate in the discussion, you must know what the others are saying. Listening to what is being said about others’ work also has a less obvious advantage—you may be able to relate the comments and insights to your own work in the future.
  • Focus on criteria. Link your comments to the criteria of the assignment or problem, and not to subjective taste. While personal taste will always play a role in how an artwork or design is viewed, focusing on the criteria will ensure that the discussion is beneficial to the person whose work is being reviewed, and to the other participants taking part in the appraisal. Remember that the main value of a critique is in the analysis of how the work has met the challenge presented.
  • Be positive. Very little good comes from harsh or unconstructive criticism. Comments should be made in a positive and constructive manner, and negative or destructive comments should be avoided. For example, instead of saying “the colors you’ve used look awful,” try the following: “The palette you’ve used is very dark, and the images are hard to distinguish; if you use a lighter palette, the forms will stand out and be more prominent.” It’s also important to put personal feelings and rivalries aside. Resist the temptation to say something negative about someone’s work because that person harshly criticized your work or a friend’s work in the past.
  • Be open. A key factor in a successful critique is being open to the comments of others. Being open can be difficult when your own work is the focus of the critique and the comments are not glowing. It’s natural at first to bristle when someone is critical of your work. However, keep in mind that objective critiques are not personal, and others may be able to see things in your work that you are not able to see because you are too close to it. Take some time to reflect on other people’s comments. Even if you decide that you don’t agree with a particular criticism, it may give you new insight to your own creative endeavors and assist you in future work.