Tactics & Strategies

This presentation will discuss tactics and strategies for critique within the design school classroom that go beyond the archetypal “group crit,” and into innovative and unexpected ways of engaging students in critical dialog.

Mitch Goldstein
Assistant Professor
School of Design
Rochester Institute of Technology

Educating designers is a complex and layered process — a chaotic mixture of facts and opinions disseminated primarily through critical discourse. This presentation will discuss tactics and strategies for critique within the design school classroom that go beyond the archetypal “group crit,” and into innovative and unexpected ways of engaging students in critical dialog.

The AIGA “Designer of 2025” suggests that students need to learn a number of emerging competencies while attending design school, including working with complexity, understanding accountability for their design decisions, and embracing new forms of sense-making and dialog within their work. In addition to teaching the formal and methodological elements of design, educators need to make sure students have a clear understanding of why and how their design decisions resulted in work that accomplished its goal or missed the mark. This understanding primarily comes from critique.

Educators place a high value on critique, for many of us, it is how we spend the majority of our class time. Traditionally, critique has happened in a large group setting, with all members of the class and the instructor discussing each project one by one and offering feedback as a group. This method has value but is too often about social baggage and performance art, with the same handful of outgoing students doing most of the talking, drowning out students who are quieter or more anxious in large groups. This presentation asks a simple question: what are the most useful, most effective ways to give and receive feedback in the classroom? We have all had students we know are excellent thinkers but never speak in a large group critique — it may be time to move past the traditional models of feedback into other ways of helping students better understand what is happening within their work.