I know I’m not breaking any new ground in design theory here, just noting something that’s been on my mind for the past year or two and I feel the need to say something about it.
Ages ago when I got my first degree, one of my photography instructors laid down a hard and fast rule before the first critique:
You will not speak when your work is being discussed in a critique. You will keep your mouth shut. You cannot respond, cannot make faces, cannot argue, cannot communicate. You are there to listen to what others have to day, not to argue with them, or in any way explain or discuss your work.
From day one we were forced to live with the rule that your work must stand on its own. Once it’s out there, you will not be present to explain it, justify it, or otherwise interpret it for an observer. In other words, if your work needs explaining, then it’s not ready. Granted, this was a fine arts photography class and the focus was on making work to be displayed in public, but being forced to sit and listen really changed how I received and thought about feedback.
So here I am, part-time design student, and in crits people are responding to comments about their work and even arguing with what other people are saying during a crit. Many of the crits I’ve been in have been completely unstructured, leading to one person getting a huge amount of feedback on their work while others don’t receive any feedback at all. To be honest, I’m not sure how productive it is to challenge or argue with the feedback being given to you during a crit. Asking for clarification, counter-examples, or to take a line of reasoning further seems like a legitimate response to feedback in a crit, but going so far as to tel the other person that they’re wrong?
I haven’t personally seen anyone break down in tears or get into a yelling match, but it seems I’m the exception. I’ve heard stories of it getting to the point of tearing up drawings, destroying models, yelling matches, and so on. These aren’t third-hand stories, these are, “Yeah, like last semester when Mary’s model got thrown out the window” or “was that the crit where Bob just started crying and ran out of the room?” If you’re running a crit and people are having breakdowns, destroying work, or getting into yelling matches, what are the students actually learning?
To be clear, I’m not talking about situations of the sort where the instructor declares the work sub-par across the board and bails on the crit. I think “you as a whole didn’t work very hard and this would be a waste of everyone’s time” is a reasonable response, as long as it’s delivered in a factual manner, and not an angry rant.
Maybe it’s the “art vs. design” mentality or maybe it’s just differences between schools, but it’s something I apparently need to get used to if I’m going to continue my studies in this area. Personally, I just can’t get worked up enough about some of these things to actually be angry. If my work is bad, then I need to go work on it more, if yours is bad, you need to go back and work on it more. However, if someone yells at me during a crit or destroys my work, I think I’ll just get up and leave the room. In my opinion, there’s really no point in trying to constructively engage someone throwing a temper tantrum or being violent, especially in what should be a constructive environment.