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Discussing Design by Aaron Irizarry, Adam Connor

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Chapter 5. Facilitating Critique

We’ve described what goes into critique, the aspects of organizational culture that support it, and how critique fits within the design process. What about the conversations themselves? How can we make critique discussions go smoothly?

Facilitation is often seen as a tool for getting meetings or projects that have gotten out of hand back on track. But in reality, it has a much wider application.

Facilitation is the conscious, balanced management of conversations toward a conclusion. It begins with an understanding of the objectives and purpose of a discussion. It then works to ensure that those objectives are met through measures that ask appropriate questions, ensure shared understanding, and allow participants to provide their perspectives to the group. It’s a valuable skill that helps guide our conversations.

Because the best critiques are a dialogue, we can view facilitation as a vital component of the critique process. Without it, our critiques can become unruly, with participants analyzing different aspects of the design against their own criteria. Even though some of this analysis can turn out to be relevant and useful, a significant portion of it will not. And the inconsistent and sporadic nature of its delivery, due to the lack of structure, can make it difficult to follow and discern what is useful and what isn’t, which ultimately impacts the decisions we make in our designs.

Through facilitation, we can provide structures with which people ...

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