Design the Future
January 19–20, 2016: Training
January 20–22, 2016: Conference
San Francisco, CA

How to discuss design without losing your mind

Adam Connor (Mad*Pow)
3:45pm Thursday, 01/21/2016
The new fundamentals
Location: Generals Residence Ballroom
Average rating: ****.
(4.67, 21 ratings)
Slides:   1-PDF 

Prerequisite knowledge

Participants should have an understanding of collaborating with others—particularly stakeholders, developers, project managers, etc.—as part of the design process.


Collaboration requires us to share our work, communicate our ideas, and collect each other’s thoughts in order to understand whether the designs we’re producing meet the objectives of a given project. But we often wrestle with collecting feedback. We get comments that are less than helpful because they are irrelevant or unclear, or we find that we’re getting feedback and reactions at inopportune times, rather than at points in the process where they would have been useful in informing design decisions.

Our ability to critique speaks directly to the quality of the conversations we have with teammates, whether they are designers, developers, stakeholders, etc. Real critique is intended to help teams strengthen their designs, products, and services, not allow individual members to assert authority or push agendas under the guise of “feedback.” Designers frequently complain about the quality and usefulness of the feedback they are given, but we rarely examine our own processes to identify how to collect useful feedback and make critiques of our designs more productive.

Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry explore critique as both an activity and an aspect of any communication or collaboration. Attendees will learn what separates critique from other forms of feedback, best practices for giving and receiving critique, tools for focusing and facilitating discussions (even with challenging participants), where and when critique falls within a project’s timeline, and how to use critique to build not only stronger designs, but stronger collaboration.

Photo of Adam Connor

Adam Connor


Adam Connor, coauthor of Discussing Design: Improving Communication and Collaboration Through Critique, is a designer and illustrator based in western Massachusetts. As VP of organizational design at Mad*Pow, Adam combines his background in experience design, computer science, illustration, and film to help teams design products and services as well as rethink their organizational structures, processes, and cultures to improve their ability to create and collaborate effectively.