A group critique and discussion takes place after the studio session where work is set out and analyzed by all students. The instructor leads the critique using VTS and Socratic dialogue methods to ensure all students contribute their thoughts on what makes work successful, including:
• what techniques, materials, and design practices were used;
• how visual, informational, and technical problems were solved;
• how typographic and illustrative elements and color palettes were combined;
Using the contributions from the instructor and fellow students, as well as their own contributions and self-reflection, students will then complete an assessment of their work based on overall success using rating factors (will vary depending on assignment), what they learned, what they would like to learn more about, what they would like to try if given the opportunity to complete a similar project, what they can improve on and how in the future.
What is a Critique?
A critique is a discussion strategy used to analyze, describe, and interpret works of art. Critiques help viewers hone their persuasive, information-gathering, and justification skills. Most importantly, critiques facilitate a discussion that allows the interpretation of the work in terms of the assigned objective, the perception of the message, the inclusion of required elements and process, and the overall outcome. A critique allows for constructive criticism of the work, as well as providing suggestions that may allow improvements to meet all objectives in the assignment and concept.
Often critiques are done during the process of a long-term assignment, as well as after the assignment has been fully completed. This allows all viewers to see the full process of the work, as well as how effective suggestions were taken and used to create the final piece.
How does a Critique work?
Many people unfortunately associate a critique with a criticism – a very unpopular word due to the negative connotations associated. In the social world, a critique is typically an upsetting interaction involving judgement and the idea of something being done wrong; most often this is based purely on judgement and bias, and feels like a confrontation.
In the art world, a critique is based on analysis, meeting objectives, technical process, and the exchange of ideas – both on how to improve a piece as well as how well certain things were accomplished.
This comic is an excellent example; it illustrates a very simple critique that has a positive dialogue, while still maintaining the foundation of the concept. It also plays in humor with “teaching someone a lesson” – and involves an actual simple lesson in giving constructive criticism and helpful feedback.
The VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies) method allows for the best outcomes in fostering a dialogue on visual art, without the pressure of memorizing a plethora of technical terms. While VTS is typically used by docents and interpreters in galleries and museums, it’s an excellent method for looking at and talking about art. The questions asked in this setting are:
- What’s going on in this picture?
- What do you see that makes you say that?
- What more can we find?
While very simplistic, the point is to begin a dialogue and build on the answers in order. This allows an introduction for analysis.
Beginning a Critique
In a studio-based setting, artists will assemble their work in a designated area. This may be pinning it to a board, or lining it up alongside the room on the floor. Stepping back into the center of the room allows for the full range of work to be viewed simultaneously. While artists will sign their work on the back or have a small signature in the front corner, it will be impossible to know the artist from the viewer’s vantage point. This allows a judgement-free setting at first glance, when it’s most important to remain impartial and instead focus on the work.
Moving from piece to piece it will become apparent after analysis when the artist must answer specific questions tailored to the assignment; the how and why of choosing certain methods, materials, process, theme, style, and message.
Focus questions for an art critique are often related to four major areas of art criticism: description, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation.
Describe the work without using value words such as “good” or “bad”:
- What is the title and subject?
- Describe the elements of the work (i.e., movement, unity, space)
- Describe the technical qualities of the work (i.e., print quality, proper crop marks or cutting, etc.)
- Describe the subject matter. What is it all about? Are there recognizable images?
Describe how the work is organized as a complete composition:
- How is the work constructed or planned? (i.e., positioning, emphasis, color palette)
- Identify some of the similarities throughout the work (i.e., repetition, palette, typography).
- Identify some of the points of emphasis in the work (i.e., use of color, position, size).
- If the work has photographs or images, what are the relationships between or among them?
Describe how the work makes you think or feel:
- Describe the expressive qualities you find in the work. What expressive language would you use to describe the qualities? (i.e., grim, energetic, humorous)
- Does the work remind you of other things you have experienced; how can you connect it to your life? (i.e., analogy, metaphor, etc.)
- How does the work relate to other ideas or events in the world and/or in your other studies?
Present your opinion of the work’s success:
- What qualities of the work make you feel it is successful/unsuccessful?
- What objectives do you think were effectively met?
- Compare/Contrast with the other work shown. Which are similar in success? Which are different?
- What assignment criteria can you cite to support your conclusion?
- What can be changed to make the work more successful? What are some suggestions?
An open-ended group discussion:
- Did you enjoy this project? Why or why not?
- What did you learn in the process?
- Did the requirements make sense?
- What did you learn from the critique? Will you implement the suggestions into your changes?
- What would make this project more fun, fulfilling, or understandable?
For this response, you will be required to select a piece of graphic design work and critique it based on what you have learned in this article. You must supply a link to the work, and after studying it you will answer the questions below.
While not required, it is recommended that you choose a work by one of the prolific designers cited on the Great Design Quotes page.
This will become a part of your portfolio at the end of the class, so it is suggested that you follow these steps to find the highest-quality image available for print using the sample below.
Your responses must be at least 2–3 sentences, as well as fully and thoughtfully answer each question.