Peer Critique

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

The language of peer critique is on tip-toe. “I wonder if…,” “Did you consider…,” “…but that’s just what I’m getting from it,” “…but it’s a really cool idea,” and the ever-present “I really like it, though!” populate the ART 132: Introduction to Graphic Design classroom.

Peer critics are rarely critical, and the ones who are come off as rude or aloof. It’s not insincerity; it’s caution. Still, there are indicators of what they really think. When everyone focuses on a tiny detail of someone’s poster, they like it. If each person comments on a different aspect, or if they’re hesitant to say anything at all, they hate it. Vague compliments and more pointed criticism alert the room that the point was the criticism.

The professor, on the other hand, pulls no punches. Sometimes she just looks at a student’s work and laughs quietly to herself. About a border on a poster: “Is that a habit of yours? Lose it.” To a student who used a slightly different font than was assigned: “Did you really think we wouldn’t notice?” We hadn’t.

There’s no conciliatory complimenting. She’s relentlessly constructive. She commands: “Do it again,” “Do less,” “Try harder.” Sometimes she throws in a terse acknowledgment of a job well done: “It works.” Her highest praise is “keep going.”

Any response, other than explanation when prompted, is defensive. A follow-up question is acceptable, or perhaps a thank-you for praise. The safest option (and the best) is a nod followed by scribbling in a notebook.

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