Things I Learned in Art School: How to Critique


Copenhagen, photo by Janie Hanson.

I learned from responding to my peers' pieces in art school that critique isn't about telling people what they should do. It's about asking questions to help them evaluate and make their own decisions. In classes, we would take turns hanging up and sharing artwork in progress, explaining what we hoped to achieve with each piece. The group would ask questions and offer suggestions to help each artist achieve their goals. For example, if one of our classmates said they wanted to create a calm and serene painting, but they had used a lot of bright red paint and jagged lines, we might ask, "Hmm...have you thought about the connotations of the color red? Is there a color that might be calmer?" 

In business settings, too, the critique process should be a non-judgmental forum for helping people work out their ideas. Especially in today's fast-paced environment, we feel like decisions have to be made instantaneously. Business students are trained to nail down an answer: yes or no, right or wrong. Quick decisions are necessary sometimes, but there also needs to be room for feedback and questions, particularly during a project's early stages. Making space for ideas to be refined before subjecting them to ruthless decision-making is critical for healthy innovation. 

Get the eBook for reflection prompts on how you can apply this idea to your own work, and read the rest of the 10 things I learned in art school that might get missed in business school!