Integrated Critique Through Alternative Digital Design Solutions
Hasane Ceren Cindioglu, M.Arch. | Atilim University
Overview: This critique strategy is developed to reduce design students’ issues related to perfectionism, and to improve their experiences of design exploration by helping them learn to reframe problems. With design educators providing, early in the design phase, integrated design critiques after intense digital design sessions, students may feel relief and less concern about their design’s future success.
Level: Second year or higher (depends on the students’ digital design skills). Specifically beneficial for online design studios because of the easy use of digital design tools.
Duration: Requires one studio day of at least four hours, plus a one-hour informational studio session beforehand. This strategy is particularly effective in the first weeks of the semester.
- To expand the design exploration process.
- To eliminate procrastination caused by perfectionism.
- To help students learn to reframe problems and better synthesize information.
Design is a process of exploration and of generating alternatives as potential design solutions (Van Dooren et al., 2018). Work in design studios revolves around students’ actions on a given design problem and design educators’ critiques of these actions (Schön, 1983). As a communication method between design educators and students, “design critique” is therefore the core of the architectural design studios. Recently, this critique has been adapted into an online design studio environment.
Emergent technologies and the recent pandemic have emphasized the significance of the online design studio in design education, as design educators worldwide have worked to adapt the physical design studio environment into a digital medium. Students are becoming more likely to use digital design tools in each phase of their architectural design processes, including the early design phase. Nevertheless, rising perfectionism and its relation to procrastination (Curran & Hill, 2017) may impact student motivation in the early design phases.
Now more than ever, the early design phase may cause “fear of failure,” which is defined as “persistent and irrational anxiety about failing to measure up to the standards and goals set by oneself or others,” and is related to perfectionism (Fear of Failure – APA Dictionary of Psychology, n.d.). This may lead to procrastination or not expressing full effort on a task, contrary to the solution (Martin, 2012). In the context of the online design studio, students may become dependent on confirmation by the design educators through the design critiques, and because of the fear of failure, may desperately desire to level up to the advanced phases of the design—shortening the exploration process and causing a student to get stuck on one design solution, even if it is not a satisfying one. This critique strategy encourages students to generate alternative design solutions by taking advantage of digital design tools in the early design phase to reduce their fear of failure and their procrastination tendencies related to perfectionism.
Students are told that they will be asked during the next studio day to generate, in a limited time, at least three different design solutions for the same design problem. Informing students ahead of time is crucial in reducing their fear of failure with their first design solutions. Students should understand that they must develop two additional design solutions, even though the first solution might be good enough. In this stage, students should prepare themselves by analyzing the design problem, and should have only a digital template to sketch on until the next studio day.
In the first session of the studio day, students can discuss their analyses and ask questions if they have any. Group discussion supports idea generation and the framing of problems. Students then start to sketch their first design solutions, based on their previously prepared digital templates and using their preferred design tools (e.g., AutoCAD, Lumion, SketchUp, Revit). This initial session can be last from 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the complexity of the design problem and the students’ digital design skills. (Senior-year students will be more competent with digital design tools than novice students.) The time limit helps students concentrate and minimizes fears caused by perfectionism. With the necessary break times between each design session, this process repeats two more times. The aim of these sessions is not to produce complete design solutions, but to foster the ability to reframe problems and to eliminate tendencies toward procrastination
Design critique comes at the end of the three sessions, each student presents their three designs, looking at the potentials and limitations of each alternative in terms of changing the framework of the problem. In this stage, design critiques should emphasize the promising synthesis of the alternative design ideas in an integrated approach, rather than addressing each design alternative individually, and should focus on the student’s framing of the problem, not on the design ideas directly. In this way, students can process their design ideation phases as soon as possible and notice their needs for the design process.
Developing an early design phase with alternative design solutions and integrated design critiques provides students a more expanded design exploration. As an outcome, implementing this strategy decreases students’ procrastination tendencies by creating an experimental studio environment that encourages failure and iteration. Another significant value of this strategy is its focus on the design process and problem framing, rather than on the end product. Students become more easily involved with the online design studio environment, without fear of failure. They can also observe their weakness in design processes more objectively by not linking their personalities to the alternative design solutions.
Design studios should not aim merely to have as many good designs as possible at the end of the semester. The scope of any design studio is to support students’ design abilities and help them become professional designers. This strategy also helps design educators recognize students and their mindsets for design rather than focusing only on the design projects themselves.
Curran, T., & Hill, A. P. (2017). Perfectionism is increasing over time: A meta-analysis of birth cohort differences from 1989 to 2016. Psychological Bulletin, 145(4), 410–429. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000138
Fear of failure – APA Dictionary of Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://dictionary.apa.org/fear-of-failure
Martin, A. J. (2012). Fear of failure in learning. In Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning (pp. 1276–1278). Springer US. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1428-6_266
Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner. In Supporting Learning and Teaching. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203963371
Van Dooren, E. J. G. C., Van Merriënboer, J., Boshuizen, H. P. A., Van Dorst, M., & Asselbergs, M. F. (2018). Architectural design education: In varietate unitas. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 28(2), 431–449. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-017-9396-1