Speed Dating Critique with Booklet
Karl Engebretson, M.F.A | University of Minnesota
Overview: This critique method provides students with a multi-stage, guided discussion. Utilizing booklets, student engage in speed-dating-style critiques as a final review method whether or not they have time to make additional edits on the final state of their assignment. It is vital that students are coached, repeatedly, on the final expectations of the assignment as well as the appropriate terms and concepts that the assignment is reinforcing. Each stage within the critique scaffolds a slightly different conversation that focuses more and more tightly on design decisions, but with a new partner each round, ultimately ending in a short reflective writing exercise. Multiple booklet/speed dating critiques can be run simultaneously to address different components of a final design project, with students simply cycling from one area of focus to the next.
Level: Second year (sophomore) or higher. The more advanced the students or vocabulary, the better.
Duration: 25–60 minutes. (Can do multiple different critiques simultaneously).
Learning Objectives: Interviewing for learning the creative processes of others. Quickly summarizing and paraphrasing design decisions in an easy to understand way. Viewing, assessing, and critiquing the work of other designers with those designers present.
This critique strategy allows for students to provide both written and verbal feedback that directly addresses criteria of the assignment. The guided discussion, provided through a booklet, give prompts to initiate a conversation that leaps past the typical, default responses of creative critique. Having established what should be talked about, each student then interviews their partner for the information needed on the creative genesis, course/project specific areas, physical production, and other narrow avenues of applied creative development.
Students are arranged in the room in such a way that they can communicate directly with another single student for a set amount of time. The booklet, or other printed format, gives them both a reference of what they should be talking about and an opportunity to provide notes for the other. The “speed dating” setup allows them to gain focused criticism from a number of their peers in a relatively short amount of time.
If multiple viewpoints on a project are to be assessed, it can be beneficial to establish multiple speed date booklets that address different aspects of the project and to run different critique sessions simultaneously.
The work of generating well-crafted, open-ended discussion questions that draw good conversation out of students in a short amount of time is vital to the student experience in the critique. The design of the questions and of the order in which they should be discussed should be given adequate time and revision. Dating-based puns or wording are encouraged, but not required (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Example pages from a novel cover design project for graphic design curriculum.
- Determine the number of students who will be present and how you will be able to match them for one-to-one discussions (e.g., long table, seated on two sides, only one side rotates).
- Students sit in any spot to start and hand their booklet and the work under review to their “date.”
- Both students read the prompts and begin discussion.
- Students are encouraged, but not required, to provide notes in the booklet. Many times, a good discussion is more valuable than converting it into writing in the short timeframe of the speed dates.
- At the end of the turn, students return the booklet and work to their owner and the relevant students rotate to keep the speed dating experience flowing.
- Repeat the scenario with a new partner and a new set of discussion prompts (Figure 2).
- At the end of the rotations, students have time to answer self-reflective questions that address their own understanding of their project and incorporate new insights gleaned from the critique session.
Figure 2. Setup of the critique, assuming a group of 8 students.
This critique method allows a lot of critique and discussion to happen simultaneously. Students focus on details relevant to the assignment and the course/project objectives. The tight timeframe of the “speed dates” creates an urgency for students to discern how their partner dealt with a particular aspect of a larger creative problem. Audible time announcements from the instructor, coupled with the opportunity to write, creates an energetic, exam-like atmosphere that students take very seriously.
Students are offered an opportunity to provide critique along two avenues: they can offer direct, written feedback that their partner takes with them in the booklet, and/or engage in discussion that directly addresses a narrow aspect of the project. This allows different types of learners or individuals with different levels of social comfort in critique to interact in the way they prefer. It also minimizes the down-time commonly associated with full-class or group critique sessions. The ungraded booklets encourage participation, but there is no requirement that they be written in. Since their writing is not graded, students are free to give the criticism they feel is best to their partner. The act of rotating frequently exposes them to a lot of opinions, but also moves them away from their close friends or peers, whose responses they probably already know.
If a project is of a significant size/scope, the critiques can be enacted at the same time by utilizing different booklets. Each booklet can focus on a key aspect of the overall design project, but should address similar elemental themes relevant to that field of design (e.g., concept, color, composition, production).