Critique as Collaboration

This paper argues that critique is an important and powerful form of collaboration that has been significantly overlooked from the perspective of design pedagogy as well as the design of digital platforms. For example, many online collaboration platforms are primarily focused on teams that work closely together on distributed projects rather than enabling a more loosely-coupled community for feedback among those that may not work together at all. Based on a two-year National Science Foundation funded study of collaboration with designers and design educators in four countries, we found that participating in a culture of critique and feedback, a skill that is often learned in art and design school, is a key collaborative practice for practicing designers. By integrating theories about critique from design and the social sciences, we argue that developing a culture of critique as well as digital platforms to support critique as collaboration are necessary in order to advance the field of design as well as its professional practice. Specifically, recent studies from management and organizational behavior have found that especially in global, distributed and multi-cultural teams, it is necessary to create moments of tension that allow alternative viewpoints to be discussed. This is because virtual projects can often go on for a long time without bringing disagreements to light since participants do not have the opportunity to discuss issues in a face-to-face environment. Thus, we believe that this emphasis on critique is vital for both formal and informal settings, online and offline contexts as well as applicable outside the field of design.

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