Presentation Critiques

Presentation Critiques

Our critique method is adapted from

Lerman, Liz. Critical Response Process: A Method for Getting Useful Feedback on Anything You Make, from Dance to Dessert. EBook., 2002.

Step 1: Statements of Meaning

These are often, but not always positive statements, calling out a strength of the work.

What does this work say about design? About the intended aesthetic?

If making a positive comment, BE HONEST and SPECIFIC. What did you like and why? DO NOT JUST SAY ‘good job’

Step 2: Artist as Questioner

The student presenting can ask for specific feedback to guide further development of the work: “What do you think of the way top is supposed to open? What about the saturation of the color, is it too hot? Did you notice how the fasteners are hidden?” etc. Don’t ask just ‘what do you think’, that’s too vague. You’ll get more useful answers if your question is focused.

Responders should answer with honesty even if your opinion is negative. However, offer suggestions only in response to the artist’s question.

Step 3: Neutral questions from Responders (audience).

This is tough, to ask a question without embedding an opinion. It will take practice. For example, instead of “It’s kind of rough” or “why does it look unfinished” ask “How does the finish interact with your aesthetic” Be sure to ask about the aesthetics. DO NOT OFFER SUGGESTIONS HERE. Instead, ask about why certain choices were made.

Step 4: Permissioned Opinions

Responders name the topic of their opinion, then ask the artist for permission to state it. For example, “I have an opinion about the overall size of your artifact. Do you want to hear it?” The artist can answer yes or no. If you already know that the artifact is too small and what to do about it, you can say “No thanks.” If you are open to suggestions, then say “yes”. If you have a suggestion about how to make the artifact differently that hasn’t been discussed yet, here you can say “I have an opinion about how to fabricate your device. Do you want to hear it?”

In-Class Critiques:

Check Slack to find the Zoom room and Google sheet for your pod.

  • For each work, try to type and/or verbalize at least one substantive comment:
    1. A statement of meaning or
    2. A response to a question from the artist or
    3. A neutral question or
    4. Ask to offer an opinion.  If you only type the offer, be sure to follow up later when artist will respond; if yes, then add your opinion.
  • If you verbalize a comment, type it too.


Suggestions on what to do at each stage if you are the


Preparing for the Process

… invested in continuing to work on the piece you are showing and open to the possibility that you might change it.

… thinking about what you want to learn related to where you are in the process of developing the work you are showing.

… in an open frame of mind about what you will hear.

…think through the choices you made before you present

Step One: Statements of Meaning

… suspending the need to hear “this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.”

… suspending the need to question the sincerity of positive comments.

… attending to your own internal reactions to the comments in terms of how they inform the steps to come:

Are they answering the questions I have about the work?

  • Are they suggesting that I need to probe deeper on any subject?
  • Are they raising my sense of curiosity about something new?
  • Are they reflecting a consensus reaction or a diverse response?

Step Two: Artist Asks Questions

… building on the information you have heard in step one.

… refraining from long explanatory preambles.

… considering possibilities for two-part questions or general questions.

… ready to narrow questions down when they spill out in groups.

… ready to hear opinions, including negative ones, when they are in direct response to the question you have posed.

Step Three: Responders Ask Neutral Questions

… attentive to possibilities and issues that may not be prominent in your current thinking.

… using the dialogue as an opportunity to advance your thinking about the work rather than to repeat what you already know.

… not working too hard to divine the opinion behind the question

Step Four: Permissioned Opinions

… listening to the content of permission requests as well as opinions.

… exercising the options of saying “yes” or “no” to a proposed opinion.

… considering how content of this and previous steps is informing your thinking about how you want to continue with the piece you are working on


… consolidating the most useful information you’ve heard.



Preparing for the Process

… invested in the potential for the artist to do his/her best work.

… thinking ahead to how you will participate in the steps of the Process as you observe the presentation of the artist’s work.

Step One: Statements of Meaning

… making comments that add new perspectives to what has already been stated.

… limiting your response to one or two points when many responders are


… if you have a strong opinion that you would eventually like to make, addressing arelated aspect of the work in your step one statement.

… noting the meanings that others have found in the artwork, observing how those comments are expanding your own perception of the work.

… observing your own preferences and points of reference.

Step Two: Artist Asks Questions

… keeping your answers honest and specific to the artist’s question.

… expressing opinions, even negative ones, IF they are in response to the artist’s question.

… listening carefully to the areas of interest and concern that are directed by the artist.

… staying interested in the conversation, even when it is about an aspect of the work about which you may not have a strong opinion.

Step Three: Responders Ask Neutral Questions

… framing a neutral question about the area of your opinion.

… considering options from general to specific and the possible merits of posing a more general question before a specific one.

… listening to the artist’s response for indications that the opinion you have in mind may be either very valuable or irrelevant to the artist’s concerns.

… curious about aspects of the work that aren’t related to strong opinions (i.e., open to asking questions that are not opinion driven

Step Four: Permissioned Opinions

… always prefacing opinions by saying “I have an opinion about ___ would you like to hear it?” and waiting until artist consents.

… indicating, in your request to the artist, if your opinion contains a suggestion or fixit.

… not loading the content of your opinion into the permission request.

… engaging the artist directly rather than dialoguing with other responders.


…observing the quality of the contribution you and your fellow responders have made.



Preparing for the Process

… considering what kind of preparation will be appropriate for this artist, taking time, if needed, to meet with the artist in advance.

… assuring that all understand the sequence of the steps and the concepts of the neutral question and permissioned opinion.

… checking to see if the artist would like a note-taker.

Step One: Statements of Meaning

… encouraging a broad response with an opening that suggests many possible kinds of reactions (i.e. “What was stimulating, challenging, memorable, evocative, etc…”)

… intervening when responders jump to negative opinions or suggestions, reminding them of the opportunities they will have later in the Process.

… drawing the group’s attention to the variety of responses elicited.

Step Two: Artist Asks Questions

… encouraging artists to limit their preambles to questions.

… encouraging the artist to phrase in more general or specific terms if the question isn’t leading to a useful response.

… helping the artist refine very general questions, or sort through multiple questions that s/he may want to pose all at once.

… encouraging responders to respond to the question by being honest and specific, but staying on-topic with the question

… intervening when responses to questions contain fixits (suggestions for changes).

Step Three: Responders Ask Neutral Questions

… reminding responders about the discipline of framing questions neutrally

… discerning whether questions are neutral, and asking responders to rephrase neutrally when they are not.

… intervening to rephrase a question, or asking responder to refine question, when artist seems “stuck” in responding.

… intervening and refining the query if artist gives a long-winded “explanatory” response that sounds as though s/he is repeating information s/he has stated before.

Step Four: Permissioned Opinions

… reminding responders about the protocol of asking for the artist’s consent to state a particular opinion.

… checking to see if artist wants to hear suggestions as well as opinions.

… asking responders to restate when their permission statements have the content of an opinion loaded into them.

… directing opinions to be stated to the artist, not as seconds or rebuttals to other responders.

… intervening when responders engage in a dialogue that does not include the artist or when they become sidetracked discussing something other than the artwork under consideration.


… asking the artist to say what his/her next steps are.

… checking to see if artist is open to hearing more from the responders outside the formal session.

… thanking all participants.


Lerman, Liz; Borstel, John. Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process: a method for getting useful feedback on anything you make, from dance to dessert . Dance Exchange, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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