Critique is one of the most valuable components of a formal art and design education. It is also one of the most difficult aspects of the art and design school experience, especially for new students. Critique is a collaborative activity that takes quite a bit of time to learn — both in terms of how to give feedback, and how to accept feedback. While there are no hard-and-fast rules to the critique process, this site is intended as a helpful guide for those just starting out.
It is incredibly important to understand that the purpose and value of a critique is to improve the work — critique serves the work, not the person who made the work. A critique of your work is not a critique of your humanity, and making bad work does not make you a bad person.
As a participant in a critique, you should know why you are getting or giving a critique. Some crits are for exploring concepts, some are for finessing details, some are not even crits at all, but are really celebrations at the end of a project. A critique should have goals, therefore you should know why the instructor is holding a crit, and what the point of the crit is.
Sometimes group crits can turn into performance art, where a few people usually do most of the talking. Ask your instructors to mix up crit formats to avoid this — small groups, one-on-one, speed-date, written or online, all can be valuable and will let you hear more voices of feedback.
Many disagree, but I do not accept the idea of “harsh” critiques. You should not get “torn apart” in a crit. Crits should not be “brutal” — crits should be honest and useful. If you walk away feeling like garbage, or like you were beaten up, it was not a useful crit. It was a belittling one.
You should walk away from getting a crit feeling empowered and excited to make the work better, not defeated and miserable from the experience. It is up to both the givers and the receivers of the critique to make this happen.
Lastly, remember that a critique is not a competition — nobody “wins” the crit. Everybody is there to learn and grow, and often you can learn as much from giving a crit as you can from getting one. This is why you should always pay close attention to critiques of work from other students, as there is much to be learned from discussing work beyond your own.