When I was going to school at NAU, my professor Chris Johnson did me a solid; He stressed the importance of constructive criticism.  We would have peer reviews of our work (BFA – Visual Communication) where you would put your work up on a projector for the class to critique. Chris had a few ground rules. 1 be honest. 2. give useful feedback 3. your feedback better be longer than a few words. Or in other words, “its cool” or “it sucks” basically earned you a scowl and likely impacted your grade negatively.

At first some of students were very uncomfortable opening themselves up to feedback, some even shed a few tears. As my class moved from Soph, to Junior and to our final year in the program the feedback sessions became vital to the artist achieving their best work. Well thought out critiques of why the piece worked, or why it did not helped push the boundaries of the artist.

So here is where I am going with this. Next time you have something to say about something, anything. Be it taxes, be it phx community organizations, be it on healthcare, be it on Obama. Do yourself a favor of not looking like an ass, or a troll. Ask yourself why “it” is working or not working. Ask yourself how you feel it could be done better. Ask yourself if your feedback is helping or hurting the cause, the organizer, or the artist.

I am guilty of giving short answers as well. Derek likes to talk about community a lot. My last comment on one of his posts was “less talk, more do”. Is this really the most constructive feedback I could have given. No. I think it made my point but it did little to add any value to the dialog. Perhaps a bit more detail of why I think leading by example rather than rhetoric is choice, and cite some examples would have been more appropriate.

“It sucks”, or “You suck” are answers given by the ignorant. Why does it suck? How can it be better? What can I do to add value here? These are questions that move the dialog, or the artist, or the planning committee forward towards the goal. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

3 thoughts on “The lost art of constructive criticism”

  1. Whoa–two really introspective and in my mind meaningful posts in a row. You must have had a really significant Thanksgiving holiday. Quite a change from some of the tweets I’ve seen go by….

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