Building Consensus in Critiques and Design Studios

Aaron Irizarry & Adam Connor · Monday, March 5 · 8:30am – 5:30pm · Salon D

Organize energizing workshops that rally teams to explore designs and achieve the best possible results. Make collaborative critiques a mainstay of your process.

You’ll discover how to reach consensus, improve the conversations you have around design, and create open feedback loops your teams will actually use.

Aaron and Adam have been discussing design critique for many years, first on their blog dedicated to the topic, and then later in their book Discussing Design.

The Day’s Agenda


Learn how to give, receive, and facilitate helpful feedback

  • The rules and tools behind collaborative critiques
  • Techniques for eliciting useful discussions from diverse groups of individuals
  • Ways in which people provide feedback — and their associated challenges

Explore ideas quicker using rapid-fire sketching techniques

  • What sketching is and how it works within a design studio
  • How to illustrate ideas fast using short bursts of focused activity
  • Ways sketching encourages team collaboration, even with difficult people


Structure design studios to engage everyone in problem-solving

  • Guidelines for structuring and leading a great studio workshop in your organization
  • How critique acts as a bridge between divergent and convergent thinking
  • Techniques to encourage individual exploration toward achieving group consensus

Build team consensus to identify and prioritize design solutions

  • How to group participants to maximize the value of ideas and avoid pitfalls
  • The structure of a charrette and how it can benefit your organization
  • Why personas, scenarios, business goals, and design principles are vital to prioritization

You’ll discover how to reach consensus

Get useful feedback

To understand where to focus your design energies, you need data that’s informed by users, stakeholders, and standards. Learn how to orient feedback loops toward action.

Shift the conversation

Design feedback from others can be annoying, but you don’t always have to run defense. Break the cycle of frustration and stalemates by jump-starting more positive discussions.

Unify project teams

If your organization could use a bridge-builder within its design effort, why not it be you? Keep projects from floundering under “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome.

You’ll see how to:

  • Avoid the “firing squad” when doing design reviews
  • Structure hands-on design studios that energize teams
  • Minimize power differences that plague hierarchical critiques
  • Improve your designs by eliciting feedback that’s helpful
  • Use sketching for facilitating ideation and group discussions
  • Embrace good ideas from every part of your team

4 Practical Takeaways from This Workshop

The rules of critique

Everybody has to understand that we’re not problem-solving.

How to execute a productive design studio

Follow a proven framework that goes from ideation to consensus-building.

Tools for dealing with difficult people and situations

Each critique is a dialogue. Have healthier conversations, even with curmudgeons.

Enviable facilitation skills

Great critiques and collaboration take planning, consideration, and practice.

This workshop includes hands-on exercises

You’ll split into teams to start the workshop with a sketching exercise. Later, you’ll actively critique each other’s personal projects using the principles and techniques discussed throughout the day. Be prepared to write, too!

Aaron Irizarry & Adam Connor

Photo of Aaron Irizarry & Adam Connor

Here’s what Jared says about why he chose Aaron and Adam for this conference…

If you didn’t already know, Adam Connor and Aaron Irizarry are partners in crime for critiques and design studios. You could also get the scoop on Discussing Design, their book on what they know about leading hearty design reviews that don’t end in tears.

Adam is a designer focused on digital projects at mad*pow. Maybe you’ve seen his incredible illustrations, heard him in a fabulous UIE virtual seminar, or read his super popular blog post on learning to be awesome.

Aaron the Head of Design Commercial Card & Experience Infrastructure at Capital One. Perhaps you’ve heard him wow the crowds at IA Summit, WebVisions (with Adam), or the UX SpeakEasy conference.

As a designer, you can’t afford to miss them together on stage.

On Tuesday, Aaron and Adam will give a featured talk, Critique and The Design Process: Facilitating Better Feedback.

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