Throw-up > Critique
Design critiques (commonly known as "crit") are great for helping design teams gain context on what's happening across product areas, and for individual designers to get candid feedback on their work. Crit can and should help you uplevel your craft, but...it can also be an introvert's nightmare ("hi, here's this thing I've been pouring my heart into, please pick it apart"). It's a super vulnerable position to put yourself in, and so what often happens is designers hold back on sharing until they feel confident in their work, even when "share early and often" is dogma.
Individually, all the designers I spoke to at Buffer yearned for more collaboration, but as a group, when we got together each week (precious synchronous time for a team distributed across the globe), there was a tangible tension in the air when it came to raising a hand to volunteer. On the flip side, for those reviewing work, it can be hard to give thoughtful feedback on the spot (especially for folks who are naturally more quiet) — sometimes you just need a few minutes to mull it over!
Inspired by both the Figma and Lattice design teams, I proposed a hybrid review with synchronous and heads down time:
Each week, one designer preps a FigJam file with the work they'd like to share and some prompts around what kind of feedback they're looking for.
The team meets in the file and jumps into an audio chat (no cameras helps relieve some pressure). The presenting designer gives a brief overview of their work.
A timer is set for 10 minutes. Designers mute themselves and explore the file, leaving feedback in the form of sticky notes, screenshots, stamps, and drawings.
The group unmutes and reconvenes to discuss the feedback and share any additional thoughts.
What a Throw-up file looks like: lots of thoughtful feedback, designers building on each other's ideas
Designers were encouraged to show early, messy, imperfect work (hence the intention behind the name "Throw-up"!). The structure allows for quiet time and thinking as well as live interaction and dialogue, so both extroverts and introverts have ample opportunity to contribute. Plus, the presenting designer is left with an artifact to reflect and build on! No more racking your brain to remember the feedback you got while you were trying to succinctly communicate all the things you’ve been thinking through.
We found a way to keep the upsides of crit while minimizing the downsides. Throw-up became the highlight of our week — we got to play (I mean, hello...FigJam makes this easy), collaborate, and learn together. Plus, we had an excuse to use lots of :face_vomiting: emojis and making barf jokes.
You learn something new everyday! Having teammates around the globe is amazing.