Design Critiques



The purpose of a design critique is to develop skills in creating and presenting new interactive ideas. The future of interactive systems will be built around innovative uses of computing technology. The design method is an essential tool for flushing out new


In a design critique a student or group of students is given a design brief. A brief is the constraints that the design needs to meet. The student or team then develops multiple ideas that meet the constraints of the brief. These ideas are then winnowed down to a small number for presentation. The presented designs are then given and the audience comments on their innovation, how well they meet the brief, how valuable they are, and anything else that will help refine the design.

A design critique can be a somewhat scary experience particularly because computer science is normally practiced quietly in front of a computer terminal. However, this process is fundamental to good design. There is no way to master this process other than by practice.

Generating ideas

At the heart of the design process is the generation of ideas. This can be done either alone or in a discussion group.

  1. Identify interesting problems. Just start listing them. Try generating 20 in 10 minutes. Just keep writing them down. Think about people that are not like you and what their lives are like. You might seed this with a list of people like truck drivers, lawyers, street venders, etc. What problems do they have? How might they use technology as spelled out in your design brief? Write down lots of ideas.
  2. Evaluate the importance of your idea. See Evaluating User Interface Systems Research. What will the impact of this idea be on people's lives?
    1. Think about how hard it will be to build. Do we have the technology?
    2. Think about its uniqueness. Is there anything like it already?
  3. Filter your ideas down to three. Do not just start with three. This strategy will probably lead to poor ideas and a low grade.
Prepare Presentation

Your presentation will be given as a PowerPoint deck that must be submitted before the class period when presentations are scheduled. If you do not own a copy of PowerPoint it is available in the CS department labs or you can do Google presentations and then save them as PowerPoint.

Your decks should consist of more pictures than words. I recommend either sketching what you want and then scanning in the sketches in 1106 TMCB or finding an appropriate picture on Google. The important thing is to convey the idea, not compete on image quality.

At the start of your deck there should be three STU slides. One for each idea. Your last slide should be the idea that you think is best.

STU Slide

Consists of a picture plus 3 bullets for Situation, Task, Users

After the three STU slides, there should be 6 slides for your best idea. These slides should be as follows:

Users - who will this idea serve? Picture + 10 words or less

Task - what is it that this technology will do for the users? Picture + 10 words or less

Importance - Why is this STU (Situation, Task, Users) important? Who cares about this success and why? How do you know that anyone cares? 40 words or less across 4-7 key points

Technical challenge - What challenges are there to actually building this? 40 words or less across 4-7 key points.

Expression Alphabet - What gestures, motions or behaviors must be recognized by the techology for this idea to be successful? See the rest of the course to understand what the expression alphabet may be.

Evaluation - How would someone evaluate whether your solution is any good? 2-4 key evaluation techniques.


You will have 8 minutes in class to present all 9 slides. Time will be rigidly enforced so prepare well and don't babble. That means you will need to focus on the highlights and emphasize the key points. Do not get bogged down in details. Sell what is important.

After your presentation there will be a short critique of your materials. This will be followed up by a written critique and your grade.


Submit your slide deck through LearningSuite before class


5 points - Innovation and value of the ideas

3 points - clarity and quality of the slides

3 points - clarity and quality of the presentation

12 points - 2 for each of the six detail slides on your best idea.


23 points total