Design Reviews in Name Only

26 September, 2013 06:25PM · 5 minute read

Microphone Milestones are often tied to customer design reviews, factory acceptance tests, site acceptance tests and the like. Having spent much of my career on the design side it’s been interesting representing a client and my perspective can’t help but be refined in the process.

Reviews are often considered to be onerous tasks that “have to be done” in order to meet an often arbitrary schedule milestone. They are regularly treated with contempt and those seeking changes are often muffled, given token concessions or even silenced completely. “Reviews for Reviews Sake” are thus essentially complete wastes of everyone’s time other than the designer (presumably also the meeting chair). Reviews are in place to ensure that the content is up to scratch not just to put a tick in a box, but budgetary and schedule pressures often make them ineffective.

The decisions about who attends and the format of the review are the keys to a reviews success or failure. There are two opposing perspectives surrounding these choices. Each shall be examined in turn:

Restrict the number of people attending

Cynic: Too many people means too many people to explain the design to. Too many people means too much feedback that creates unnecessary redesign.

Optimist: Clients (or other departments) often have multiple representatives and getting a clear view of what is ACTUALLY required will vary from person to person. It’s always better to have a smaller group of client representatives to act as a focal point for all feedback.

Restrict the experience of the people invited to attend

Cynic: We will invite attendees with less experience in the area under review but can still ‘represent’ some component of the area under review are less likely to have meaningful feedback of any significance.

Optimist: We will invite attendees with the right kind of experience in the area under review will have useful and helpful feedback and not just, “The grammar is incorrect…” type feedback.

Restrict the different types of feedback   i.e. We’re not here to discuss the colour scheme, the font etc.

Cynic: Reject all feedback that doesn’t fit within the established feedback guidelines as the point of review is about something specific and not about making the overall design better.

Optimist: Noting any feedback that may not fall within the feedback guidelines can make the design better but stops getting bogged-down in less-critical details during the review.

Minimal or closed reviews during early development stages

Cynic: Reduces outside influences during initial development and once the design is well-developed then inform those suggesting changes that it’s too late to change anything at this late stage.

Optimist: Early design development needs to be kept in-house early on to reduce excessive external feedback before the design is fleshed out enough for a meaningful review.

Effective Reviews

The best approach for an effective review must be considered from both perspectives: The Designer and The Reviewer.

The Designer

The Reviewer