Design Demons: The Critic Demon

An earlier post gave an overview of the design demons: Creative, Critic and Pragmatist. This post takes a closer look at the Critic Demon. A designer should also seek to develop ability in each of the each of their demons so that the overall team is stronger.

The Critic Demon is more strongly related with the left side of the brain. It is the analytic thinker that evaluates and judges the ideas flowing from the Creative demon. The Critic demon can be overly picky and will have impossibly high standards. When the Critic demon is rejecting all ideas then perhaps trade-offs should be made in the design. The Critic demon is most suited to the development and refinement stages of the design process. The Critic demon will cripple the Creative demon if the Critic demon has influence during the Concepting phases. The Critic demon's favourite word is: Perfection.

The problem with perfection is that there is never a single solution and design is often a trade off between many competing factors.

The underdeveloped Critic demon will be unable to properly evaluate the ideas of the Creative demon. The underdeveloped Critic will allow poorly resolved and aesthetically unpolished work to progress. A person with a weak critic demon and good execution skills will make a high volume of rough work. They might be successful through volume alone.

The strength of the Critic demon can be improved through education, reflection and critique (see the critique section). Critical analysis and logical thought is the life-force of this demon. Any study into understanding of design theory, history and case studies will permanently strengthen this demon. The act of reviewing and thinking about design work - especially honest criticism confirmed by trusted peers - is the Critic demon's gym workout.

The noisy Critic will distract the Creative demon and may war with the Pragmatist demon during the later stages of the project. The Critic will discourage the Creative demon by saying how each idea of stupid and this will stop the Creative demon from leaping from idea to idea. The pragmatist will want to finish a project but the Critic demon will insist that it is completed properly before it can be released - even if this means expending more resources than allowed for the project. This can delay the delivery of a project.

A noisy Critic demon can be taught to speak only in turn. Use good conceptualizing procedures where the Creative is free to talk for a set period of time before the Critic can judge the ideas. Standard brainstorming technique is to simply record all ideas without judgment or editing for a set period of time and only then allow for the Critic to speak. Focusing on the resources allowed for a project (esp. the deadline) gives the Pragmatist demon enough power to overcome the Critic. A beginner design can delegate the critic function to a trusted and more experienced peer. This should eventually train the critic to influence at the most useful times.

A strong Critic demon is important for a designer to produce professionally polished works that are executed well. Working to improve the Critic demon will give long term benefit to the designer.