I was eating pizza at Upland this afternoon, a very good pizza with portobello mushrooms and zucchini, when I had a thought about interaction criticism. This pizza was designed by a chef, who may have written a recipe for his cooks to follow. The chef designed the pizza, my pizza, but the product of his design was a recipe. While as interaction designers we may produce plans, templates, or something that will be used by different people in different ways, what we design for is the ultimate particular. We design for the experience of eating this pizza in this setting. It may be a group of people sharing it as an appetizer, or a single person as a meal. They may be hungry or just snacking, enjoying it with beer or water, the restaurant may be crowded and the server busy, it may be cold outside or hot, and the designer cannot know this at the time of designing.

When we critique, we critique the ultimate particular – we can only taste this one pizza, in this one setting – but we also consider the particular. If this pizza is burned, does that mean the recipe is flawed? Which is more important to critique, the recipe or the result? Who was the designer who is ultimately responsible for this particular pizza – is it the cook, the chef, the restaurant manager?

What it boils down to, for me, is that critique is not only useful for design, but the two have a lot in common. Like two voices in a good conversation.