A Guide to Design Critique Interviews

This guide highlights how founders can effectively leverage Design Critiques as an interviewing tool and get a holistic perspective on how a candidate evaluates, understands, and communicates all things design.

Design Critiques as an Interview Tool

A design critique is a collaborative discussion to review design work, discuss if it meets its goals, and pin-point ways it can be improved. Every product designer is familiar with the idea of a 'design critique'. It's a common tool used at companies of all sizes to improve the quality of creative and design output.

In this guide, we'll use design critiques as an interviewing tool in order to draw out some of the insights that we highlighted in our Founder's Guide to the Design Hiring Processes. This approach will help us evaluate a candidate's critical thinking abilities, apply their design knowledge & experience, and highlight their ability to zoom in (craft & execution) and zoom out (strategy) on a product's design approach.

Let's dive in!

How to run a design critique interview

We'd recommend scheduling a 45-60 minute interview to run a design critique interview with a candidate.

Before the call

In this interview step, we'll ask candidates to pick a specific application or product that's relevant to the type of work your company does and that they're familiar with. For example, if you’re building a B2B SaaS tool, have them pick a B2B SaaS tool they’ve used in the past. Let candidates know ahead of time that this call will be a design critique of the product that they choose.

Call Structure

  1. 10 mins: Introductions and quick background/context on the selection application
  2. 20 mins: Candidate shares an overall critique of the application screen.
  3. 20 mins: Two-way conversation using specific questions or prompts to draw out more specific insights.
  4. 10 mins: Space for them to ask questions about the role or team

During the call

Give candidates the following prompt:

Imagine you were just hired as Founding Designer [or job title you're hiring for] at this product. Pick a specific page in this app and critique it from a design point of view. How you would go about improving the experience? Feel free to make assumptions as you go and ask any clarifying questions if you would like."

As they go through the critique, your goal is to poke and prod to get more insights into various aspects of their thinking — ask them questions about their process, assumptions, challenges, how they would prioritize, and so on. Here are some prompts you can use to direct the conversation:

  • In what context have you used this product in the past? How was your experience with it?
  • How would you structure your first 3, 6 and 12 month design goals for this product?
  • What are the main challenges you notice on this page?
  • What are some visual improvements you'd make here?
  • What does 'success' mean for this page of the application? How would they measure it?
  • What are the main UX goals and challenges you're noticing?

What you're looking for in the interview

  • Their ability to evaluate the product's design approach as a whole
  • Clarity of assumptions they’re making in the process
  • Product and design goals they are identifying
  • The kinds of tradeoffs they are considering
  • How they think about internal and external resources
  • How they think about design in terms of the impact and business goals
  • How they would improve things like Visual Design and User Experience on the page
  • How they might measure success for changes they're recommending

Next Steps after a Design Critique

Ideally, a design critique will give you a strong signal to help you decide whether to move a candidate forward. If you still need more input, it's worth reading into some of the other approaches we recommend, such as a Portfolio Review or a paid Design Challenge.

At DesignBake, we work closely with founders to not only help them find design candidates, but to also evaluate and offer a designer's perspective on the candidates quality and calibre of work. We review hundreds of portfolios every week, and if you ever need more input on a candidate that you're unsure about, feel free to drop us a note.