MADAboutMADA S1 03
Jiaqi Chen, Lavanya Sirohi, (Sean) Sichong Shan and (Phillip) Thanh Duc Dang conducted this interview as part of their Bachelor of Architectural Design 3rd year elective, MADAboutMADA. In the elective, students are introduced to digital media and how it can be relevant to the architecture, design and art professions.
J: How do you deal with criticism? Negative or positive?
P: Would anyone like to say it?
F: Well I guess positive will be like reinforcement and stuff and kinda take that on board, whatever people have said. In probably a crit it would be if they like the work or if they have chosen another student as a good example, you take that on board and try to create that in the next assignment or presentation.
A: Yeah, I feel like a lot of us go into them, hoping for that positive stuff and sometimes tutors will put you back into where you are fitting in the class or they might even boost you even more, then you will be more interested in the next chunk in the semester.
D: I actually look for more negatives than i do positives, when I do look for positives it’s for things that I can push further. But I find that if you take out the emotional aspect; negative feedback is much more helpful for me, so that I can get rid of whatever weaknesses my proposal has.
S: I think negative feedback can help but at the same time it can put you under emotional stress where all the work you have done, and the tutor sometimes doesn't appreciate how much work you have put in. I guess that's the downfall of negative feedback but yeah, it’s pretty useful.
R: Well like for me the positive criticism, they always like say the same thing, you can quickly forget it, the other part is good, but I think the negative one pushes you to think what they really mention. Some part he thinks that didn't work. But I think the negative one was like you. It's like push you to think. What they really mention to do is for the next. Yeah. For the positive. It's like with quick to forgot for me. Yeah.
A: Have you noticed what they do when they say something nice and then they follow up with something horrible.
F: it is like double conundrums like, is it good, is that bad? We don't know.
L: There's no right or wrong answer.
F: Oh, my God.
P: Another thing I guess good that is, booting up with the criticism so it wouldn't affect you as much.
L: What are you trying to say? You should have a positive feedback and then get a negative one right after that.
P: I believe that it is good there is a balance between the two. Rather just having negative criticism which is I disagree with Daniel
J: what is your first reactions?
L: So for the positive obviously is a is a very good thing. Like it gives you a boost and you're happy that all those all night is and like working hard is paid off, but with negative. Obviously, I get that when we were talking about you have to take it into consideration and it's a learning curve and it's a process. So, I think I listen to it and then focus on, oh, like whatever feedback they've given me or the critique they've given me. Yeah. And then take that into consideration. Go home, relax for a bit and then try to work on it again, start again or like whatever I have to go and do, I guess. Yeah.
F: Honestly, with any negative feedback, even if it's from my tutors or like my family, I just feel like crying. I don't know. I just I don't take negative feedback that, well, if people are yelling at me or if they like, you know, give me like really, really harsh reviews, I do not know, I get really emotional. So, I just like I need to take a break from whatever I'm doing and kind of get out of that headspace and that physical space as well. That’s how I deal with it,
P: Because we get so invested in it.
R: Yeah. For me, I think you can get active things to me, but is quite important how you tell them. Like if you if you just tough. Oh, I don't like this. I don't get that. Here is I cannot take that. It is very subjective. Yeah. Yeah. It's like you have to tell them. Maybe you can try it this way or I think this one that you should point. What the problem is and how we going to fix that. It's done like different perspective.
L: Yeah. But what would you do if they like it sometimes as they said, I don't like it. They just say that they don't mention that this is what's wrong with it or this is how you can progress further because that's an issue that I've always faced that they never like. Give me enough review or feedback that I have something to move forward to. And I'm just like going back in circles, trying to figure it out myself. Yeah.
A: It's not easy to deal with negative feedback and criticism, if like everyone in my classes received negative criticism. Then it's really easy to deal with it. You kind of have like a bit of it.Oh, yeah? How badly did you do that kind of thing? Like, if you are like the only one in the class who is getting negative feedback and everyone else geting positive feedback. That's when you turn like picking out chocolate, crying me like one of everyone.
S: I don't really mind if anyone else got positive or negative feedback. for myself, like whenever I get negative feedback, I would feel a bit sad that I would not try. I'll probably try to defend my argument, but then when I get home, that's my first reaction. But when I get home, I will try to think critically about what has been said, that I'll try to think of what happens if I actually do it this way and then I'll try to actually do it that way. And then if it helps, well, it's good, but if it doesn't, probably just stick with it and then see what tutor say.
D: Yeah, I think for me I actually look forward to the negative crits just because I don't see it as like an attack on me. I see it more like a challenge for like how do I improve to the next step? So like everyone gets the credit where it's like, oh, I don't like this or it looks really boring, like really fake stuff. Right. But that's why I feel like you need to if you don't understand why, you have to ask like why don't you like this? And you push them to basically and some more critically it like maybe it's something about, you know, typically a feel of how if the design is just a box, you know, it's just not that dynamic or it doesn't it doesn't push the concept of trying to teach further. Right. And so those are aspects that you can go back and think critically about instead of just think, oh, how do I make the shape more exciting, right. Because if you just make the shape exciting, that doesn't really push the concept in a lot of cases. So, I think it's it's really up to you because it's also like her as a tool or as a critic. When you look at a project, you're going to have to say some pretty vague things since particularly it's like your first impression, like you see a project that's just a box and then you're like, it's kind of boring, right. So that's why you have to push them to give you the reply that you want, basically. So, yeah.
P: Yes. Has there been any could take that stuff with you guys until today? Anything any critic you still remember the first year that you still incorporate into your thought process in the design process nowadays
A: critics kind of changed from first year, my critics in the first were very chilled, they don't really care, but like second year, they become really intense, my tutor is like you have to do this, this and this, really structured what they want it. And then the third year, they are going back to being more relaxed, just like this weird kind of.
L: When you have like multiple crits and like multiple reviews and stuff, there's like five or six people on a panel and everyone's got a different opinion. And you're just like, do I just look at the positive or just the negative or who do I need to believe like that's my struggle as well? Because obviously I still lack a bit of confidence when I have to present my work. And just like when it comes like talking to people on stuff. It's just like it's a bit scary. Like I get where Daniel is coming from that all you should push them to give you that critique. But it's just like not all of us are as confident.
D: Like, OK, so I don't have a single critique that I like. Oh, well, that that traumatized me so much that, you know, my biggest, like, theme, I guess, throughout the years was the question of why. So, whenever you do anything, you ask yourself why, why, why? And so, by the time you get to like mid semster or final presentation, you kind of almost expect to know what the prince or the Tudors are going to ask. Right. So, they're going to be like, oh, you know, why did you do it this way? And then you're going to have a string of logic to follow that up. So, when they comment on your logically or your thought, the concept, then you can have a productive conversation that leads from that.
F: I guess like a crits hasn't really like I haven't given much thought or have any importance or impact to my future crit. It would probably be like more on the back end of it. Like how you can kind of present yourself to different panels in such, is more like behaviour types and how you can talk about your project would be like, you know, without like waffling on and on and on. Yes. So, in that sense, that's what I'm taken from various scripts for me while I take them from crits.
S: for me, what I am taking from critics is how you like to be short, clear and simple about what you said. How would you like to explain your main idea in just one sentence rather than just going on and on That’s I think what I get from criticism that is the most important. Because when you start, the listeners attend to get those off, that’s why you have to be very clear on what you have to say at the start your critique.
D: The biggest thing is that you don't have to explain yourself 100 percent when you initially presenting because the critics or the tutors will ask you questions and that's when you can explain yourself more. So, if as long as you can explain your initial concept to them and then prompt them to ask questions. That's all you have to do.
S: then, nothing is about how you direct your tutor’s criticism, however you said, you have to point them in the searching direction in which you know what you are talking about, rather than have the tutor led you to something they feel like they are not good enough, because tutors are trying to find something to criticize, so that means if your projects has all good, but only one aspect, then tutor probably to pick that aspect, and then taken to detail.
J: if you are the critics, how do you deal with it?
S: if I am the critics, firstly, I will definitely say the positive, say what I like about it. I think for the most crits, the feedback you have given has to be relevant. It is you have to take on what they idea is, and then say how can you improve your idea. Instead of saying your ideas are not good enough. And then I will provide another idea. This way it is like completely take the student thinking process.
A: Like when you get an appraisal presenting it and then the create carries along the tangent and thoughts and ideas and can expand on yours. It's a lot more beneficial than them saying Ah, I think it'll be better. It's circular. I think you better square. And that's something.
L: That's a very good point, though, because I like expanding on your idea because then you feel like, oh, they're actually appreciating my concept and my idea. Something that I bring to the table and then they're going to help you improve. So, which is a good thing. Do you guys, like, ask your friends for feedback?
S: Yeah, definitely. Because the two this provide a more professional approach to how you would criticize at work. But students. They know what you've been through. They know your idea. They've seen it. And then they can provide usually more creative ways of how it's not limiting your idea in real life ways. But how to expand your idea more critically and then more creatively.
F: Yeah, even like people who are not in architecture or even in design feel like I'll try and explain my idea to my granny. So, like if someone else who doesn't know anything about my proposal gets the main idea. Then you know it's good because you've sold the seed. Yeah. So, you've got your main idea and stuff. Yeah. And as well as like now that technology age and runs like the photo op or messenger or in the group chat and arrange just kind of has a goal, does some sketches or even gives like verbal feedback on your ideas.The most important as well.
L: Do you like have a rebuttal to your argument or to your ideas and stuff either?
A: I usually don't do that. Sometimes tutors prompt you to ask a question or something like that. But I usually end up finding that the critiques avoid your question because it's usually quiet like .I guess.
L: Broad. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
A: So, I just kind of take something they like and don't know.
D: but instead I think it's pretty dependent on the situation because a lot of the times when I when to quit critical work, they'll attack a whole bunch of things. And so, if you have to rebuttal every single point, you're gonna go overtime. Right. But at the same time, you have to try and express to that critique that you have considered the questions that they're asking. And so, then when they're creating your reply, that's when you can basically move forward. Right. Because if they're criticizing you on stuff that you've already thought about. You have answers to. That's kind of pointless.
R: And sometimes when they give you some questions and then you have some argue with them and then you realized there is what you argued is something you didn't show in your work. Yeah, so definitely that’s something you can put forward to give your work more. Try to explain you work.
S: Yeah. I felt like the critic, when they ask you some questions. That means it's not clear in your drawing. It's kind of an idea of how you make it clear so that so that Chris won't ask you that question because it's all shown on the drawing to produce.
D: I think it's much easier if you try to think from the tutor’s perspective because getting hired to make you feel better.
L: That's how you feel.
D: So, you kind of have to think like if they said, oh, I think a design is really boring. Right. After six weeks or whatever work you put into it, then you have to instead of thinking, OK, it's just like something you have to think. People are like, why would he say that? And then if you don't understand, obviously ask him. Right.
F: But also what I don't get is like how they can give you like like feedback that they want you to work on and stuff. So just for example, like your proposal is a box. Yeah. Let's just say they're like, oh, maybe you can change the form and then you change the form and then they go back like now. I think the box is good and that kind of feedback throws you off as well. Like that criticism and like what's right or wrong? But then again, it's like maybe if you didn't do it, you wouldn't have known that was the correct position to go through.
D: So I guess in that example, it's more about what kind of criteria are you judging your proposal? Right. And through experimenting different forms, you can find out which pathway is better and which way the tutor prefers as well. So even in that aspect, I mean, It's kind of the nature of design in general. Right. That you can't just go down one path the whole time. You have to it's like a branch out and then trial and error and stuff like that.
A: So I say the critique is kind of similar to the real world, like our tutors are like our clients. As an architect, like they'll just say, oh, no, I hate that or no demolish that or put bifold doors and they're better than whatever doors. And then you come back to them and say, look, here's this with this. The bifold doors don't work. And then they say, ah, okay, I think we should do this. It's never your idea is right kind of thing, which is kind of part of the kind of profession. So I think they're teaching us that through the critiques.
R: Sometimes you have to learn how to keep your idea in that way. And if someone have some critique and how you deal with that, keep them or just leave them. It's like hard to decide how to balance it. It's so strong. Yeah. Sometimes that designer is not artist, so they have to serve some requirements or something. Yeah.
A: I like that keeping a little bit of personal touch.
S: I feel like it's how you persuade the clients or the people who are criticising your work to actually make them believe that your personal taste is actually important and it's necessary. I think there's still one point you have to take in to this criticism at the other point, because it's your design. That's why you have to have some of your tastes, your personal taste, and kind of differentiate your work from the others to makes your work more you.
F: Yes, I agree. It has to be a mixture of both that you have to take into consideration what they say. But then it's also you want to have your own idea and design kind of showing off.
L: Yeah, Your own personality coming through it as well.
D: I think the most important thing is no matter which path you take. The question is why you decided to take that path. Like, why do you want to keep your element? Is it really better than what the tutor suggested? And if so, if you think so, then why? Because you have to convince the tutor, or the critic. Yeah.
L: Do you guys compare yourselves to other students or the other critics that's happening?
A: Definitely. I feel like we kind of have to. We don't get a whole lot of feedback during the year. It's kind of our end grade and that's it. You have to put yourself in the kind of scale of the class to work out kind of if you're passing or if you're failing and that sort of thing.
F: Like sometimes you could even be your harshest critic. Like I know, so much of my thought through my work and stuff is like it's not good enough. Why did I do it this way? Why did I do it that way? Kind of second guessing myself like every project I did.
S: Yeah. I feel like the first thing is how when you do something, when you are presenting, before you present, you look at your design again. OK. Is it good enough to myself? If it's alright then I'll just go with it. If it's not good. Well next time you're going to improve it. So you will know that if your design is kind of what you believe you're wanted, what you want to design.
So again, thank you to Friyana, Alyssa, Daniel, Sean and Ruby for taking the time out of their busy third year schedules. From this discussion, we gathered examples of how these students respond to critique and feedback. Balancing our emotional and critical thought processes, is a skill that is honed over many years. It is nice to be able to relate to and understand how our peers feel, but it is also equally important to understand the tutor's perspective on this matter. We interviewed several tutors and asked them what their approach was, to critiquing student work.
Our first interview is Dan Nyandega and his assistant tutor, Kimberley Xu. Dan is a PhD student here at Monash, currently researching water sensitive urbanism.
D: My name is Dan Nyandega. And I think normally the way I approach criticism when I'm giving to the student. I don't look at it as a critique. But more of just looking at what they have and, pulling out the positive aspects of it. And trying to see what other possibilities are going to be able to come out. So I'm not necessarily saying this Idea is bad. It's more like well you have this idea but there's something else which you need to see,that so can you see that this can make it better. That's how I feel. Because I always believe architecture is not like science where you're seeing one plus one is two. It is more like there's many option, even the option I'm giving you as a tutor is just one of them. So there are different possibilities than the one you just, a student presented to me is just one possibility. So, It's a lot, but there's also something positive out there. So I always try to extract that and push. But sometimes you also look at students and you can see this potential in a project but they don't see it. So I looking at it from outside I can see there is something interesting. And then you help them see that and help them explore it more.
P: So when you say it's like not a contradictory approach like this or that but more a contrariety of this and that. Similar to what you putting your ideas onto them. Pull apart like this and that. They get to decide on what to emphasize?
D: Yes I think it's more like what I do is I look at what they have. Extracting ideas which they already have perhaps they've not seen. And then tell them possible direction which they are able to go into. And a lot of time. I'd give several suggestions not one. So when you give several suggestion it makes it possible for them to know. It's not one plus one is two. It's a list of possible ways of doing so it's up to you to figure out which one works for you. So you can pick the suggestions I've given you but now they're just suggestions. Or you can come up with your own other ways of doing it. But consider that this was, in many ways as well, can be done. All right.
K: So when I gave feedback to students about making sure they feel confident in themselves because the thing is, I feel like for us, just having recently also graduated. I'm sure everybody would feel that when they first present their work. They're not as confident and they always second guessing themselves, right? So the most important thing is to how do you make sure you give feedback, still be firm with them because you're not going to have a client in the future where they're going to be like “it's okay”. You have to be fair with them but just also tell them. So I always say that where their strengths are and now just make them more so, that strength can help them carry on throughout the semester. Keep that confidence going. Sure there'll be times where I think Dan and I are quite disappointed but at the same time we have to remember that it's their responsibility to do well. And we just need to let them know that we're here to give you support. So help us help you to improve yourselves. And just see it as a constructive feedback. Just make an inclusive environment like, today we did this thing where we make sure students help each other out give each other constructive criticism so then it gives some potential and realized that oh I have confidence in knowing that I can contribute to ideas. And then they have that confidence vice versa that they are being supported by other people. So as long as you give a supportive environment. I think that's what makes feedback successful.
Our next tutor we interviewed, is Ursula.
My name is Ursula Chandler. I try and find positives in someone’s work and I try and draw our what the key interest of the student is and then try and help them establish if they’ve explored that or done what they’ve intended to do or if you can see it in their work.
And lastly, we interviewed is PhD student and tutor, Oliver Shearer.
O: My name's Oliver Shearer. I’m a phd student here at Monash University. My supervisor's on Naomi Stead, Callum Morton and Alex Brown. I'm looking at architecture and the overlap of art, specifically in public art. And I'm running teaching here as well, looking at similar topics. So studios. Yeah.
O: Okay. Well, I try to be as fair as I can when looking at work. The tricky thing is like all architecture component it is quite subjective. So there's no nearly right or wrong. And the hard thing is, like you're trying to sort of encourage people to do well. And it's like the challenge is when something's not good. How are you? Oh, not not good, but it needs improvement. How do you address that? That's hard. And I try and look at a positive side as well. I'd be like, okay, so this is a good thing. But maybe this other thing needs some kind of work, like maybe you need to work more on this or maybe heavy suggesting other options like having thought about something else because it's quite a tricky thing, like how do you go, what's like what's right or what's wrong? And also try and help the students so that you're not telling them exactly what to do. So you just tell them what to do and then they'll do that. But maybe at least my opinion, if I tell a student what to do and they do it, I'll never really be happy with that. Like I wouldn't be good to them to sort of discover something they're interested and want to pursue. That would be much more interesting because they could they could come up something with it that I've never thought of. That to me be far more interesting than me telling someone what to do and they do it. But then if you're in a job situation, really, that's what it is like. Your boss tells you to do something and they really want you to do what they told you to do. So as an employee, it's much better to just to do what you're told. But I think university is a good opportunity for students to try other things and also rebel a bit as well. Like this a good opportunity to go, OK, well, I don't agree maybe with what my tutor is telling me and do something else. I think there's a far more interesting cases than this, too. Then it's purely this tutor or the professor or whatever knows everything and the student is like a disciple or something.
Thank you again to Dan, Kim, Ursula, and Oliver for their insights. From these interviews, we can see the tutors do recognize the struggles of students and of the subjectiveness of criticisms and deliberately put into consideration on how to provide helpful and useful feedback. At the same time, they try to remain as critical and objective as they can. However, because of the course structure itself, subjective criticisms is an inevitability. What we experience in the critique is a reflection of the discipline itself in the real world. For students, we have to be prepared and remain positive, remembering that the tutors are not here to be mean but to help us progress further.