Learning In Progress #10: Writing Effective Criticisms

I’ve been trying to come up with a simpler and easier way to structure my feedback on assets I receive that makes it easier for the contractor to focus on one aspect at a time, without being dependent on anything but plain text.

Most of my job is communicating ideas. And there are so many different ways to go about it that even the specific structure of the way you speak to someone can make the difference between doing it right and doing it wrong.

See, it’s easy to get lost in a lengthy changelist, or accidentally overlook a problem, or simply not know what I’m asking. It’s put a lot of pressure on me to learn how to communicate the most with the fewest words, and to arrange the data in such a way that certain parts of the feedback will pop out at them and really stick in their head.

In the example below, I’ve adopted a very specific, consistent structure for presenting feedback on art assets to my contractors. The human brain is a fascinating machine, and learning how to make the most out of the words I speak so they’ll get maximum impact in the mind I’m dealing with is a really fun challenge!

As an experiment I’ve briefly strayed from my numbered bullet points idea. Right now, this is my formula:

Orok_Chieftain_Run_Animation_01 – Awesome! Great sense of weight.
– CHEST: Some vertices on his chest poke into his body. Can you fix the rig?
– FEET: His feet dip below the floor in frames 14-17 and 28-31. Can you bring them up?

In other words…

[Asset_Name] – [Brief Praise]
– [SPECIFIC LOCATION]: [Brief description of problem. Ask for specific fix?]

My reasoning is as follows:

  • [Asset_Name] – Obviously you’re going to want to specify which asset you’re commenting on.
  • [Brief Praise] – I generally try to say something nice and positive about everything I get. I never put anything negative here. If I have nothing good to say, I leave it blank. But I always start out with praise. Studio or contractor, I feel like this matters.
  • [SPECIFIC LOCATION] – This is the REALLY important part. An endless bullet list, even numbered, can be a bit much to look at. But if you can have an IMMEDIATE callout of the specific area that’s affected by the problem, it’ll be easier to go through the list of changes component by component. “Okay, chest, foot, leg.” When questioned, it’s a little easier to refer to areas specific to the asset itself instead of an arbitrary number that forces them to go back and look at the feedback list and remember what ‘3’ corresponded to. Granted, yeah, they should always have that available, but I have to look, too. 🙂 Every bit of time savings I can squeeze out of something, I will.
  • [Brief description of problem. Ask for specific fix?] – The reason I describe it and end with a period, then ask the question, is because a question mark stands out in a sentence. They read the problem, and the proposed solution jumps out at them more readily than would a sea of periods. It also forces me to parse my thoughts very simply and clearly, which helps me. That, and I prefer coming off slightly nicer by asking a question instead of stating a list of demands. Sure, I’m paying them and I could be brusque if I want, but I personally prefer the softer touch unless I’m straightening someone out.

What do you guys think? I’m really curious to hear from artists what helps them keep track of changes better. And also from any managers that may have techniques of their own. 🙂

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