3.3 Critique

The purpose of this exercise was to find ways to test work in progress on a range of different readers/users in order to learn from feedback.

Key words from the brief:

  • Find an alternative voice from your tutor to hold a critique about your work.


There were three different groups of people or individuals that I chose to test my work on.

  1. The OCA Level 3 SYP (Sustaining Your Practice) meet-up
  2. OCA All Levels Checkin
  3. Critical friend

I decided the test the design mock-up, A/B layout test and script.

What happened

OCA SYP meetup

SYP (Sustaining Your Practice), is an OCA meet-up run for Level 3 students by students. The purpose is to provide a forum to discuss projects and share experience. The meetings are conducted over Zoom.

I was invited along to talk about my experience of level 3 and share my final project work in progress.

Before showing the work I explained the context and background to the project and started by reading the first few pages from the script. I thought it was important to set the scene and make clear that the backbone of the story is driven through text message exchanges on a family WhatsApp group.

I followed the reading of the script by a walk through of the design mockup. I gave them time to carefully read the first double page spread and then walked fairly quickly through the remaining pages.

I then invited feedback:

  • The text is too dense.
  • Can the text be reworked to be in a text format i.e. look like a screenshot of a text conversation?
  • Using the film script format takes away (or gets in the way of) the reading.
  • I don’t mind the way the text is laid out.
  • I read graphic novels, and one of their strengths is the ability to go backwards and forwards re-looking and re-reading.
  • Don’t hold back your opinions/feelings. It currently sounds too polite.
  • Would a better title be ‘fractured’ or ‘brittle’?
  • Have you considered telling the story from two different points of view. One from the patients perspective, and the other from the medical/care practitioners.
  • Have you considered the story arc. Even though it’s a documentary it should contain the basic elements.
  • Could you use some kind of visual device to show the deterioration of the situation, such as changing the way a face is portrayed?
  • Could the images be presented in an exhibition format?
  • How are you going to reach your audience?

My own observations:

  • There was generally good feedback about the illustrations and comic spread.
  • Most people engaged with the content and it caused many side conversations about personal experiences other people have had. There was empathy and recognition.
  • The meeting attendee were all from the photography pathway and many were looking to produce/had produced self published books.
  • I didn’t feel like I had a strong enough answer for the ‘how are you going to reach your audience’ question. I need to revisit my marketing plan as part of the Exit strategy [ADDREF] exercise.

What I learned:

  • The biggest challenge I have is the readability of the text. The way I presented the mock-up wasn’t a fair test. I would like to do some basic A B testing (asking people to respond to different layouts of the same content. I have the chance to do that in time for the OCA all levels checkin.
  • I probably need to write an introduction to the book framing what it’s about and the approach so that readers are aware the story is told through ‘real’ text messages. This happened and is important because…
  • The content is engaging.

OCA all levels checkin

The OCA all levels checkin sessions happen monthly and are tutor hosted. They are a great way to share work in a friendly and open forum, and receive feedback.

I received the following feedback:

  • The speech bubbles on the comic strip and panels are a bit crude and overbearing. They are detracting from the drawings behind. They are too clean.
  • Not sure that the font used in the speech bubbles work.
  • The group preferred the option 1 layout in the layout mock-up.
  • Consider changing the font for different characters.
  • Suggest changing the website reference content to how it might appear on the screen of a phone.
  • Suggest having a different and consistent visual treatment for different types of content to make the reading experience more interesting and varied.
  • Like the idea of promoting the project through related charities.
  • Use the ghost print/faded image approach to introduce ‘what you’re really thinking’. This would add another layer to the comic reading experience.
  • You’ve used text image content as background context in previous work.

What I learned:

  • Text layout 1 was the unanimous choice in terms of content readability.
  • I need to take more care to match the panels and speech bubbles with the drawing style. I like the idea of hand drawing the panels and possibly hand lettering the speech bubbles, although that might not be the best use of available time.
  • I wasn’t sure how the mixture of visual styles was perceived. It’s quite difficult to judge that from the mock-up, and it’s something I’ll have to trust is the right thing to do.
  • I like the idea of creating a background layer using sketchbook doodles etc. to give personality and additonal meaning to the work.

Critical friend

Initial response to reviewing the mock-up:

  • I didn’t realise that much of the copy was a WhatsApp conversation.
  • The comic book panel sequence drew me straight in.
  • The nightmare print could be made more immersive. It’s currently contained by a boarder.
  • The summary execution drawing – it wasn’t clear to me what the image was.

Responses to reviewing the third draft of the script. Feedback was given over Zoom and was comprehensive and thought provoking.

  • It might be worth pitching the idea to a news publication – this is wha the UK is like right now. Foreign country interest?
  • p2 – Our healthcare is in gridlock quote. The dialogue is more powerful. The factual quote provides the explanation, but the story doesn’t need it. They are interesting facts maybe at the end. They neutralise the drama.
  • Waiting time for ambulance – this needs more drama. Maybe you’re already planning to do this with the illustrations.
  • There’s a thread around Covid that appears. Either expand on it of drop it. It’s not being taken anywhere.
  • Do you know what in transit means…. Where are the family here? Expand on whats going on. Need to hold the tension.
  • p5 18:58. Not quite clear where I am in the timeline. Illusration may help.
  • Covid theme comes up again.
  • p6 End of ACT 1 – Fade to black.
  • ACT 2 – Doctor call. Relieve the tension. New drama coming in. Who is the doctor? More colour around the doctor. Some doctor, some view? Do they need to be relatable?
  • ACT 2 – lost meds, lost records and DNR. Feels like closure is too quick. Could be more of a conversation – “Hey Dad, I’ve got to ask you a question….” [Broken ribs conversation with doctor and call to brother].
  • Monday – What act am I in now?
  • ACT 3 – Loss medical records, DNR, hallucinations.
  • Goya – Black paintings for nightmare reference.
  • Not just a broken system, but the frailty of aging and challenge of that.
  • p11 Wednesday – He really does need an assessment now. Need some kind of lead in to this. Need to introduce this earlier in the plot.
  • Nightmare dialogue – embed this into the illustrations?
  • Ending – things are getting better. Perhaps end with a gag – “can we just get his name corrected please”

Key learnings

  • User feedback was really insightful and helped me to design and shape the story and design to give the story more punch and make the book more readable.
  • The A/B testing of layout gave the clearest yes/no response. The mock-up generated much more of a qualitative conversation.
  • Having a trusted critical friend able to give honest feedback is most valuable.
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