Those of you who went to design school: Do you remember how apprehensive you were before a design crit? Or worse, watching the guy or girl in front of you getting shredded by the professors, and seeing that you were next? I also recall one of my fellow students having a meltdown in the middle of one. I don't mean that hyperbolically--he had to be removed from the room by a mental health professional. (Two of you who went to school with me are reading this, and I know you remember the guy's name and are probably mouthing it right now.)
If you've already graduated, I can't erase your trauma; but for those of you currently in design school, there's a website called HowToCrit.com with some pointers on how to weather, or administer, design crits.
Design professor Mitch Goldstein (ex-RISD, now at RIT) is the man behind the site, which has four simple sections on critiques: Purpose, Getting, Giving, and More Info. Here are some samples of Goldstein's wisdom:
"…I do not accept the idea of 'harsh' critiques. You should not get 'torn apart' in a crit. Crits should not be 'brutal' — crits should be honest and useful. If you walk away feeling like garbage, or like you were beaten up, it was not a useful crit. It was a belittling one.
"You should walk away from getting a crit feeling empowered and excited to make the work better, not defeated and miserable from the experience. It is up to both the givers and the receivers of the critique to make this happen."
"Since you are going to get a lot of opinions about your work, you will have to decide what feedback you do and do not care about. Just because someone told you something, does not mean you have to act on it (this includes your instructor). Everything is up for interpretation — but also note that ignoring what everybody says probably won't help your work improve."
"Generally you should try to avoid giving corrective critiques — comments like "I would do it like this" or "you should try it like that." The work is not about how someone else would do it, it's about how you would do it. The main problem with corrective crits is they often lead to a direct duplication of that comment — and that is not the point of critique."
Lastly, the More Information section features links to multiple essays and articles on the subject of critiques.