Getting feedback is part of every entrepreneur’s process.
But for the team behind Creative Critique, feedback is core to their entire business.
Joey Ruse got the idea for a design-focused feedback software after graduating from Kennesaw State University’s entrepreneurship program and starting his own web design company.
“I found myself constantly asking for advice on my creative work, from friends and family, and even random strangers at coffee shops,” Ruse smiled, replaying the early days when the idea for Creative Critique was born.
When Ruse started digging into how he could get actionable and professional feedback, he recognized that nearly 2 million like-minded designers turn to platforms like Reddit or creative-focused blogs to try to get feedback. But two main problems emerged from this sort of crowdsourced model. First, there were no quality controls or frameworks to facilitate actionable insight. And, perhaps most importantly for those seeking tangible feedback, the platforms didn’t have any way to collaborate on a visual-based product.
What came out of rounds of wireframes and user testing was a platform that streamlined the design critique process. Professors or project admins can use Creative Critique to host a project in one place, provide real-time image annotations, and record verbal feedback.
Ruse told Hypepotamus that the first build of the software can be thought of as a more robust classroom Slack channel with built-in design feedback features. While the current iteration of Creative Critique might best fit into the EdTech category, the team’s current roadmap includes expanding the platform to the larger global online design community.
COVID & The Design Education Community
Ruse started working on Creative Critique part-time prior to COVID, but the pandemic only elevated the need for an educational-specific space for remote collaboration in the design community.
As COVID shut down design programs across the country, “[teachers] found that their learning management systems (LMSs) were completely inadequate for facilitating visual-based collaboration,” Ruse told Hypepotamus. In fact, design professors balance upwards of 4 online platforms in order to give actionable feedback to students.
Beta testing included professors at SCAD, Virginia Tech, and the University of South Carolina, but the user base has since grown to include collaborators from universities and design schools across the world.
Building a Design-Focused Team
As the platform has onboarded new schools and design professors, Creative Critique has been able to bring on more technical and design-focused team members. Atlanta-based co-founders Eban Bisong and Duvall Smith joined over the summer when Creative Critique officially incorporated. Bisong and Smith, who attended Kennesaw State and Georgia State University respectively, previously worked together at the software consultancy ThoughtWorks prior to joining Ruse. “Eban & Duvall’s startup experience and technical leadership have been essential to bringing Creative Critique from an idea to reality; it has been amazing to see them bring to life the vision our users have given us to shape the future of creative collaboration,” said Ruse.
The team has also expanded and added contract designers and developers across the US.
To date, the team has bootstrapped the initiative while bringing on designers and more technical talent. Just this month, the team received a grant from Cobb County’s Economic Development Office and is part of the North Atlanta Venture Mentoring Service (NAV) run out of Cherokee County.