We have been recently inundated with general idea-gathering questions, generally about coming up with a logo, specifically looking for "an idea:"

I have been closing questions like these with the following comment:

This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. Please ask questions about specific issues you are having, even when asking for a review of a specific design, but not general idea-gathering or brainstorming.

We allow for design reviews of specific pieces and issues related to them, which is subjective, but I feel these recent questions are just too open-ended and are of little value to the community at large or over the long term. (Frankly, some of these questions seem like they are either homework or someone just wants their work done for them.)

I'm sure as this site becomes more popular, we will be getting more of these, so I'd like to be able to effectively manage them. What does everyone think about updating the FAQ to include the following line under questions not to ask?:

  • General brainstorming or idea gathering questions—"I need an idea for a logo for..."

I'm also interested in hearing for reasons against doing this and alternative ideas.

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3 Answers 3

I'm in favor of this revision and it may be worth adding your example to the "not a real question" section. It feels like "not a real question" needs the example text because everybody asking a question probably thinks their question is a real question, even if it doesn't fit the site's criteria.

My reasoning:

  • "How do I improve this design?" is acceptable because the asker is at least trying. If they won't try, why should I?
  • "How do I start my design?" indicates the asker is totally lost. They should hire a designer.
  • If the asker doesn't have a vision, they will likely come back for more help when their design doesn't look good (and it won't, if they don't have any ideas).
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Certainly feel free to update the top section of the /faq with whatever issues are most pressing.

I also think the http://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/faq#dontask section covers this fairly well; this close reason is also appropriate for such questions IMO:

not a real question

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

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I would add to the answers offered Farray and Mr. Atwood: the "not a real question" is tricky in this forum.

Since the purview of graphic design practice is intrinsically visual, there is always the risk of lexical confusion when you engage in the act of talking about it with words. As such, it can be hard for us to differentiate the "real" questions from those whose interesting and/or important nature is hidden by sub-optimal word choice.

The FAQ's enumerated criteria for determining if a question is real or not -- "ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical" -- arguably describe the essential content that animates all design critiques in academia and in business. In , descriptors are commonly evaluated contextually; words like "challenging" or "visceral" or "considerate" (or "ambiguous" or "rhetorical", for that matter) are used in praise as frequently as in condemnation; and any given statement has connotations that differ, diverge, or even diametrically oppose what a naïve reading might suggest

For example, if I'm critiquing the famous "Lemon" Volkswägen ad I would cite the opposition in its contradictory messages (as delineated by typographic hierarchy qua written copy) as a major factor of its success... But, in a critique of 80 Percent Thinking by Ian Cylkowski, I would talk about the opposition in it's contradictory messages (as delineated by typographic hierarchy qua written copy) as problematic and flawed.

That's just my opinion of course -- someone else could assert that either the former or the latter example as successfully harmonious instead, or that they're both unresolved, or whatever. Such is the nature of discussing design. Each bit of discussion is a product of the relations of its component words, rather than the identity the words themselves. I'm not trying to say that "it's all relative and therefore unknowable" (which is an irritating argument no one is interested in) but all "facts, references, [and] specific expertise" will incur the need for subjective assessment.

The practical upshot of all of this is: assessing whether a question is "real" or not means reading the whole thing, in good faith, and then thinking about what it is saying.

Stack Exchange questions are "real" when they seek to seed a discussion that will end with a definitive and constructive answer -- that's what the "real question" FAQ item is trying to describe†.

But, since this is a site where people come to learn about graphic design through discussion, questions' real-ness will be just as subjective as any design discussion; we will be able to make the real-ness call, but not without a bit of patient consideration: Farray's answer suggests some well-contextualized criteria, for example, which describe lexical patterns (rather than specific words) which were evident to him after such consideration.


† Most other Stack Exchanges' subject matter can be definitively nailed down with written language in some way. Unlike graphic design, the fundaments of e.g. Stack Overflow or german.stackoverflow.com aren't inherently subjective; questions can be judged as "real" without any handwringing about meaning or contextual evaluation, or any of that -- FAQ criteria like what we have here will work great in these sites.

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