Critiques and, to a lesser extent, brainstorming, are an integral part of design community and discussion. I understand that they don't fit in well with what SE is trying to do, but having an outlet for it somewhere here would definitely help build the community.

Is there anything that can be done?

Can we encourage people to go into chat and critique there instead of just shutting it down as not part of the site?

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Another thought I had here is that with SO and the Programmers SE, you can generalize your code a lot more easily to make a general question while addressing your specific issue. That's a lot harder to do with graphic work, but there's a ton of benefit to be had from critiquing. –  Brendan Aug 28 '12 at 15:42
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I've been of the mindset that critiques are allowed - as long as they're decent questions. Is there a specific question that has been shut down? See also meta.graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/25/… –  Farray Aug 28 '12 at 16:35
    
graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/q/9174/5489 is on the home page right now and there are three votes to close and it's been downvoted. "Are there any glaring design issues here" isn't a great way to word a SE question, but I think that for newer people, it's hard to get down into specific points that they can ask about. Thanks for that link; I don't know a lot about critiquing policy. –  Brendan Aug 28 '12 at 16:47
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That's just not a good question. It asks "which is better" but gives no information about what "better" means in the given context, who the target audience is, why the designer thinks one of the designs is inferior, or anything else that might be used to provide a useful answer. A good critique request would pose an actual problem being faced. Something like "I am trying to make an X, but my work looks like a Y to me. What could I change to make a better X?" –  Farray Aug 28 '12 at 17:04
    
That is definitely the real problem with that particular question. I'm usually fairly good at figuring out what's being asked, but this one is so vague it's unanswerable. –  Alan Gilbertson Aug 29 '12 at 1:23
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3 Answers 3

Looking at StackOverflow if someone posts a code they can ask, "this is the error I'm getting, can you help me fix it." In Design terms thats very similar to - here is my design, people are not understanding the message, can you help me fix it.

The problem is that while there are multiple ways to do any program it is generally perceived that one way is best depending on language. Typically, the shortest method that is still clear to others whom may work on the probject. In Design there is no clear path. There are certainly guidelines and advice.

Personally I am in favor of critiques IF AND ONLY IF the person has a clear question. For example:

Not Okay: Please critique my piece because I am new

Okay: I just completed this graphic but a lot of people are telling me it looks bland and flat, what techniques could I look into to create more depth and interest?

This way the answer while could be a technique the person answering thinks will work well with that piece. It encourages the person to research that technique on their own rather than spoonfeeding them "I think you should do this.... and here's how"

Even this is a stretch because there are thousands of ways to create more depth and interest in an image but it would in my opinion be an acceptable direction to start and we can fine tune from there.

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I like this. But how do you get to that point? That is, what if you're a bit of a solo artist and you don't have the kind of people around you to tell you it looks bland and flat? There are certainly people who could do that here, and once that happens, I absolutely agree that you can make a more meaningful question. –  Brendan Aug 28 '12 at 16:50
    
You can show it your clients, to your friends, to your family, or on one of the hundreds of graphic design forums that aren't in a Q&A format. Alternatively, or additionally, you can be critical of your own work. –  Ryan Aug 28 '12 at 16:53
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@Brendan in most cases, the answer to your question will be the same as the answer to, "Why do I want to post this specific graphic for a critique?". It might be, "I'm not satisfied with this... not 100% sure why, but I think it might be something to do with X..." in which case the question would be, "What about X is lacking here?" and a legitimate answer could be something like "It's not actually X that's the main problem, it's the way X interacts with Y..." –  user568458 Sep 3 '12 at 10:32
    
@Brendan "what if you're a bit of a solo artist and you don't have the kind of people around you..." Bluntly put, then you don't have a problem that requires a question on this site. If a question doesn't contain at least a rudimentary description of a problem, there is no way for people to provide solutions. –  Farray Sep 4 '12 at 1:04
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I think in some cases it's okay.. in others it's not. The line between the two can blur a great deal :)

A user asking for a critique to learn should always be acceptable in my opinion. Essentially if the user knows what is not working and can express it, but doesn't know why it's not working. Just a few examples....

  • colors aren't working, why?
  • best way to handle this?
  • type comparisons or usage

What I dislike is a user who offers little insight. Such as, "This isn't good, how do I fix it?" or "A friend said this sucks. Why does it suck." These are completely open-ended issues without any resolution.

If we were mechanics we'd ask the customer what the car is doing in order to help diagnose the issue. If someone pulls up and says "it won't run right." and leaves.... well... I have better things to do than spend time on someone so disinterested in their own issue.

There is a whole world of designers out there that are locked into positions or locations where physical discussion regarding design is difficult. The internet becomes a critical outlet, if not the only outlet for some. I think encouragement and critiques are critical to the growth of ever the most seasoned designers. I'd hate to see them stopped. But on the other hand, I do appreciate a level of interest from anyone asking a question.

Please critique my answer ... HA!

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Last time this was raised, Koiyu made a good point that there are already plenty of critique sites (with a selection of examples), and we should avoid duplicating them. So, when we do critiques, we should know what our unique niche is in the world of places where people can get stuff critiqued:

Our unique advantages:

  • Better format for practical problem-solving and finding discrete answers
  • More analytical culture, format that supports detailed answers

Our unique disadvantages:

  • Format not well suited to open-ended, rambly or evolving discussions
  • (currently, hopefully this will change) Less eyeballs

Therefore...

...playing to our strengths and away from our weaknesses, we can realistically aim to be the best place to turn for critiques that are:

  • Focussed on solving a problem. Other critique sites often have a showcasing/self-promotion/gallery element to them as well as learning. People often put their best work up in hope of praise and recognition as much as practical criticism, and a large portion of them. Work with known faults gets shared too, but is not the majority and a bit against the grain. Eye-candy-hungry readers would skim or skip any line that said "The problem I want help with here is...". Here, however, such cases are an ideal fit.
  • Looking for detailed practical criticism. Other critique sites tend to be focussed on the work, with people looking for inspiration or trend-spotting as much as to offer advice. Comments tend to be a bit shallow - lots of "Oooh nice!" comments with the occasional narrow comment like "Bad kerning between 'X' and 'Z' on subheading 3", or vague/personal/taste-led comments like "Nice, but I don't like those colours" or "I don't get it". Shallow content like that, here, would be neatly unobtrusively tucked out of the way in comments. Here, the culture is all about giving and finding answers. Our critiques are detailed; people look at critique questions because they want to give detailed critiques.

So, if you're generally happy with a piece, if you're looking for general open-ended feedback, or if you want to see how people respond to it in general, stick it on a site like dribbble with a basic summary and see what happens. Expect minor comments, and to need to read between the lines ("Only 6 people said 'Love it!!!'? And they're all people who work in my sector? Clearly it's not good enough yet... I wonder why...").*

If, however, you know you're not satisfied with something, you've tried fixing it and you have enough thoughts that can be articulated on why you think you're not satisfied that you can make a question of it that can be answered, put it here, with details that show that you've done some research and thinking already. If it catches on, we could reach the unthinkable but awesome position of being able to google some specific pure-design problem, like "cluttered report pages lots of charts design critique" and see an example of someone with a similar problem to ours receiving sage timeless expert advice that is relevant to us... and the internet will be a better place...


*(I'm sure there are probably beginner-friendly open-ended critique sites out there: since we get a lot of beginners looking for open-ended critiques, it might be a good idea to find a few, particularly ones that are web or UI orientated, and link to them somewhere (FAQ maybe?). This will make life easier for us and for them: we can just close such questions with a friendly link to somewhere more suitable for the asker's problem)

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