Design Review: On-Topic Definition

Based on the answer to:

I would think that this very specific, precisely defined design review question would be on-topic. Based on that and the specified requirements for critique questions, it would appear that the question is on-topic.

The Question

Critique: Jonathan Ives iOS7: Efficient and Superficial Design Improvements vs Past iOS Versions

  • The design review lists very specific questions to be answered (as specific as any review question can possibly get)

  • The question goes as far as to specifically request objectively based answers:

In order to ensure that your reviews maintain an objective foundation, please accompany any opinions with citations / examples of credible, historical, or fundamental aspects of graphic design.

And yet, based on the comments of the question, between Scott and I, as well as in the down-votes applied to the question, the format is clearly not considered acceptable for the site.

On those grounds, I would say that no design review question can possibly be on-topic for the site.


On that same note, one might say that critiques are for personal work, while reviews can include famous works.

I argue that there is no difference. Both a review and a critique result in answers that cannot be right or wrong, regardless of the author of the work. If one is off-topic, then the other should be too.

Your thoughts?

2 Answers 2


Let's break down your "very specific questions to be answered" in the Ive question.....

Does the simplistic, flat nature of the interface serve improve the functionality of the system over previous models? Does it add more decorative value than functional, or vice-versa?

Whether or not functionality is improved is purely the opinion of the user as you've asked it. I know many who love the iOS 7 appearance and find it highly usable. I know an equal amount of users who find it lacking contrast and readability and therefore a failure. There are bugs in the OS/UI functionality as well which will influence the opinions of users. This could possibly be supported by usability statistics. So, it may be okay.

Decorative value... what is decorative? Is a flat design more decorative than skeuomorphism? There's an argument there based upon opinion, not facts.

Is Ive's bright, extravagant color preference a good fit for the iOS GUI?

Any answer will be pure opinion based on the like or dislike of the color use.

The unique color and simplicity is accompanied by a very fluid behavior within many apps, wherein pieces can be pulled and tugged on, or slid around in a stretchy, soft manner. Do you prefer this technique over the former, rigid (not stretchy, to-the-point, exact) style of previous versions?

This is a UX question. And you even specifically ask for "preferences" which again... will be purely opinion based.

The icon designs themselves are an interesting topic as well. Do you have an [opinion], one way or the other, of the effectiveness of the iOS7 versions of the well-known (default) application icons?

Again.. asking for opinion, not facts.

All in all, does Ive contribute notable improvement to the quality of iOS's GUI design, graphically, in comparison to past version? If you think so, what are some examples of or benchmarks for the improvement to be measured by?

The first part of this bullet will lead to purely opinion-based answers. Some feel it may be an improvement, others will not.

The second part of this bullet is perhaps the only aspect of the entire question which may have true merit. However, usability is UX, not design. Therefore it's off topic for this SE site and would fit well on UX.SE.

Important definitions to be aware of:


1. a critical article or report, as in a periodical, on a book, play, recital, or the like; critique; evaluation.

2. the process of going over a subject again in study or recitation in order to fix it in the memory or summarize the facts.

3. an exercise designed or intended for study of this kind.

4. a general survey of something, especially in words; a report or account of something.

5. an inspection or examination by viewing, especially a formal inspection of any military or naval force, parade, or the like.


1. an article or essay criticizing a literary or other work; detailed evaluation; review.

2. a criticism or critical comment on some problem, subject, etc.

3. the art or practice of criticism.

4. to review or analyze critically.

and what I think you are really asking for......


Research or a detailed examination and analysis of a subject, phenomenon, etc.: She made a study of the transistor market for her firm.

They are similar, however I think my intent, is more to aide others in their own work, not engage in discussions evolving from studies of the past work of others. There are a billion other places on the internet which are designed for discussions as related to design.

There is huge merit in the study of the work of others. I do not mean to diminish that fact in any way. However, studies (or what you are referring to as reviews) lead to discussion, not answers. Studies don't lend to immediate benefits in a Q&A format.

Asking "why isn't my color working here" is quite different than asking users to speculate on how Jonathan Ives choose colors for iOS7. Only those who directly worked with Mr. Ives would ever have a definitive answer, if one even exists.

As the SE model states, questions need to be answerable and there are good subjective questions and bad subjective questions.

When the bulk of the question is asking for opinion, I don't think an answer exists which will serve the community as a whole. Answers may have genius points and views and opinions, but that's not what Q&A formats are for. Things quickly devolve into discussion rather than Q&A. The fact that these types of questions are eliciting 20+ comments on answers leads to that as well. If there's that much discussion happening on answers, then answers must not be definitive and conclusive. Simply stating "Cite references or resources" in a question or comment to an answer does not make the question any less opinion-based. You aren't asking for facts, studies, or other resources. You are asking for opinions, and face it... anyone can find anything on the internet to back up any opinion.

In short, I feel asking for the critique of one's own work has huge merit here. Asking for a study of someone else's work is discussion and opinion based and off topic.

This is by no means a comment on the merit of studies. They are fantastic and only lead to growth as a designer or artist. I just don't think they belong here at GD.SE, that's all. They are far too opinion-based.

The struggle I have is that I honestly do want more theory and design questions here. But I feel they still need to fit the Q&A format and they have to be design related questions.

So after all this... let's reword the Ives questions a bit......

Is there statistical data which notes the merit of the simplistic, flat interface model in iOS7 which shows it serves to improve the functionality of the system over previous models? Does data support that iOS7's more decorative nature adds value to functionality?

No opinion. Asking for data, granted UX data, but data.

Do the bright, extravagant color choices in iOS7 serve to improve usability or detract from it?

Slightly subjective, but good subjective. Statements can be backed up by facts and data. Again UX data, but data. Possibly crosses into design though.

Does the more fluid nature of iOS7 UI animations improve the user experience with the devices? How does this compare to the user experience of previous iOS versions?

Still a UX question. But far less opinion-based and can be backed up by data.

The icon designs themselves are an interesting topic as well. Do the new iOS7 application icons lead to better visibility, understanding, and clarity on the part of the user?

Again UX, but answerable.

All in all, does Ive contribute notable improvement to the quality of iOS's GUI design, graphically, in comparison to past version? If you think so, what are some examples of or benchmarks for the improvement to be measured by?

This bullet can't really be made into a non-opinion-based question. "Quality of iOS7 UI design" is subjective and ambiguous. There's no benchmark for "quality". The second part of the bullet is covered in the previous question rewrites.

So... as a whole, even with a less opinion-based question stack.. it's all user experience not design related. And, off topic as such.

  • I agree. No site exists today that specifically supports Design Critique/ review, and while I want there to be one, it's clear that SE is not the place for it. On that note though, critiques seem to be off-topic in the same way May 8, 2014 at 12:53
  • Come to think of it, there really aren't any interesting design questions that don't involve discussion. I think you're all right in the idea that I'm looking for more of a discussion based site. Every design question I'm interested in involves discussion. I'll have to find a better place for it. May 8, 2014 at 12:53
  • I'd just add for anyone else that might use this answer as a guideline. If you're going to ask for a comparison (How does this compare to the user experience of previous iOS versions?) then include a picture of the original as well.
    – Ryan
    May 8, 2014 at 13:02
  • @JonathanTodd critiques are not as off-topic for reasons Ryan has posted in his answer - they can be seeking a definative solution (even if partially opinion-based) to a problem the designer is having with aesthetics. These fall under the "Good Subjective" category and can be answered by experience or facts to back them up. Studies may cite facts, but on the whole they come down to opinion based on the viewers own preferences..
    – Scott
    May 8, 2014 at 14:20
  • 1
    Note, we've had discussions on what is and is not acceptable for critique questions as well. So there are guidelines in an effort to steer users to the Q&A format more.
    – Scott
    May 8, 2014 at 14:21

Yes, they are completely different.


I'll have to paraphrase you because the comments were rightfully removed:

What is the goal? What were you trying to achieve and focus on? The more goals you had in mind the better we can offer critique.

A recollection of your own comments to the person asking for critique here: Critique: Modified template for a greeting card service

Now, if I ask you the same thing about someone else's work you have no insight or authority to answer that question. You're not Jonathan Ive.


From the Guidelines for critique questions

You must add one or more images to explain your problem.

To explain your problem being the key. Again, Critique: Modified template for a greeting card service clearly stated they're concerned with the look at the Pricing section and color choices as not looking right. Trying to figure out a design solution that is aesthetically pleasing, instills trust in consumers, and encourages the most profitable return.

You've not addressed, and as indicated in the first part, have no way to address a specific problem in someone else's work.


What are your artistic & designer thoughts and opinions on these aspects, via iOS7?

Followed by:

Answer Objectively (sic)

These are fundamentally contradictory ideas. You cannot ask for peoples thoughts and opinions in an objective fashion. It doesn't work.

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