The Critique walks in wondering how to better balance its life. The Bartender says sorry, that's a matter of opinion and I don't think I can help you.

The Dupe walks into a bar and asks what is Balance. The Bartender says, you know I answered that a few weeks ago, here read this instead.

The Tech Support walks into a bar and says I'm struggling to create this Balance, can you show me how? The Bartender says, sorry kid I'm not here to make tutorials for you, but if you show me what you got I'm happy to help you figure out what you're doing wrong.

You're the Bartender. You want to hear a good question about Balance. What should the question be?

  • Brilliant way to make us think about this! Unfortunately I can only upvote this great question once.
    – go-junta
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 21:26
  • 9
    I for once would love to see a "why" question. "How" doesn't matter if you don't have the "why". Design is thinking, not software-operating. Something that many question asker forget or don't know. Just like clients or project managers sometimes.
    – KMSTR
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 9:43
  • 2
    I think a bar is a loaded environment along with the bartender. A better analogy would be "a student walks in to the office of a teacher ...and you are the professor" This is the missing element on this site. It is mainly geared for people who know a lot but puzzled by something rather than people who are totally lost. The general advice is for them to go bang their heads against the wall and come back after bleeding quite a bit if they survive the experience. "Learning" and desire to learn should never be turned down, guided, coached, but never discouraged. That may be why many do not return.
    – user45605
    Commented Oct 31, 2015 at 18:35
  • 3
    "How do I balance this spoon on my nose using Adobe OnBalance?" Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 17:38
  • @KMSTR I wish I knew who, other than me, upvoted your comment.
    – Ryan
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


Its becoming increasingly frustrating that people complain about the lack of quality questions, say we're just tech support, say they want why, and then vote every why question closed as opinion.

Is it a matter of opinion? Certainly what works best is a matter of opinion. But what doesn't work at all is generally backed for some reason. Not enough contrast, hard to read, misaligned, too little spacing, etc.

  • This is a matter of opinion: What font should I use for my website?
  • This is opinion grounded in principles and foundations: How do I determine if my fonts pair well?

  • This is a matter of opinion: Is it better to use 1" spacing or 1.5" spacing?

  • This is opinion grounded in principles and foundations: How can I determine if there is adequate spacing?

Its really upsetting that some of the same people complaining we have no design questions are the same ones that can't tell the difference.

I really am reminded of growing up and when my mother would tell me what to do, and I would ask her "Why?" she'd say, "Why? Because I said so that's why!" That's essentially what a close vote is saying. Its saying you can't justify any of your design decisions beyond, "I'm trained and have been doing this for a long time." Its unhelpful.


The bartenders meet all sort of different people from different backgrounds. They are not easily shaken by the issues or behaviors of the people sitting in front of them. They might raise a few eyebrows but the experienced bartenders probably seen and heard it all anyway.

If we're the bartenders of GD:SE then we need to keep in mind people don't always know the terms, might have skipped a few tutorials about basic stuff, haven't learn any methodology or wrongly, there may be language barriers too, and understandably a lot of similar questions will be asked in a hundred ways. It's complicated here because there's not much absolute in design and even techniques/software evolve. Plus it's difficult to find source and references and unlike academic areas, design can be self-taught, colleges offer different degrees, and well, it's not science. It's also clear the community isn't agreeing on what is a critique, what's technical support, what topics should be included or not. It's very vague and there's no consistency. If there's no consistency in the guidelines then we can't expect consistency from the OPs. That's a big challenge here.

How to ask the perfect question about balance? Maybe the question should be "how to understand the question". Of course I can see why Ryan asked it this way; he probably wanted to show how some people trap OPs in a corner to silence them, and how no matter how a question is pertinent, some people will find ways to shut them. If we were all 100% consistent using the logic of Ryan's bartender example, there would probably be only 5-10% questions left. So what's the goal? Limit the database so we don't cause the technological singularity or help people? ;)

We see it, a lot of people need guidance in how to ask questions. Some are just plain lazy. It's a bit snobbish to expect perfect questions, but it's reasonable to expect some efforts from the OP though. We're supposed to be smart enough to sort out what is truly only opinion based and what has some logic behind it; and even an opinion based question can have a logic and reasoning behind it. Smart opinions are usually not based on "robotic" or "cultist" thinking for most people.

Questions like "should I use Indesign or Photoshop to do my brochure" are still partly opinion based since it's possible to do it with both, but there's certainly a few extra benefits to gain by doing it with Indesign. In the end, it's up to the designer to decide what he/she prefers, what kind of quality is acceptable, where he/she will print, if it's worth learning a new software or not. We can only provide the pros and cons. We should maybe apply the same logic to all questions.

A good example is Ryan's recent question (Would incorporating sketch looking elements into a technical piece be out of place?). While it may look opinion based, there are logical reasons to say "yes/no" and options that may be more rational than others. Joojaa's comment on this shows that there's also a strategy to prioritize; if the audience is mainly composed of engineers, you might want to make sure that layout will be alright for the intended purpose: information. Plus unlike the suggested "critique" guideline, that kind of question will still be useful in 5-10 years, it's quite general, it's well formulated and interesting. It's not purely opinion based, there's a purpose and a request for help about strategic design. That is way better than "is my title too low".

The "why" is supposed to come with the "how".

The "why" is missing probably because it hasn't been asked and/or because the person answering didn't care to add it either because they assume the OP should know, or the person answering doesn't know the why themselves. It's good to refer to old posts but it's not a bad idea to add a short explanation too. Some old answers need updating, some are even wrong but have high votes, some are not always explained in simple ways, etc. Votes don't always mean "you're right", they often mean "thank you" as well and that's misleading.

But it's still better to have no "why" than fallacies, guesses and stubborn absolutes based on nothing rational. It's lazy and not very intellectual. Usually in design there's pros and cons, and a few options, some better than others. Whenever I see total absolutes about design principles (and not about techniques), I do expect to have some proofs as to why this is an absolute and the explanation should be a bit longer than "because X said so" or "I know what I'm talking about". When you understand something, it's easy to explain. I don't need to read 10 books about why I shouldn't eat raw chicken when I already know about salmonella and can explain it easily with available references.

For example, in design, the appeal to authority is ironic since there will always be someone somewhere who will find innovative ways to do things in a better/smarter way. There is no absolute in design besides k100=100% black and such but there's usually a logic why some options are better than others. So that iconic authority is meant to be replaced at some point by another designer who was probably a rebel not following that ideology! That's why I have very little respect for answers that use that strategy here. That's different on the Physics stack though.

Most design answers should contain a few "but" and not so many "always".

Finally, I'd like to add that what I find annoying is seeing people who are not designers and still judge quickly questions as being opinions. Experienced designers know what kind of questions often come back or challenges they went through; that is not the case for weekend designers or people who cannot be aware of these realities because they simply never experienced them.

I can only suggest to these people to take a step back and think about their own awareness before clicking the "close" button or make sure they select a precise close reason. It still take 4 people(?) to re-open a good question and this stack doesn't have a ton of users with such privileges.



  • Calm down.
  • Be consistent.
  • Be fair.
  • Design isn't a science. Sorry.
  • Read about fallacies and avoid them.
  • Explain the whys. If you can't take a few minutes to write the whys, go back to texting.
  • If you're not certain about something, read more and then answer with facts.
  • Answers that are wrong and useless absolutes are misleading beginners.
  • If you can't take a few minutes to read a long text, read comics (well, that wasn't in the text actually, heeheehee)
  • :D
  • You show some nice trains of thought and make some good points. Could you try to write a short conclusion or a tl;dr? It is a huge wall of text. Thanks!
    – Vincent
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 10:12
  • 3
    @Vincent It's the frakking meta, I'll rebelliously use as many pixels as I want ;) I'll still take the "TLDR" comments as some kind of compliment about the potential quality of the (ultra long) content or at least a little interest. Personally, I just don't bother commenting when my interest is 0%. People care or they don't, and the effort they put in trying to prove they're "not caring" is actually caring. In other words, it's better to ignore totally someone sometimes if one really wants to look "badass"! But that's just me... musing, I guess.
    – go-junta
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 11:00
  • Oh, take all the pixels you want. It's just that a clear conclusion helps your post being read. Good job! :D
    – Vincent
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 11:21
  • @Vincent Ok, I'll make an effort and might add TLDR or Twitter-length conclusions, thanks for feedback!
    – go-junta
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 11:30

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