These two meta posts have been our principles on Critique questions we will allow.

Members of the community however change and we are always able to adjust. I've noticed recently more than a few critique questions I would hammer on the spot getting left opened and answered.

We do need guidelines because inevitably someone will post an image and say, "How do I make this better?" Which is certainly low effort, opinion based, and too broad all at once. So the question I have isn't should we abandon our critique guidelines but rather....

Do you have any suggested changes to our Critique Guidelines? If you think they are good as is please comment that as well so we can get a better feel for what everyone is thinking.

4 Answers 4


I think our guidelines do a good job of addressing how to formulate a question so that it's a good fit for the Stack Exchange format. However, I'm wondering if they are good guidelines for "critiques" themselves. There is definitely a compatibility problem in my opinion between the way the system works and what critiques typically entail. I especially see problems with the good examples we provide:

Your question must be phrased in such a way that answers can be objectively voted on by the community. Keep in mind specifically what kind of critique feedback you are looking for.

Good Example: "Is this type size too small to be read?"
Bad Example: "How does this font look?"

Good Example: "Is there enough contrast between the blue and the green?"
Bad Example: "Are the colors okay?"

Good Example: "Is there enough white space in the logo so it's easily identifiable?"
Bad Example: "Can you tell what it is?"

Good Example: "Does the piece convey an air of playfulness and excitement?"
Bad Example: "What impression do you get?"

I don't have answers at this point but here are the problems I see with those:

Who is more likely to post for a critique of their work?

I've rarely seen long-standing members ask for a critique in a question here. I doubt professionals would post their work for a critique on a public site as it lacks confidentiality. And if images and links were later removed, we would end up with a bunch of non-sense and rot.

If I am a novice posting on this site, I have a pretty big barrier to overcome just by learning the ropes of the site and the community (learning about and gaining access to the Looking Glass).

I mainly see an issue in how we request questions to be worded. I've dealt with novices extensively and I can assure that most novices would not be able to word a question like this. All good examples suggest that the OP already know where a problem may lie. In this case, they likely already know the answer or have formed some kind of idea on how they could fix it.

I think we need to be really careful about labelling questions as lazy or low-effort just based on how generic their question is if someone made an account, and wrote a post to read what a whole community of people has to say to pick their work apart. That requires some guts!

What should a critique answer provide?

Another issue is that pointing the question on a specific aspect of the work might obfuscate more important problems. For example, if an OP asks about the better type/icon ratio in a logo but their icon full of gradients and drop shadows, there would really be limited value to sticking to their question and not addressing the more general issue of the work. Critiquing a work requires to examine multiple variables and seeing how well they manage to accomplish the desired outcome.

If we require the OP to stick to one variable, should we also require of answers to stay on-topic and not tackle the other variables?

A striking example: (there are plenty of others out there)

Here we have a relatively new OP who has managed to make the most of our guidelines in a string of questions, which I found quite impressive. But not all of the answers are actually addressing the actual question, and we can see that the OP is impressed, voters are impressed. So I ask you, what's the point of our current guidelines, if nobody follows them? I'm not saying people are being disobedient, but I think guidelines should be fairly easy to follow and not necessarily feel contrived.

If we truly want to give askers (and viewers) the means to improve their skills, it's important to explain why we suggest the things we suggest when writing an answer. While "Do X." possibly solves the asker's issue, "Do X because it addresses " walks the asker (and viewers) through how we reason as graphic designers and is more likely to be useful to model behavior in the future (or teaching a man how to fish instead of giving him the fish, if you will).

The information that should be supplied changes depending on the question...

The kind of information needed to answer a critique question depends on a multitude of factors.

Target audience and communication objective

We don't require the OP to post details about their target audience/desired outcome. Without knowing the target audience, most current good examples read as opinion-based and would be more useful if formulated in a more generic sense (e.g. How can I convey an air of playfulness and excitement in X type of piece?" "How can I tell if a type size is too small to be read?" etc.). I think that would be one point that could be improved in our current guidelines.

Brand guidelines / display environment

This question which fits our current criteria, shows that for certain types of work, we also need to be made aware of branding guidelines and where the work will be displayed. Our current guidelines do not address this type of scenario.

...because design problems are often wicked problems

The main issue with design and the SE format is that a lot of design problems share common traits with wicked problems, a term coined by design theorist Horst Rittel.

  1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem.
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse.
  4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
  5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.
  6. Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
  8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.
  9. The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's resolution.
  10. The social planner has no right to be wrong (i.e., planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate). Source: Wikipedia

The Looking Glass

I think the room is a really interesting initiative for critiques. However, as it stands, it's underused and I'm not sure we are likely to see improvement.

  • Like Andrew T. mentioned in a comment, there is a 20 reputation requirement to post there.
  • A lot of people don't use chat on this platform so there is just a lot less visibility overall.
  • If it did get used, it would soon become messy if 3-4 questions were handled at the same time.
  • Moreover, contributing to the Looking Glass does not translate into an acknowledgment of some sort (no "points") so there is less incentive for members to help people there.
  • And last, we haven't really investigated the effect of the CC-SA-BY license on what gets posted in the Looking Glass and there should be a big disclaimer about this somewhere.

What can we do to improve how this resource is used? Do we need to try something different?

Critiques on a body of work

Occasionally we get a question that asks something along the lines of "What do I have to learn to do X better?" or something related to someone's overall work.

I had asked a question on meta here, upvoted but not answered, so maybe this is a good occasion to tackle this as well. Should we allow critiques on a body of work to help asker's define which areas of their skills need to be improved?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curious Mod
    Sep 13, 2019 at 20:11

I do think the guidelines are great. I have seen some of the critique questions you are referring to and have voted to close some (if not all) of them for the exact reasons you name.

Open-ended critique questions will never have a well-defined 'correct' answer, just one that makes the suggestions that the OP ends up using--regardless of whether they are good or not.

If users want an 'open' critique, there is The Looking Glass.

  • 2
    Though, note that only users with 20+ rep can talk in the chat room.
    – Andrew T.
    Jul 19, 2018 at 4:36

Going through the newest critique questions, I can do nothing but agree with you @Ryan. While a good few of them still get closed, there are some that would have been hammered before but are not closed now. On the other hand, there are also some great critique questions, and some that got salvaged.

I agree with @Vincent that the guidelines are very good the way they are, and I don't think they should be changed. I think the guidelines make it pretty clear how to ask a good critique, and I also think a lot of 'lazy' critique questions can be salvaged (if the OP is willing to invest a little effort).


Sorry, and I'm ok with the diluvian downvotes I will get after this, but I still thinking that despite how well done the critique guidelines are, sometimes this site looks like a regime.

I wonder, what is so extreme in this question to get 4 closing votes?

How can I improve this magazine page layout?

The OP is not asking about critiques opinions, for me it is exaggeratedly clear that what he is looking for is exactly what is described in the question: Can I get some feedback on how to improve the design of this page?

Improve design means design critique? Not to me, the question is very technical, as technical as my answer is. It's not about the whole magazine, it's just a page! How to improve it? Just fixing/changing/modifying/deleting some graphic design elements. For people who have time in page design it will be much easier to find defects than someone who starts.

I wonder what is unclear in this question?

How can I fade an image along lines in Illustrator?

This site is open to everybody. What is unclear in this question? The terminology. It is possible to get a certain kind of tolerance in the interpretation of the questions. For those of us who have many years in Graphic Design, it is not difficult trying to interpret what someone wants with a vocabulary that is not as technical as ours.

And I still thinking the closing vote with a broad interpretation is the most immediate, easy, simple and non constructive answer we can give.

  • 1
    I'm only going into the first example you give, for that is the current issue: critique-like questions. The issue with this question is that it is very open-ended. Yes, it would be very useful to get a general critique, but that does not fit the Stack Exchange model which is built on focused questions with answers that are objectively right or wrong. 'General' critique Qs like this one are not focused by default, and the 'correct' answer tends to be the one that the asker ended up using. That is exactly why we set up the current critique guidelines.
    – Vincent
    Jul 24, 2018 at 10:03
  • You are more than welcome to try and start a discussion to open up those guidelines again :). I'd be interested in seeing valid reasons to accept broad, general critique and fit them within the SE model.
    – Vincent
    Jul 24, 2018 at 10:09
  • The issue with 'broad' and 'unclear' close votes you broach in your second example is another issue entirely. We have had this discussion multiple times over, and it will always be ongoing. Have a look here, for example.
    – Vincent
    Jul 24, 2018 at 10:13
  • And lastly: do note that up- and downvotes work differently on Meta compared to on the main site: they do not impact your reputation here, so they are used to voice agreement or disagreement with the point you make, rather than telling you your input is good or, uhm, mediocre :)
    – Vincent
    Jul 24, 2018 at 10:15
  • 1
    All the explanation you give me about how to act with a critique-like question and how is the essence of GDSE about those issues, I think more or less I have it clear. The issue with this particular question is just a difference of understanding about concepts or terminology. According to my point of view, and being an exaggeratedly pragmatic person, this particular question does not get within the canon of critique request questions. What do you think about this page? = critique-like question. What can I do to improve this page? = how to use or manage well design elements.
    – user120647
    Jul 24, 2018 at 10:38
  • Nice point. Imma ponder that.
    – Vincent
    Jul 24, 2018 at 11:14
  • after pondering I guess I'd (personally) be happy if the question was rephrased as stating that the Asker doesn't think it has a good visual rhythm, lacks a focus, or is disorderly. That way, the question gets a specific focus to which a valid, 'correct' answer can be given. I say this because the question as you state it 'What can I do to improve this page', also invites answers that advice a complete overhaul.
    – Vincent
    Jul 25, 2018 at 8:38
  • 1
    Well, as I said, I am a very pragmatic person and I answer what I read in the question. As pragmatic I am that I do not take responsibility for what others can interpret about the question 🙂.
    – user120647
    Jul 25, 2018 at 8:43
  • 2
    Other users are pragmatic as well: they compare a question to the critique guidelines, see it fails them, and vote to close ;). If that happens and you think the question is worth salvaging, feel free to edit it yourself so its query is more focused.
    – Vincent
    Jul 25, 2018 at 8:45

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