I work at Stack Exchange in the community development department, and I would like to both introduce myself to the Graphic Design community (hello!) and inform you that we think Graphic Design is one of the sites that has shown a lot of potential for growth (Stats and GIS being two others, in case you frequent there as well). We want to focus some of our energy on the site, starting now.

The first thing I want to bring to the community's attention is the possible voting problem Graphic Design has. Many questions on the front page have a score of 2 or lower, which gives the impression that every question is as good as every other question (and that most every question isn't that good to begin with). Do you think the content on Graphic Design is deserving of more votes?

If you want to see what kinds of questions are getting the most eyeballs and interaction on the site, here is a list of 63 questions that meet one of these 2 criteria:

  • questions with the most views and a score under 2
  • questions with over 3 answers and a score under 2

Of course views should never equate to votes, and the most popular questions in search engines are those that deal with everyday problems that every Graphic Designer (from novice to expert) encounters. That being said, are these questions a good representation of the site? Does it help or hurt the site to have our most viewed and answered questions be ones with low scores? Do they deserve those low scores? These aren't rhetorical questions at all, and I want to hear what the community thinks. Your assessment trumps mine; you've all been with this site for a long time!

If you have time, please check out those questions. It is entirely possible that you've already voted on every single one of them; only you know how much or little you vote. Vote on them based on their quality, vote on the answers based on their quality, edit the titles or body if they need it, vote to close questions if need be or share questions you think are interesting. Again, most of these questions may be general, non-expert knowledge. But they are the ones people see the most, so cleaning them up and making them as awesome as possible could be great promotion for the site.

And in general, I think it could help the community to keep an eye on voting as new questions come in. Community members who are regulars on other Stack sites, do you notice a lesser degree of participation here? Do the quality questions get the proportionate amount of votes? If you think they do, are you fine with the overall low scores of the site? Am I completely wrong in my assessment that this is a low-voting site? Definitely let me know!

This is the first of a lot of exciting things we'll be doing with Graphic Design, so if you have any ideas about what we could do to help the community, please start discussing it on Meta and chat! I read Graphic Design's Meta regularly and will be hanging out in the chat room, so please ping me if you have any big ideas. Let's see if we can make them happen!

If there are bigger issues with the site, please make a Meta post about your concerns!

I apologize for this being so long!

  • No need to apologize. This is a complex situation that's still looking for a simple solution, and there's a lot to consider. Aug 26, 2012 at 22:14

7 Answers 7


The other answers here are already very good. I don't think this site has a voting problem so much as it has a boring-question problem. Our questions-per-day average is pretty low, and, as others have noted, a lot of the questions are "drive-by" Font Identification or Beginner Photoshop questions. Voting, editing, other-community-actions won't turn boring questions into interesting ones.

When we do have new questions or answers that are actually interesting, they get voted up. We have a handful new(ish) users who have gained a fair amount of rep in just a few months. Getting people to vote on good content isn't the problem.

I don't have an answer for what's wrong with this site, but it doesn't feel like a vibrant designer-oriented community. Several of the top meta questions deal with this directly by addressing site scope, how to reach out to designers (not SO users), etc.

Your two meta posts are addressing symptoms without identifying a root problem. Encouraging more voting won't make existing questions more interesting. No amount of editing can make certain questions more interesting. Driving the answered-question rate higher (already at ~96%) won't bring better questions.

  • 5
    +1 for "doesn't feel like a vibrant designer-oriented community". We're getting there... I think the key things we're lacking are a) visibility in the design world, b) a brand identity that draws in designers who are new to SE (not just visuals: also how we pitch our rules, FAQ, scope and way of doing things better to a professional culture that instinctively doesn't welcome prescriptive rules), c) More users who are full-time designers. Boosting any one of these three things will boost the other two, lacking any one of these three things seems to hold back the other two... Not easy! Aug 24, 2012 at 12:17
  • 2
    @user568458 This is definitely where the nub of the problem lies. I've been around and around on it. So has Farray. I still haven't answered to my own satisfaction the question of why I would hang out here if I were a designer looking to find out, as opposed to a designer who likes to help other people out. Aug 25, 2012 at 21:57
  • @Farray Dead on, my friend. Aug 25, 2012 at 22:00
  • 1
    @AlanGilbertson Very important question! As someone less experienced with more finding out needs :), some thoughts: 1) New tricks & surprising improvements on old tricks (e.g.), 2) Pre-arming for problems I've not faced yet (e.g.), 3) Wider range of industry norms (e.g., 4) Reference info that's debated/peer-reviewed (e.g.), 5) Knowing I can get authoritative answers! Aug 25, 2012 at 22:35
  • ...and for the important related question of what's our USP on these: 1) Putting existing knowledge to the test. Here, I'm more likely to find out if what I think I know is near or far from the mark. Elsewhere, useful feedback is rare. 2) All the things that work so well on SE. Most of the questions I linked above would have been completely de-railed with any other format, here, even the ones with important debate are neatly clearly organised and resource-like. 3) Clear high standards, culture of helping, and clear (once you've been here a while...) purpose and community. Aug 25, 2012 at 22:42
  • @user568458 You're exactly right. I reached similar conclusions a while back. In my answer below are various thoughts but not a really useful conclusion. It remains a conundrum. Aug 26, 2012 at 22:11

I am very new here, but maybe my feeback as someone new gives you another view on the topic.

After reading this, I did realize that I rarely vote on questions. But mostly on answers. I guess it is true that my focus in not on voting as much as it is on interesting questions. And maybe that is the one issue I have here personally. I see a lot of questions that aren't exactly new or challenging. Asking for fonts seems to be be a regular thing. Many basic questions about how to use certain design programs. And of course, brainstorming. At least this is my very personal impression.

Where am I going with this? I think most peoples motivation is to solve interesting questions. It is very rewarding. And I think low scores maybe represent low complexity.

I am of course taking away from this to be more aware of highlighting good questions.

  • 2
    Big +1. View counts do not necessarily correlate to interesting questions. Font-identification and "Adobe 101" questions are, well, meh. The fact that we have some very interesting answers to some very boring questions is a testament to the strength & experience of the certain designers.
    – Farray
    Aug 24, 2012 at 3:38
  • +1 to both, very true. It's worth saying explictly that the problem isn't too many easy/boring questions (which help beginners get started and as pointed out often have surprisingly interesting answers) - it's too few challenging/interesting questions. We'll get more when more middleweight pro designers use the site, which is happening slowly and will happen faster when we get more visibility in the design world and branding that better communicates what we are. Aug 25, 2012 at 21:51

I got your email and have been voting what I feel is appropriately. I don't want to up or down vote a question just for the sake of voting.

I think, right now, the issue may be drive by users who either don't know they can, or don't care to vote. If you look at the users asking questions, many never return to the question. And if they do return, that's about it. I don't see many new users jumping in to other questions to provide answers (and votes).

So there's not a great deal of return traffic to boost voting. From what I perceive, it's a group of core users (8-12) that vote. So question scores in the 2-10 range would seem on par with that.

Rest assured I do vote though. :)

  • 1
    Really great insight, and one that I couldn't have really picked up on with my limited experience with the site. So maybe the first step to improving voting isn't getting the existing users to vote (as the committed ones already are), but trying to grow our audience base and get 15-30 core users, up from where we are now. Aug 22, 2012 at 14:39
  • I got your email also, started clicking through, and found I'd already voted on at least half the questions. Like Scott, I don't want to vote just for voting's sake. Aug 22, 2012 at 23:13

What follows evolved as I was writing it, pulling together my own thoughts and revisiting the whole issue.

In my case, I've a broad range of expertise in design and layout, branding, large format, etc.. I consider InDesign and design workflows for print, web or motion graphics my primary areas of expertise, but most of my answers (by far) concern Photoshop. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why. For every InDesign or Illustrator user out there, there are at least a thousand who use Photoshop, just as for every designer there are a bazillion photographers. In the same way, there are thousands of beginners and dabblers for every skilled designer, tens of thousands for every one who is highly skilled. Out of that small pool of highly skilled people, a very few have found GD.SE and have elected to contribute here by answering questions. Once in a while, one of us will ask a question now and again, but for the most part we wear the advisor hat.

We need to figure out how to attract the missing majority: intermediate-level professional designers who have production questions (Ryan's example of label design for a curved surface is a perfect example), style questions, typography questions and all the practical issues one runs into in the day-to-day throes of design work.

My own feeling is we are both helped and hindered by the format of SE itself. Many design-related issues lend themselves to discussion, which we discourage; up-and-coming designers want feedback and need interactive feedback if they are to become more skilled. Lack of a PM facility relegates interaction to chat, which has scheduling issues, or to limited comment threads. In some cases it pushes the comm out to regular email, of which I've had my share. The SE system also isn't the easiest for putting up visuals, especially for newcomers, yet design is purely visual.

I've looked at this from a number of different angles, including viewing it purely as a marketing problem. So far, I don't have a workable answer. I'm not even certain that volume is the most important thing we should be looking for, nor votes.

We are at once too generalized and too specialized. Too generalized in that we have no particular focus that would attract a core group of enthusiastic learners/sharers ("graphic design" is a very broad field); too specialized in that we keep trying to push the quality of questions to a higher level while we don't attract the users who would generate them.

Compounding the problem is that the very broad sweep of design topics that we cover in a single forum can make finding information quite challenging. I just did a search for a specific answer I knew was on the site (because I wrote it). Took me several pages of search results to dig it up. Another search, for "layer blend modes," yields 23 pages of results, most of which don't pertain to layer blend modes.

Sites that attract professional designers tend to be more focused (deke.com, rwillustrator.blogspot.com, indesignsecrets.com, creativecow.net, lynda.com), or more interactive (there are some useful, well-populated and long-running design forums out there) or both.

The best design forum/Q&A sites are segmented by topic. "Graphic Design" splits into anywhere from 4 or 5 to more than a dozen subjects, depending on which of the more useful sites you look at.

These kinds of sites are attractive for three reasons: content is easy to find by topic; useful content is pushed onto these sites, rather than waiting for someone to ask just the right question; and back-and-forth discussion is not limited to minimal comment threads or hard-to-schedule live chats. They are also attractive to experienced designers, for the same reasons.

Quite how we compete with them I still don't know, but we won't be the go-to site for the missing majority until we figure that out. Our positioning has to be something on the order of "the place to find great answers to difficult design questions" or something along those lines, with a solid reason why it's better to ask here than go looking somewhere else even if you've never used another SE site.

  • 2
    "We are at once too generalized and too specialized..." I wish I had multiple +1s for that paragraph.
    – Farray
    Aug 26, 2012 at 23:48
  • Interesting stuff. A few responses: 1. By PM facility do you mean personal messages (inbox messages)? 2. I think the pyramid you describe is common in most professions and the "missing middle" issue affects many SE sites, it'd be interesting to see how others deal with it. Content curation could help - blog posts highlighting great reference answers around themes? 3. SE search isn't very good... massively biassed to recency over relevance. To find old questions on SE network, I use google or the de-duping suggestions on the new question page - hit ask question, type search terms in title... Aug 27, 2012 at 13:59
  • 1
    PM == Private Message, yes. I've had emails because the persons couldn't PM me on the site, so they looked up my email address (easy enough) and used that. That makes building a large community more challenging. Aug 27, 2012 at 20:19
  • @AlanGilbertson These are all great points and insight. Do you think it would be beneficial to try to partner with some of those more specific sites in an attempt to both create that specific type of content on our site as well as attract that userbase? Aug 29, 2012 at 18:08
  • @BrettWhite I do. In fact, I think it's essential. I've mentioned that a couple times in email exchanges with Aarthi. Aug 30, 2012 at 1:07
  • @BrettWhite In the year and a half since I posted this answer, has any progress been made as far as partnering? We're now a full-fledged site, but the high-quality questions are more diluted than ever. Partnering would be a way to help improve our visibility in the professional design community. Jun 15, 2014 at 20:39

Yup. I am resurrecting this post, and probably some others related.

After reading this thread and several related this comes to my mind.

  • A Graphic Design forum should be more visual.

  • Graphic Design is a hell lot more "Opinion Based" than other categories, and the intrinsic rules of the site almost forbid this.

Alan Gilbertson commented about the feedback. And in this case, feedback is not a matter of "right or wrong".

Probably Design has more proud involved than other sites. Probably one motivation of designers is to show the work, rather than to be told this is a right answer.

This thread is 4 years old. I am wondering how much this has evolved.

  • I would suggest maybe starting up a new meta, referencing this one. Just so not to confuse people and make them think the original post is recent instead of 4 years old.
    – PieBie Mod
    May 2, 2017 at 10:02

This was originally a comment to agree/add to @Farray's answer, but it got too long.

I feel like I have to mention this somewhere as it has been bugging me for a long time.

Every once in a while the "Community" bumps up OLD questions that don't have accepted answers. As an idea it's fairly good cause normally you might not find these questions ( ...and you might be interested in those to help out the community ), but these questions seem to pretty much always be:

  1. Questions that are really old.
  2. Questions where OP showed no interest to get the question answered (i.e. giving more information if it looks like no one is getting what is being asked).
  3. Questions where OP last logged in long time ago and the question is just hanging in there.
  4. Questions where OP for some reason doesn't want to accept or doesn't really understand the concept.
  5. Questions that are just outside of our knowledge ( not a bad thing ).
  6. and sometimes some of these list items combined.

I don't think I've ever seen community bumped questions getting accepted in here. They just slowly fall down in the page as other questions are updated or added. Maybe these bumps could be kept out of the main page.

Not to mention, sometimes few brave men and women (mainly new users) try to answer these questions, and they may get a few votes for their answer, but doesn't really make the question any more attractive as it, according to my knowledge, won't get accepted ( even if it is the perfect answer ). I think I've seen quite a few old community bumped questions without an accepted answer having muuuuuultiple answers but absolutely no interest from the OP.

I imagine this is what went down when someone first had an idea about the community bumping: "What could be worse than having questions without an accepted answer in the site?" "..well, we could just post those questions in the front page for everyone to see!" "Haha! nice one."

I think it was like last weekend when I last saw 4 community bumped questions within few days during a slow weekend (Meaning that first 4 of the "Top questions" were old inactive community bumped questions).

At the time of this post I counted 10 community bumped questions in the main page. All of those had absolutely nothing done to them after the bumping, aside from few new views. )

Main point I have here is that while it might not be the demise of this website, it certainly is not very attractive and I believe it is doing more bad to this site than good.

Took a closer look at the community bumped posts in the front page just now:

Numbers below represent the amount of questions that fit the description.

  • 1 - Didn't accept for no apparent reason
  • 3 - Gimp, inkscape/others question ( two of these had answers that seemed pretty legit to me )
  • 1 - Question with accepted answer ( Dunno if this happened after the bump or not... )
  • 1 - OP answered his own question and didn't accept.
  • 1 - User from another site ( 1 answer that covers it, even though it's not as good of an answer as it could be. )
  • 1 - There seemed to be people trying to figure out what the OP wanted, but OP had no interest to reply.
  • Ryan very recently made almost the same point: meta.graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/401/… Sep 12, 2012 at 16:27
  • @user568458 Not really. As far as I can see, he was trying to figure out how to solve the same problem that community bumping was probably meant to solve or reduce. My point is simply that I see community bumping as a useless feature.
    – Joonas
    Sep 12, 2012 at 21:48
  • I was thinking of Ryan's question too while I was reading your answer. The bumping would be less traumatic if there was a way to mark questions as answered after the OP has gone missing for a certain time. I understand the reasons behind not marking them, but at the same time it feels so... frustrating. There's something about those limbo questions that makes me feel existential angst.
    – Yisela
    Sep 12, 2012 at 22:30
  • meta.graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/178/… I wasn't too fond of Jeff's answer at the time, but lately I've thought more of it. If old questions truly just suck, they need to be downvoted or closed or edited into better questions. It is my understanding that closed/very-low-score questions won't get bumped.
    – Farray
    Sep 12, 2012 at 22:42
  • @Farray I just don't think we can do much about it. I mean, considering the reasons why most of these questions are unanswered. Should a good question be downvoted because the person who asked it is no longer active? It is kind of a double edged sword.. :/
    – Joonas
    Sep 12, 2012 at 23:07
  • @Joonas I believe "the reasons why most of these questions are unanswered" is because most of them are not good/interesting questions. Community bumps unanswered questions - and if a question is very old and has no answers, there is probably something wrong with the question (excepting point #5 from your list).
    – Farray
    Sep 13, 2012 at 4:59
  • 1
    @Farray If something is very wrong with a question, I just think it would be better to leave it floating around where most of us will never see it. "Out of sight out of mind" ..and if new users see that the first 4 posts are old posts that didn't do so well, I don't think they will immediately think "Yeah! I'm gonna go answer that." Perhaps rather something like "Wow, this site must be really dead..." Though that is just my opinion. By the way, took a closer look at the community bumped questions still left in the front page and added something at the bottom of my post.
    – Joonas
    Sep 13, 2012 at 6:44
  • I need to eat some of my words. I did say it, but I don't think community bumping is useless feature. There has been lot of discussions about why the site is not super popular and how we could make it better. I feel that it might be better for the site if community bumping was relocated ( or that there would be like a page for questions that need love from the community.. or something ). With a healthier site the community bumping wouldn't be so bad, but here, in my opinion, it just mostly amplifies any negative thoughts about the site that people may have.
    – Joonas
    Sep 13, 2012 at 7:44
  • @Joonas - "If something is very wrong with a question, I just think it would be better to leave it floating around where most of us will never see it." I agree completely, but the only way SE engine can determine if something is "very wrong" is by votes and flags. Hence poor content should be voted-down, flagged, closed, whatever, and good content should be voted-up.
    – Farray
    Sep 13, 2012 at 16:43
  • @Farray but I think only one or two community posts can be fair to be voted down at the moment. At least the one where the OP showed no interest to make it clear what he wanted. In other cases, it would just be dumb to vote down completely good questions, and if that is the only thing that can be done currently, then why not just drop the feature for now? ...put it somewhere else? ..or something? I feel like we're driving a smoking car and basically saying "shh... it's all we have, so let's just drive forward." ..and I'm the one with asthma. :)
    – Joonas
    Sep 13, 2012 at 18:47
  • 1
    @Joonas We both have asthma on this one - or, at least, I don't think anyone is pretending the car isn't smoking. :p Either way, you're right that we're screwed on this issue unless they can turn the bumping off. We average under 6 Qs per day. The front page has ~50(?) Qs listed. That means that if Community bumps 1 Q each day, the front page will routinely have ~7 Community-bumped questions (which generally aren't good questions on this site).
    – Farray
    Sep 13, 2012 at 18:59
  • @Farray Yeah, true.
    – Joonas
    Sep 13, 2012 at 19:08

The first one I happened to click on from that list was How to get dashed line in Photoshop?. I don't care how many views it has it goes against our FAQ "But not about... Simple "How to" questions"

I agree with KMSTR and Scott, both raise very valid points. We seem to have a very small core and a lot of one shot users coming in to ask an extremely simple "How to" or "What font" question.

If we could direct things more towards complex InDesign Workflow questions, Pre-press techniques, data visualization, design theory, historical design questions (Shoutout to Farray!), label/packaging and other more interesting topics I'd be more likely to vote even if I never do label/packaging it is an interesting topic. How to make a dotted line is not.

Like you said, the simplest questions are going to get the most searches. More people have a necessity to make a dotted line than people need to know how to design a label that looks aligned properly around a curved surface.

  • May I add to your 'interesting list': Questions about usability from a more... artistic point of view.
    – Yisela
    Aug 23, 2012 at 23:38
  • A shout-out, eh? To what do I owe this honor?
    – Farray
    Aug 24, 2012 at 3:38
  • @Farray 'Cuz you're wicked cool, of course! :) Aug 25, 2012 at 23:00
  • 1
    @Alan "Wicked", hm... I've always been partial to "hella". Must be a latitude thing. ;)
    – Farray
    Aug 26, 2012 at 2:03
  • I think it was your answers that I found had lots of history (pertaining to typography). It could very well have been someone else. I didn't go back to check. Just take the darn compliment :P
    – Ryan
    Aug 28, 2012 at 11:24

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