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In the discussion over at "Does Graphic Design have a low voting problem?", it's been mentioned that this site does not seem to have enough mid-level to professional level designers, and that the perceived low voting is due to a lack of interesting questions and not user apathy. Another meta post lists a number of Area 51 proposals that have possible overlap with Graphic Design, which indicates that there are probably subcategories of graphic design that either do not know we exist or do not think their topic is on-topic here.

It was mentioned in my comment that one way to start fixing this is to partner with various graphic design sites that focus on areas that this site is lacking in, in the hopes that the partnership will both increase the number of questions about those overlooked topics as well as introduce our site to other parts of the graphic design world. I've done something similar to this in the past with the RPG site.

The specifics of a contest are to be worked out at a later date, but right now does the community think this is a smart way to increase the site's awareness and diversify our userbase and content? If so, what sites would you recommend we try to partner with? Keep in mind that popular (but not corporate) blogs and sites with a sense of social networking and community are the easiest ones to get in touch with and make something happen with. But that doesn't mean we can't try for the best!

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I'm ambivalent about this, so let me play devil's advocate for a bit.

On the one hand, yes, we absolutely need to partner with other sites to increase the visibility of gd.se. On the other hand, as I said elsewhere, we have managed to be at once too specialized and too generalized. The various narrow-topic sites listed as "probable overlap with gd.se" would, in several cases, be more productive than gd simply because they narrow the focus to more specific topics that, in many cases, tend to be complained about, but reluctantly accepted, here.

We grumble about "what's this font?" questions that would be at home, along with more advanced typographic topics, in a typography se. Potential partner sites like typophile.com, ilovetypography.com come to mind.

The Creative Suite tools (Photoshop first and foremost, but definitely including InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, et al.) are a major source of the questions that are asked here, but these "how to" questions have been debated as off-topic, on-topic, how-do-we-get-rid-of-them-topic numerous times. They are inevitably a major source of questions, if only because they are the tools by which most designers earn their living. One very popular BBS-type forum site, graphicdesignforum.com, has an explicit forum for Adobe Tools, which is heavily trafficked and often very useful. Numerous potential partners include InDesignSecrets.com, home of the excellent InDesign Secrets podcast and a personal favorite, Mordy Golding's excellent rwillustrator.blogspot.com, and Adobe themselves, who are always interested in increasing the intellectual commons that surround their products.

Questions about Open Source graphics tools show up here from time to time, and too often go without answers simply because most of us don't use and aren't familiar with them. A dedicated OS Graphics SE might attract a viable community.

Digital Publications is a rapidly-growing field, dominated by Kindle and Adobe's DPS, but rich in tools with new ones coming online regularly. It is a specialty that might easily become lost in the vastness of gd.se, but it is a fast-growing market. The only really useful sites at present are Liz Castros pigsgourdsandwikis.com and epubsecrets.com, an offshoot of InDesignSecrets.com devoted entirely to ePub and .mobi issues. This is a field where "under the hood" code issues are inevitable and essential, but would be rejected by gd.se as off-topic.

GD.SE comes alive (based on what I see in the voting) when questions about actual design or the creative process, as opposed to the tools of design, come up. They tend to get buried in a sea of "how to" software questions. Perhaps, with somewhere to send the tool-tip questions, we could allow gd.se to blossom as a site where design questions could be asked and answered. On that basis, we might pull the more serious-minded designers from very generalized sites like how.com.

It's hard to argue, as we are doing when we ask "we should broaden the scope of gd.se?", that questions about the most effective particle-generator plug-ins for After Effects and effective use of design grid systems for the web belong in the same forum.

For better or worse, we are in an age where fields of information and sources of information are increasingly granular. General news sites have had their traffic and relevance nibbled away by specialized competitors. "General-interest blog" is an oxymoron, and general-interest Q&A sites are populated only by the ignorant, ignored by anyone with an above-room-temperature IQ (Celsius). If you want to know about Curiosity, would you visit NYTimes.com, or nasa.gov/msl?

It seems to me that there is a debate we need to have about whether gd.se is simply too broad to have a recognizable identity in the broad community of design, and whether perhaps more narrowly-defined sites with narrower and more clearly definable topics would perform better. I see an analogy in the various specialized coding forums on SE, which could be argued as being already covered by SO but are clearly needed and viable.

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    I think you're right I don't want Typography here if it is about "What font was used in the logo for such and such" or "Which font is best for such and such". I want typography and all forms of graphic design here for questions with substance like "I'm working on developing a font and can't figure out how to calculate an appropriate length for the descender to be. Is there a standard ratio between the x-height and descender?" – Ryan Aug 31 '12 at 16:51
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    You make a valid point, Alan, but it's one that is applicable to all of SE. The Community team is constantly trying to figure out how big or small a site's scope should be, and as of now there is no uniformity. SO has smaller, but thriving, subsites. Conversely, all attempts to get Stacks for specific board/card games have been squashed, to instead keep them at B&CG.SE. I think that right now we should work with what we have, which is GD.SE, and try to make that work, however broad the topic is. If other subsites get traction and close to launching, things can be reevaluated then. – Brett White Aug 31 '12 at 16:59
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    Like I said, I'm ambivalent. I don't pretend to know the answer, but it seemed to me that the flip side of the debate should be aired. At the risk of seeming heretical, I'll say this: if it weren't for the fact that I really enjoy helping people be more successful, I wouldn't spend time on GD. I have my own collection of go-to places when I'm looking for answers. The practical, nitty-gritty design-related issues I need to address are almost all off-topic here, weirdly enough, or fall into the category of "questions we discourage." – Alan Gilbertson Aug 31 '12 at 18:56
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    @Ryan That's the thorny issue we've been thinking about almost since the site began. Contrast SO, which is for professional programmers, with GD.SE, which invites beginners and non-professionals. In any field, the beginner-level folks outnumber the seasoned pros by at least a couple orders of magnitude. Small wonder, then, that the majority of questions are relatively trivial. – Alan Gilbertson Aug 31 '12 at 19:13
  • Re. "an analogy in the various specialized coding forums on SE" - actually, from what I've seen of them, they succeed only where a platform has a rich eco-system that involves various professions and isn't just coding (e.g. drupal.stackexchange.com has admins, content people, site builders, UX people, designers (like me), as well as coders). They fail when it's just a sub-set of programmers (e.g. area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/44109/ruby-on-rails was closed as a duplicate of StackExchange). – user56reinstatemonica8 Sep 5 '12 at 11:12
  • Re. "the majority of questions are relatively trivial". That's true on SO too - most questions are beginner questions. The old guard complain about it all the time, but it hasn't exactly stopped the site succeeding. Don't forget, you (and they) are in that rare privileged position of being a senior guy who can say no to, or delegate, any job you don't like the sound of. If my boss says I need to make something with AfterEffects particles by Tuesday, I'll appreciate a place where I can ask any level of question. Same is true on SO, with mid-level guys picking up new platforms or languages. – user56reinstatemonica8 Sep 5 '12 at 11:28
  • Finally, you've mentioned a few times recently that there are loads of interesting questions you'd love to ask, but are currently off topic. Sounds like a solvable problem. Why not open a meta thread with a bullet list of examples and we'll see if/how they can be accommodated? e.g. I'd be well up for design-related questions about pushing design possibility boundaries using .epub and .mobi code. It's one of many areas that aren't my niche, but which I'd read about for pub knowledge/ideas/possible future collaborations etc - like how, on SO, C++ guys read interesting questions about Java. – user56reinstatemonica8 Sep 5 '12 at 11:36
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I think this would be great and think Visual.ly and the AIGA would be excellent first marks.

  • Visual.ly is a site that appears to be dedicated to the world of infographic link spam. Ewww. AIGA is fine, but they have their own walled community so likely won't see much to gain from a partnership. – DA01 Sep 13 '12 at 20:19
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I hadn't thought about contests, but it sounds like a good way to attract people.

What I did consider, and might be of interest, was reaching to open source graphics program users and ask them to maybe check the gimp/inkscape questions to add a couple of answers. I'm not sure which groups are more active, but could be sites in the line of GimpTalk or InkScapeStuff.

forrst.com has plenty of mid-level to professional designers, although they are an 'invite only' community, which I understand but feel ambiguous about. SE being a participative and open QA site would have to be ok with that. On the other side, deviantart.com has a huge number of active users who would jump into a contest (and they are generally run in the site too). Although I believe most of them are not professionals, quite a few will certainly be enthusiastic and keen to enrol in the GD crusade.

  • I like the idea of drawing in the OS Graphic Design Software communities. It's definitely a niche, but maybe a good one to pursue. – DA01 Sep 13 '12 at 20:18

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