Stack Overflow addresses not only the issues of programming, but also the desire of programmers to have a world unto themselves and their ways. It is not conducive to new programmers, let alone other forms of digital expression.

If Stack Exchange Graphic Design is to best serve (and grow with) new graphic designers, those curious about graphic design and all those up through to the masters of the art, then it must acknowledge and address the nature of artists.

Graphic Design is an art form, it attracts artists, the artistically inclined and the creatives of the world. It is a vastly bigger world than the programming world.

So how can Stack Exchange Graphic Design do this given that it's rooted in the same "peer" and "community" policing that's created the monster that is SO?

Starting with tone. See this by way of example of just purely nonsensical rule making that's fine within a world like SO but going to irk just about every other human: enter image description here

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    It would help considerably if you gave more specific examples. Feb 21, 2014 at 22:00
  • Is that your sense of humour I'm missing?
    – Confused
    Feb 21, 2014 at 22:03
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    That's the first and possibly last time I've seen Stack Overflow being described as a monster.
    – Dom
    Feb 22, 2014 at 0:32
  • Would you prefer "runaway train" to monster? SO perpetuates the world that this video is taking the piss out of: vimeo.com/71278954
    – Confused
    Feb 22, 2014 at 0:34
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    It's a stack exchange site. By default it will always be a 'bit like' StackOverflow. I also wouldn't call graphic design a 'vastly bigger world' than software development, nor would I exclude developers from the 'creative' club.
    – DA01
    Mar 9, 2014 at 6:05
  • They're not mutually exclusive. But they're very near it.
    – Confused
    Mar 9, 2014 at 10:53

3 Answers 3


I think the key point is:

  • StackOverflow and family are based on strict (sometimes obsessive) rules
  • In many fields, particularly creative ones like graphic design, arbitrary rules go against the ethos.
  • How can we make that work?

An important question. I think the key is remembering, if it's done right, it's more about discipline than rules, and discipline is important everywhere, including (especailly?) creative fields. We should aim for:

  • No rules for rules' sake. We're not lawyers. It should be all about the Q&A.
  • Understand the point of the rules that exist, and apply them based on that:

    • If something is causing actual harm, do something about it (regardless of who posted it), and have some systematic reason so people can judge if you're being fair and consistent.
    • If a question is interesting, works fine, is or could be creating quality content, but maybe, technically could be described as breaking some rule, let it be.
  • Respect the reason this site exists:

    • Design sites without discipline tend to be a mess of "IT CAN'T BE DONE AND YOU'RE WRONG FOR EVEN TRYING", aggression and flame wars between different approaches, rampant pretentiousness, or unhelpful fluffiness with everyone saying they love everything. This site works because it has high standards, and that takes discipline.
    • SE is supposed to be a Q&A network with high quality but minimalist moderation to boost the quality of the Q&A. It's not a moderation network with a Q&A mechanic to create things to moderate. We're not so bad for that, but many other sites feel like this at times...

The other thing we sometimes need to remember is scale. StackOverflow is a bit of a monster - it's monstrously massive:

  • It gets 8,700 questions every day. We've had 6,600 questions ever, and about 9 a day. To put it another way: during only the hours you're awake on a typical day, almost as many questions are asked on SO as have been asked here ever.
  • It's huge in its industry - I've heard of software development recruiters asking to see applicants' SO profiles (simply assuming that they'll have one) because it's a good way to see their approach to problem solving.
  • A good answer to a StackOverflow question could literally be equivalent to one or two days (or more!) of a consultant's time. You can't get design work done for you for free through GD.SE (training, maybe), but some people try to literally use SO as a free alternative to hiring a consultant.

It's like a sprawling mega-city where no-one has enough time for everything that's going on, and where lots of people are trying to exploit everyone else.

We're like a village where it is possible to keep up with everything that goes on, and most people are basically trying to be nice (in their own, sometimes peculiar way).

We can maintain high standards while relaxing a bit, taking things as they come, and judging things on merit. We don't have to act like overworked city cops enforcing rules rigidly without stopping to think about what's best for the community in each case.

We're better for this than many SE sites, but we do sometimes get a bit overzealous and SO-style rules-lawyer-y.

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    Splendid! Dead on, there.
    – benteh
    Feb 28, 2014 at 18:59
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    Excellent response, communicated perfectly.
    – Dom
    Mar 2, 2014 at 13:09

If I understand you correctly, I would say this is an interesting point you are making. Not sure if it is doable, or how it could be facilitated, but nevertheless an interesting point that should be pondered.

Graphic design are universes more than just making business cards and ads for toothbrushes. I venture the statement: design is the intermediary between information and understanding. It does not matter what information (though toothbrushes are decidedly on the boring side).

Graphic design are in bed, spooning with Art. They are two different individuals but intimately connected. Often, the same people create both art and graphic design, so they can be difficult to differentiate. There is a barrier in me personally, to call some of the stuff i do art. It is not quite graphic design either, but I find it hard to accept it as art. However, technically, objectively, that is what it is (it may not be good art). You will never find me in an art forum.

Personally I would like to see GD go in the direction of less digital-tool-fixation ("tell me how to do this in Photoshop") to a broader view, more ideas, history, methodology. I would love to see more people splattered with paint here; more of the eclectic and slightly obscure. Cartoons, children's books, scientific illustration, data visualisation, book production, doodles, various print-on-demand solutions and objects, charcoal, art prints, fabric design, signage, sketching, reconstructive illustrations, lettering, architectural visuals, DIY bookbinding, placards for protest marches, metal, leather, plastic, weaving, stencils, streetart, graffiti, low-tech photography ... anything, really. More, basically.

My interpretation of how SE should work, is basically like a scientific paper: someone asks a question, you give an answer that you can verify and exemplify, and then you are welcome to disagree with what you might have described previously as best practice. or common solutions. So there is room for personal opinions and reasons for personal opinions. Sheer opinionating, however is rarely useful, interesting or fruitful. The net is full of forums with endless, badly worded dis/agreements with little substance and reasoning.

I would therefore welcome personal opinions on stuff, as long as they are put into context. And that could give a little leeway to purely aesthetic appreciation.

SO, I agree with you there, is a monster in many ways. SO is so run down with thousands of questions every day, parts of the site will inevitably go feral. And there is a fundamental difference in programming versus design. A programming problem have a finite number of solution. Graphic design do not. Or at least; a programming problem have a smaller number of finite solutions that graphic design.

I have briefly popped into some of the other SE sites, and it is clear to me that there are a good deal of topics not at all suited for SE. GD, I believe, have earned the right to its own existence. it is not perfect, I wish for more room to manoeuvre. But I do believe that the community-run model is the best option there is. The day I loose the faith in that, I will find somewhere else to hang out.

The image of the tags that irks you, is the Meta-tags required, and the fact that Meta is limited in tags. It threw me first time, but I think it somehow makes sense: Meta is the place where the site is discussed, and these tags I imagine is very useful for the moderators that operate across the entire Stack exchange site. I think they divide the tags between them. I am more concerned about the willy-nilly tagging in the main site, and choose not to get my knickers in a twist over Meta.

  • Careful with the "less digital tool" comments... I believe that's what started the whole diatribe to begin with. :)
    – Scott
    Feb 22, 2014 at 8:29
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    What annoys me about that pop-out insistence 'At least one of these tags is required. "bug, feature-request, support, discussion."' Only programmers could dare predetermine what is meta for a Graphic Design forum. It's nonsensical, needless and belligerent to future users. And utterly indicative of the attitude and tone of the site as a whole.
    – Confused
    Feb 22, 2014 at 8:35
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    @Confused if you think it would improve our site to remove that feature, you can always make a meta post (and... tag it feature-request). I can only speculate, but I wouldn't count on the developers implementing a change like that for our site, as I don't think they will see it as a huge problem that needs solving. The devs have hundreds of sites to account for when working on the SE platform; there are much more significant areas of improvement that they'd rather be focusing on.
    – JohnB
    Feb 22, 2014 at 12:41
  • If you think that multiple sites would benefit from a change like this, then you're better off discussing it on MSO. Same deal; make a post, tag it as feature-request and required-tags and detail why you think this would be a significant improvement across multiple sites. That way you'll get a broader audience in contrast to our very low traffic meta site for GD.
    – JohnB
    Feb 22, 2014 at 12:44
  • PLEASE look at the meta-nature of the example. It is INDICATIVE of the problem. Not THE problem. THINK MORE BROADLY.
    – Confused
    Feb 22, 2014 at 14:14
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    @Confused english-lit was never my strong suit! Metaphors and analogies aren't a constructive way to point out the problems of our community. Bring specific examples and incidents to the table so that they can be addressed. Act more locally. I do not mean to be intentionally thick-headed; but "meta-nature" examples are not going to get us anywhere. Let's identify the specific problems so that we can improve our community.
    – JohnB
    Feb 22, 2014 at 14:57
  • "Metaphors and analogies aren't a constructive way to point out the problems of our community." Unfortunately Graphic Design is almost entirely metaphorical and analogical, by definition. It's rarely literal. The specific problem is just that... that exactitudes (the nature of SO) don't work for design discussion nearly well enough, and this should be patently obvious.
    – Confused
    Feb 22, 2014 at 15:23
  • @Confused Okay, how can we change that?
    – JohnB
    Feb 22, 2014 at 15:25
  • I'd suggest starting with my first question, to figure out if change is possible. That first question was "Who decided on the moderators and what are their goals?" seems to have been misinterpreted, wholesale. The second part of the question - What are the goals of those that started and initially appointed moderators? If those goals have flex built in, and take consideration of the differences between those that design vs those that develop, then there's at least some room to consider what the possibilities are for adaptation to the realities of graphic design as hobby & profession.
    – Confused
    Feb 22, 2014 at 15:29
  • @Confused okay, I'll try and address that by adding to my answer.
    – JohnB
    Feb 22, 2014 at 15:35
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    Excellent points, @Boblet. I think we are going in the right direction with discussions like "Should we encourage non software-specific questions?", and in general with questions that are more related to design theory, history, or to illustration... even workplace. We are a young site, and I think being in beta doesn't help with our visibility - soon to change!! - but in the meantime the best thing we can do is create original content. We don't need to wait for new users to ask, we can be the ones doing it too.
    – Yisela
    Feb 22, 2014 at 20:26
  • @confused you seem to be railing against the concept of SE as a whole and that you're saying GD doesn't fit into the SE model. That's a fine opinion to have, but I don't know that it's shared by a whole lot of people that just happen to be part of GS.SE. Your complaint about tagging isn't terribly clear, as, after all, it's very much about information cataloging and information design, which certainly is a part of or at least greatly overlaps graphic design.
    – DA01
    Mar 9, 2014 at 6:10
  • make less assumptions, see more clearly.
    – Confused
    Mar 9, 2014 at 10:51

I think it's safe to say that all or most of our high-rep members are here to pay forward to their peers and to newer (and younger... cough) designers still wrapping their wits around the profession. We've been in the trenches, learned a bunch of stuff, and it's time to pass on the hard won know-how.

There were some good points raised here, and I expressed my general view in answer to that question. At the time, I had been a member only a short time, but I still feel the same way now. I spent a year or so pumping the best answers I could into the site, spreading as much encouragement around as I could, and it was fantastic to see GD blossom, in some part as a result of that work.

We aren't, and must never be an elitist group. We neither disparage nor ignore questions that are elementary -- I've experienced many times that what's elementary to me, my dear Watson, can come as a shocking revelation to someone else. I don't, therefore, frown on a question just because it seems too simple.

What we have always objected to, and should, is questions that show a complete lack of effort to find out. These are usually the kind that are answered by a quick click of the Help button, a glance at the top-level menu, or any of the first 50 Google search results on the same question. We don't want those because they are annoying to everyone except the asker, and add nothing of value to the site.

Personally, I think we're doing pretty well. I don't see any evidence of snobbishness on the site, and if our high-rep members keep the tone high, that attitude spreads by example to new folks coming on board. We grow by inclusion, not exclusivity.

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    I would like to comment that I feel like a novice in pretty much everything, and I am pretty active here. I have gained a decent rep in a short time. I do not ask many questions but I do learn from reading. This is what keeps me here. It takes a little time to familiarise oneself with what can be found here, but it is worth the effort. People here, unlike many other SEsites and forums, take the time quite often to give solid, well documented answers. I do not mind the "simple" questions either. To quote Dr. House: Never assume.
    – benteh
    Mar 22, 2014 at 13:17
  • I stick around to share, but I am here more for learning. I do try and make my answers software agnostic (talk about the why rather than the how), which often means I don't get picked :) At least that's the excuse I use for comfort. I actually think novices prefer "ctrl+d" rather than philosophical musings on the old school hand work metaphors behind software paradigms.
    – horatio
    Apr 2, 2014 at 20:00

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