Diamond Discussions: Everybody’s A Critic

Addressing the production floor, Keith Stewart reviewed the document “DMS Constructive Criticism Guide 2020”. This guide gives step-by-step instructions for reviewing and critiquing artwork created at Diamond Media Solutions and includes terms and definitions as well as helpful web links. 

Using a mail piece designed by another company that was received by an employee at DMS, we went through the steps in the guide to address certain design mistakes and potential improvements to the artwork presented. In contrast, we used a mail piece designed in-house to point out what we do differently in our designs that make our artwork more effective.

You can read all of Keith’s critiquing tips below:

Constructive Criticism Guide


The purpose of advertising is to draw the attention of the viewer as well as invoke an emotional response to the message. Thus, advertising inherently demands scrutiny and judgment by the viewer. In our field, the dynamic between creative and viewer begins long before the final product is released to the public, which gives us unique insight to the creative process and the ability to tweak and change messaging as we see fit. Everyone should embrace this opportunity as a privilege and actively seek criticism and outside opinions in order to grow more knowledgeable and improve on their work. The following is a guideline of how to effectively critique artwork in the context of our industry and advertising.

Constructive Criticism:

  • Take an unfocused view of the piece as a whole:
    • Is the color scheme pleasing to the eye?
    • Does the piece “flow”? (i.e. is there a clear path the eye tracks through the piece?).
    • Is the intended message being conveyed?
    • Is the space being used efficiently? (i.e. is there enough negative space around important information for it to stand out on its own?)
    • What could the designer do to make the piece more effective overall?

  • Focus on type and messaging:
    • Is the most important information correctly prioritized?
    • Are the fonts selected easy to read?
    • Are the correct words bolded while the less important words recede to the background?
    • What could the designer do to make the messaging clearer and more apparent?
    • Is there enough supporting copy or elements that can help reinforce the excitement and tie the design and advertising elements together?

  • Focus on artwork used:
    • Is the artwork of a high quality?
    • Does the artwork work within the context of the messaging?
    • Is there any artwork or element that could be included that is better suited to the theme?

Helpful Terms:

Flow – Path the eye travels throughout the piece

Positive Space – Space within the piece that is occupied by artwork or text

Negative Space – Space that does not include artwork or text

Balance – the relationship between positive and negative space

Clipped – Artwork that includes transparency and does not include a background

Leading – The amount of space between lines of text

Tracking  – The amount of space between each letter in text

Horizontal Scale (for text) – The width of the font

Resolution – How clear the fidelity of the artwork is when scaled up

Scale – the proportionate size of an element in the piece

Effect – Visual styling to text or artwork (i.e. outline, drop shadow, etc.)

Feather – A gradual fade of a piece of artwork

Gradient – A gradual fading from one color to another

Alignment – The even horizontal or vertical relationship between two elements

Typography – The process of selecting and applying appropriate fonts to suit the messaging of the piece

Helpful links:

Color Theory: https://www.colormatters.com/color-and-design/basic-color-theory

Graphic Design Basics: https://99designs.com/blog/tips/graphic-design-basics/

Overview of constructive criticism: https://www.wikihow.com/Critique-Artwork

Keith Stewart is the Creative Director for Diamond Media Solutions.

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