Layout Critique: The Rules

UPDATE: After reading through the comments from my previous post about starting a layout critique, I wanted to make one thing clear:

These rules will only apply to the layouts that I post here in the blog that are specifically marked for layout critique. We will focus on 1 layout per week. Of course these tips can be used when you are commenting on layouts in general, but since it does take time and effort, I think if we focus our efforts the payoff will be greater. If things go well, I can always increase the frequency of posting.

As I said, I will start off by posting one of my own layouts. If you are interested in submitting one of your layouts to be critiqued, please attach it and email to


It's pretty easy to get stuck in a creative rut. I know I've gotten to the point where I know how to do lots of things, and so I do them and the push to learn something new isn't quite as strong. Also, I've always struggled with how to know what I'm missing. There's no big list somewhere: "All the Things Marisa Doesn't Know." Instead I kind of flounder around and hope I stumble across something that's helpful.

I came across this article a while ago in my browsing, and I thought to myself "that's cool." And it was only this afternoon that it occurred to me that we could do the same thing with layouts. Spending a few, focused minutes on what you like and don't like is a great way to boost creativity. Also, I'm hoping to do some research and figure out some useful tips for good design, so that we can double the learning.

I'm going to post the rules here so people can look over them. Please leave any comments with suggestions so that I can finalize them before I put up the first layout. Since it's my idea, I'll be the guinea pig and offer up one of my own layouts first. I'll post it sometime next week once we've got the plan ironed out.

If you'd like to submit a layout, please attach it and email to

The Rules
1. Critiques should be left as a "good feeling sandwich," as in:

  • what you like
  • what can be improved
  • what you like

2. Please be as specific as you can.
Comments such as these are not helpful:

  • I like those colors.
  • I don't like purple.
  • Great photo.

Instead, try specifics:

  • That blue color really pops against the background.
  • The purple you chose seems to clash with the other colors.
  • Using a B&W photo really emphasizes the mood of the layout.

An example comment:

  • I like the how the papers match the clothing in the photo.
  • The layout looks cluttered. There is no central point that draws the eye. Try adding some more empty space to help bring the eye to the focus.
  • The sizes of the elements are realistic and the layout looks like someone's messy desk. Great realism!

I will keep my eye on the comments and any that don't follow these rules will be deleted.

I think this could really help everyone who participates to improve their layouts. Not only will one person get lots of suggestions, but in looking closely at other layouts you'll learn what you like and don't like. Does this sound good to you?


Recent Comments

Cynthia Arnett
Cynthia Arnett Tue, 03/19/2013 - 03:54

Thank you Marisa for starting this. I think it's a great idea. I know for myself that someone else's view is always welcome. I believe the Pixel Scrapper community could be very helpful. I love new ideas.

Marisa Lerin
Marisa Lerin Fri, 03/01/2013 - 22:37
Melissa Bechtloff
Melissa Bechtloff Fri, 03/01/2013 - 05:50

It definitely sounds like a good idea ... I'm always looking for feedback.

Lou Anne Hazel
Lou Anne Hazel Fri, 03/01/2013 - 00:22

I think that it's helpful to provide a structure for feedback. I'm wondering if this would apply to every layout we post or just layouts in a specific section. I think it's valuable to allow people to give unstructured, spontaneous comments too.

Keisha Dawson
Keisha Dawson Thu, 02/28/2013 - 16:52

I love getting feedback. I think this is a great idea!

Heather Johannessen
Heather Johannessen Thu, 02/28/2013 - 16:24

I really like this. It is hard to always just say I like this or not but I think it is nice to hear what other people see because I can only see what is in my mind. Wait, that doesn't really make sense but I think you guys know what I mean. LOL! :)

Cindy McWilliams
Cindy McWilliams Thu, 02/28/2013 - 15:21

All of this sounds great to me! I agree with Trine, it's so nice to come here every day and leave having learned something new! Thank you.

One question, what is going to inspire members to comment? It seems there is not a lot of commenting on layouts, not only here but at most scrapbooking sites. You'll notice at other sites only the moderators faithfully commenting on layouts.

Trine Secher
Trine Secher Thu, 02/28/2013 - 13:49

I LOVE that you never stop educating us! That is exactly what makes this site stand out from the crowd. Every time I come here (read: every day) I go away a little wiser, a little inspired and a lot richer. Your comment rules are wonderful. I think we have all experienced loads of comments - kind and cruel alike - that could bring us no further in any direction. I look forward to reading comments from now on :)


Sunny Faith Rush
Sunny Faith Rush Thu, 02/28/2013 - 12:26

Sounds like a very helpful and educational activity - both for the designer and the audience.

Melo Vrijhof
Melo Vrijhof Thu, 02/28/2013 - 11:19

What a great idea! I joined a model drawing/art group a couple of years ago where I learned a lot from the teacher walking around giving instructions, but I learned the most from the few minutes at the end of art class, where everyone turned their work towards each other and we would critique each others drawings (in a good way). It makes you look at your own work with another view, and it makes you discover what exactly strikes you in the work of others. I noticed I would incorporate what I liked in someone else's work in the next class, and that the pitfalls of drawing human anatomy were easier to handle because you saw and learned from the same mistakes being made by others.

Brandi White
Brandi White Thu, 02/28/2013 - 10:22

I like this idea. My layouts ALL look the same. Some ideas would be great!

Emily Silverman
Emily Silverman Thu, 02/28/2013 - 10:14

I was going to say, even before I saw the link, that it sounded a lot like what they did at Click it up a Notch. It's a great idea. I know we all get in ruts, and it's really hard to know what you don't know.

Nancy Vigil
Nancy Vigil Thu, 02/28/2013 - 09:42

I like that. This way if we post a layout then people will say what is good or not, is that right?
By seeing people's comments we will know what to improve or do away with.
Will this be used for contests or for layouts in general?

Harriett Humphries
Harriett Humphries Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:52

This should be a very helpful, growth experience, especially with a group such as this. All the comments I've read have been supportive and kind. Thank you, Marisa. I'm continually impressed at how much time and effort both you and Jordan invest in this site.

Kristen Hess
Kristen Hess Thu, 02/28/2013 - 08:46

I love this idea! Sometimes it is so helpful to get a fresh "outside eye" when you've been staring at the same page so long you just can't see it anymore. It also helps my own creativity to really analyze why I like or don't like someone else's work. And of course, keeping it all kind and happy is the way to go!

Elizabeth Minkus
Elizabeth Minkus Thu, 02/28/2013 - 06:38

this is a good idea and i believe you've grown a safe community where this can be accomplished. it might help folks to remember to focus on the art of the LO and being careful not to critique the style of the LO. comments on the art can be very helpful, but everyone has different tastes in style. kindness goes a long way and is never wasted :)