The story is in, photos are on your page and you're ready to get started. Before moving your mouse, you take a deep breath and ask yourself, "Self, what can I do differently today?" And thus begins your creative process to design outside the box.

Ask any designer if he or she would like to improve design skills and the response will likely be a resounding YES. Yet, most designers get little or no feedback about their work which can put a kibosh on personal growth and skill development.

Most newsrooms are short on staff and time, but there's one resource at newspapers that's never in short supply: opinions.

Have a design you're working on but you're unsure as to if will get a passing grade by your editor? Get a second opinion from a colleague. Don't exclude people from other departments. Sometimes a copy editor, reporter or photographer will have an idea that may not have occurred to you.

If time is an issue, ask them to comment only on the centerpiece. Ask what they like the way the headline works with the main photo. Find out if they think there's too much white space, or not enough. You can control the time it takes for this quick critique by asking them to focus their attention to a particular part of your page.

One thing to stress here is that you seek the HONEST opinions of others BEFORE your page goes to press. I emphasize honesty because you don't want to ask for feedback from someone who isn't afraid to call it like they see it. I stress feedback before publication because you can't improve the page after it prints.

In short, if your newsroom lacks formal design critiques, get feedback from others around you. It's a sure-fire way to hone your design skill.

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