I've been meaning to look at the other angle of @mincst's whole "posting mockups takes away the element of surprise, which is essential in the game" thing, since I've been feeling like I kinda gave other people starting out a crutch to justify their use of templates with.Haha I forgot I even posted about that. Maybe I should have put less chronic in that Aunt Jamima pancake mix...
I'm not really good with words, so let's just go in:
In my opinion, you should never fully rely on templates. I use them because I have no circle of people who I can trust to give honest advice. Downside of where I live, not many people are interested in the whole game. @Mincst appears to have a good circle he can preview pieces to, so he shouldn't be posting mockups to the mass public. in order to preserve the surprise factor. I really don't like to, either, which is why I've been trying to fix the situation.
The whole point being, you shouldn't rely on them. These should only be used as preview material inside your circle of friends and family who aren't going to BS you on a design. If you haven't got anybody like that, find some.
Hope I made sense with all this. Like I said, I'm not good putting ideas down on paper or keyboard/monitor.
But I get where your coming from dude. Not everyone has other people that they can rely on for 'real' design advice. That being said, this is how I look at it:
Think of your favorite brands, whomever they may be - I'm talking about those brands that really influenced you to start your own brand. Do you think that they ever posted mockup templates online for the world to see? Do you think they ever asked you if you thought their designs suck? I sure as hell know that my influences didn't. Those influential brands gain my respect because they consistently put out great pieces and keep me at the edge of my seat EVERY release. And you know what? Not everyone loves their shit - but THEY love their shit. Thats what matters.
My philosophy is, if your not confident with your design aesthetic, don't start a brand. Wait and develop your skills and confidence, then start a brand.