To me, what seems to be the most important aspect that students from the spring semester’s class discussed is keeping the audience as well as the story in mind. Several different students mentioned how whom you’re designing for, as well as what you’re telling makes all the difference in how you approach your storytelling through design.
While I don’t believe anyone used these exact words I believe that many people stated the concept that “less is more,” discussing how they learned further into the course that what they originally thought as “designy” or “pretty” was actually distracting from the overall story and design. Instead of complementing their story these “extra design elements” only inhibited the audience.
A few other elements that several students mentioned as important were the use and understanding of color, access to good photos (and knowing a good photo when you saw one), and the ability to do typography well.
Lastly, many people mentioned this and I completely agree, you shouldn’t be married to your work. Good design and mastery of a skill takes time and one should be open to critique, feedback, and revision because that is how a good design becomes a great one.