Most artists are taught very early on that if you want to create something and make it look convincing at all, then you need reference material. Doesn't matter if it's stylized, or in general isn't supposed to be photo-realistic you really should get some reference material. It is however, I feel it's something that doesn't get said to Designers often enough. Typically as a designer your job is to ensure that the gameplay always functions the way that we intend it. So when we whitebox a level we're building it specifically with the gameplay in mind. Every object you place in that scene should be structurally significant. For this, you can take some artistic liberties with the area you're creating but if want to create something you can truly call professional it should still be believable. Function trumps form but that doesn't mean that form isn't important. Assets should always be placed throughout a level thoughtfully and in a manner that doesn't make the player question why X-object is in Y-position or even why X-object is even there at all.
So it's not exactly a secret that I'm crazy excited for The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. Seeing all the reviews start to come out is exciting, though I'm carefully avoiding any of the actual content of those reviews and just looking at scores. Which all rock by the way, it's getting very high 9s and even 10s. Normally though I would say that the scores are the least important part of the reviews. You want to find out WHY the game the game is good and not some arbitrary score it's assigned. In fact, it's important to note that when you're looking for a job as a designer and they ask you for your opinion of a game they are looking for why you think what you do rather than what you think. Telling them "the game is good" is useless.