We’ve got quite a few novice graphic designers reading our blog to avoid making some of the most common graphic design mistakes.
Being in the business as we are, we are well aware of some of the graphic design sins that should not ever be committed. Still, we find that many companies advertise themselves with material that has some of the worst graphic design mistakes in them.
If you’re a novice graphic designer, we’ve put together this list of design mistakes to avoid for when you’re working with clients.
Fonts and text
1: Using words instead of visuals
The reason why the saying ‘a picture says a thousand words’ is so popular is that it’s true. You often only have a split-second to capture the attention of the audience, and nothing is more off-putting than a wall of text.
2: Poor readability
Limit the number of words you use when you do have to use text on your designs. The ideal length for text is around 50 characters per sentence. Your audience will start losing interest if it is any longer than that.
3: Bad kerning
Kerning might be something you should pay attention to depending on which font you are using. Kerning is the term used for space in between characters. Specific fonts have the style very close together, which makes the text hard to read.
4: Bad line spacing
Line spacing is every bit as important to pay attention to as kerning. If there is not enough space between the lines of text, it will not matter if the kerning is perfect. Having the lines too close together makes the text harder to read.
5: Bad placement or background
It is important to consider placement and visibility when including text in your designs. The text will be difficult to decipher if it’s placed on a background with too similar a contrast. Make sure also to position the text, so it catches the eye.
6: Wrong choice of fonts
The fonts you pick for your design should match the general mood you’re trying to create and message you’re trying to convey. Don’t use a graffiti font to advertise a high-end brand unless that is the specific image of the client’s company.
7: Mismatching fonts
Combining fonts to create contrast is excellent — make sure they match. The font used for a piece of text says as much about the general sentiment as the content of the text. Match fonts to highlight specific parts of the text without distracting the reader.
8: Too many fonts
It is good to limit yourself to two (or max three) fonts for a piece. Too many fonts will become confusing and look like a disorganized mess of a design.
9: Bad spelling and grammar
That is an important point. Nothing screams lack of professionalism than lousy spelling and grammar. Not paying attention to this signals that you either don’t understand the language you’re writing in or haven’t bothered to make sure everything spells correctly. The result will reflect poorly on both you and your client. Grammarly is a great (and free!) tool to ensure that you don’t make this mistake.
Images and visuals
10: Using stock images
You might want to reconsider using stock images depending on what kind of design you are working on. Using stock images can come across as cheap since many of the most popular stock images have been used many times over.
11: Picking the wrong colors
Colors are a crucial element in graphic design — even if it includes a lack of color. Choosing the right color scheme will set the mood for your design. You have probably noticed that travel adverts will use warm colors to signify comfort, while adverts for technological gadgets will use cool colors to mean, well, coolness.
12: Lack of negative space
Negative space is not a lack of space. It refers to more area around the objects you want to draw attention. The critical text or visuals will get lost in the crowd if there is not enough negative space around them. Google is a perfect example of a website that utilizes negative space around the search engine itself.
13: Arbitrary placement
Make sure that everything is aligned properly if you are going for a symmetrical (or at least partially symmetrical) design. Photoshop will signal when objects are in alignment when you drag them around the screen.
14: Being too symmetrical
Symmetry looks neat, but it is not always the most efficient way to capture the attention of people. Having a balanced poster with an object on one side creates an imbalance that draws people’s gaze towards it.
15: Lack of contrast
As with symmetry, or lack thereof, variation is best used to highlight specific areas of your design. Not using contrasts correctly will result in your design screaming amateur hour. Impress your clients by using contrasts efficiently.
16: Not scaling properly
Scaling is another handy tool used by graphic designers to highlight one area of their design over another. If you’re designing a brochure comparing one product to another, you can use larger text for the product you find to be superior.
17: Ignoring visual hierarchy rules
Understanding the visual hierarchy is essential to mastering graphic design and getting your message across. The reason why titles are more significant than the body of a text is that it is necessary. Readers will read the title, and frame the rest of the text around that. Similarly, ensure that the most important images are the largest ones in your design.
18: Using raster images
Anyone who has attempted to enlarge an image in Photoshop will eventually have come across pixelation. The reason why images become pixelated as you scale them up is that they are raster images. Vector images, on the other hand, still look crisp and sharp no matter what size they are. Ensure that you work in vectors as much as possible — it makes life easier!
19: Not designing for the medium
Graphic designers are used for all manners of projects. Some are designing signs; some are designing car wraps, some are designing trade show displays. It is crucial to keep the medium you’re creating for in mind during the process. Make sure you leave enough bleed (space) if you’re designing a book cover or flyer.
20: Lacking consistency
Consistency is essential when you’re designing books, brochures, calendars, and other materials with more than one page. The themes, visuals, and fonts need to be consistent throughout the entire marketing material. At the same time, it is important not to make everything too similar. Otherwise, it will just be boring.
21: Lacking creativity
That is a big no-no for creative people like graphic designers. You have most likely been hired because of your creative out-of-the-box thinking skills. Staying in the box is therefore counterproductive. First of all, you don’t set yourself or your client apart by sticking to tried and tested ideas. Secondly, you don’t grow as a creative by doing what you’ve always done.
While it is essential to think outside the box, it is equally important not to overthink things. Overthinking is the enemy of creativity. It is by doing this that your inner censor appears to tell you that nothing is good enough. Don’t be afraid to let the ideas flow and put down whatever comes to mind. It is much easier to cut out all the fluff after you’ve had a good brainstorming session.
We are all inspired by things and people around us, but there is a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism. Great artists steal, but stealing too much will land you in hot water. If you are basing your work off of someone else’s work, try using multiple sources. Mixing several different sources of inspiration often produces fantastic results.
24: Forgetting the client
Many graphic designers get so carried away with their work that they sometimes forget who they are working. Your client will most likely have given you a brief and will have aims that they hope to achieve with the work you deliver. Keep in mind what the design is supposed to accomplish for the client when working on it.
25: Not following instructions
Not following the instructions provided by the client produces the same results as forgetting who you’re designing. The client will most likely not be happy with the work and will ask you to redo it. Don’t be afraid to ask the client in case there is something you haven’t understood. They will appreciate you being meticulous.
26: Bad communication
Staying in touch with your client is always important. Don’t inundate them with messages about every little thing you do. A short note updating them on your progress will do just fine. Let them know if there are any unexpected hiccups. Also, let them know if you’ve come up with a radically different idea for the work that you want the green light.
27: Promising too much
It can sometimes be stressful to find clients as a graphic designer. It is therefore easy to become too enthusiastic once you’ve managed to secure one. Although you want to impress the client, it is also important not to oversell your capabilities. If the project has a tight deadline you’re not sure you can meet — don’t promise you can. Instead, tell them why it will take longer, and propose a contingency plan.