8 Bad Graphic Design Mistakes You DON’T Want To Make

Meta: Don’t ruin your client’s business! Read our list of 8 bad graphic design mistakes to avoid so you can boost your client’s business, not destroy it. 

Nothing stands out more than a glaring design fail. A company’s success can rise and fall on the visual branding done by its hired graphic designers. In a fast-paced business world, one mistake can make an entire campaign implode. 

Companies want to have faith their graphic designers know how to prevent a crisis. If you want to be an effective designer, studying our top eight bad graphic design mistakes is a good place to continue your development.  

Good Design is Good Business

But why is design so crucial for businesses? For a long time, companies focused on creating new products. A convincing salesperson could help any prospective customer see the value in the product. Bothering with visuals that require artistic and technological competence wasn’t a great use of time.

That may have been true before the era of the computer and the internet. Today, over 5 billion people have mobile devices, half of which are smartphones. Hour by hour, users of these devices get content from social media apps, emails, TV shows, films, podcasts, and every website they visit. Ads are everywhere, and competition is stiff.

If a company does not have an online presence, it becomes difficult to grow. So, it’s imperative to have good design built into your website, your product packaging, and on any interface where your company shows up. 

The 8 Bad Graphic Design Mistakes You DON’T Want to Make

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Everyone enjoys a good rundown of some hilarious bad graphic design mistakes. But when it’s you they’re laughing at, things get serious. To avoid these mishaps, we’ll take a look at some of the industry’s worst mistakes. 

Missing the Message

The most important aspect of good graphic design is communicating your brand’s message. Companies are investing enormous amounts of money to do one thing: stand out among the competition. But a bad design mistake can make your company stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Many designers want their work to stand out, and they take unnecessary creative risks that highlight their work but diminish or obscure the product. Sometimes the immense task of putting together a campaign shifts the focus onto some aspect of a product that isn’t important.

Even a solid design with great fonts, composition, use of white space, and a slight edge to catch the consumer’s eye can fail, in the end, at conveying the purpose of the product. The last thing you want to do when providing a service is to provide the opposite.

How to Avoid Missing the Message

Get to know your product intimately. Study all the available customer feedback on similar campaigns or ads. Take time to grasp your company’s vision for its products. And finally, get lots of feedback from coworkers you trust. Do they notice any hidden second meanings? On first glance, what do they think is the message? Is it clear or confusing?

Being on point about the message is key in highlighting your client and their product. Stay focused!

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Under-using Your Tools

Professional agencies often employ state-of-the-art equipment to empower their designers to make the best with the best. Taking the time to get to know these tools can give you the edge and efficiency to provide quality work for your client.

But one of the biggest mistakes many graphic designers make is skipping out on all the great features of these tools. As with anything new, it takes time to get familiar with how they work. Hardware like calibrators and hard drives help streamline your creative process and storing your files. But the money spent on big-budget tools is only worth it if you learn to use them!

The constant innovation in software allows for daily updates and fixes on your tools. Failing to fully familiarize yourself with major design software suites like Adobe’s Creative Cloud won’t help you or your clients get the job done.   

How to Optimize Your Tools

Most developers of these tools provide free help and services online. You can even get certified for certain industry-standard software, which helps your work and your resume. Ask more seasoned coworkers how they make the best of their tech. Just like you learned when you were a kid: there are no dumb questions! Especially when it makes all the difference to your client. 

Only Following Trends (Or Being Out of Touch)

Kids grow up calling each other “poser” because they know when they’re just imitating someone else to be cool. Kids can be cruel! Because everyone copies someone else whether they mean to or not. 

Imitation is one of the best ways to learn. You can study the masters to get a painting, a golf swing, or a dance move down just right. Anyone who does not take advantage of the masters in their field is doing themselves a disservice. But imitation can go too far.

If you’re trying to make a name for yourself, you have to do something original or unique. Everything is influenced by something else, but originality takes that one step forward and creates something new. People love novelty! What they’ve never seen before catches their eye, and they get curious. 

Any graphic designer must stay aware of what is trending in design: fonts, colors, symbols, and patterns. But this isn’t to copy the trends: it’s to build something even better off of them. 

How to Avoid Being Trendy

You can’t avoid appearing “trendy” without being aware of what is trending. So, follow all the best agencies on your social media, expose yourself to the best design blogs, and discuss great ideas with friends and coworkers. 

And when you’re working, design with all of these trends in mind, and find a way to be different. Here’s where your creativity can really shine.

Exaggerating the Importance of Fonts

The sheer number of fonts could fill an entire University department with academics committed entirely to cataloging them! An entry-level designer may ask, “Who around here is the designated fontist?” And while font is fascinating in all of its minute complexity, it can bog down the creative process.

To begin, design seeks to clarify, not obscure, which means your font should help with that. Fonts are very rarely the factor that pushes the envelope in your campaign. If anything, the cleaner the font is, the better.

One trap a designer can fall into is focusing on choosing some crazy, unique font. Time-consuming and probably useless, such a pursuit leads nowhere. The key lesson to learn here is that if there is one area to be conservative in your design, it is in your typeface.

How to Avoid Font Issues

You can avoid bad fonts by studying the most classic, best-used fonts. Get to know your serifs, sans serifs, scripts, and old style fonts. Consult experienced designers for best practices. Above all, don’t get wild. Stay calm: go with Garamond. 

Bad Composition and Spacing

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Design is truly an art. If you don’t have the patience to study what works, you’ll likely disappoint your clients and become a liability to your company. It’s in your best interest to learn all that you can about composition.

The composition is the fun part of putting all the pieces together. But it is never just a toss-up! Precise, pixel-level placement is essential for producing a stand-out design. It’s so specific that you have two separate terms for spacing between letters: kerning, which is the space between a pair of characters; and tracking, which is the space between all the letters of your font. 

But too many designers get lazy. You may work your butt off developing some amazing texture on a complex grid, and when the time comes around to compose all your pieces into one view, you get sloppy. But careless mistakes like this, even when each part is done perfectly, can lead to a catastrophic result. 

How to Avoid Composition Mistakes

Always begin with the rule of thirds! This is basic in all composition. Utilize gridlines and measure the exact proportions and distances between parts. Naturally pleasing proportions like the Golden Ratio help tap into the right design dimensions that appeal subconsciously to the human mind.

The last thing you should always do is get feedback from your coworkers. Have them examine your work and confirm there’s nothing strange or confusing about the composition. 

Formatting Work Incorrectly

One secret of the trade is formatting correctly. Newbie designers can spend a lot of time working in the wrong format! 

You can’t just do the same thing every time. Different interfaces and user experiences require distinct formats. Most of the time, you’ll need your work to translate to different web or mobile platforms, while also needing them to be interactive if needed. 

Nothing discredits a company or product more than when a webpage freezes up, or one of its buttons or features is faulty. 

How to Avoid Incorrect Formatting

Be diligent and test out your work on every possible platform or interface. Find out from your client or boss the destinations for your work so no gaps arise in your campaign.

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Overdesigning

Often, the temptation with graphic design is to try to do too much. You want to express yourself, you want to include every cool idea you brainstormed, and you think the net result is going to be one great symphonic piece of glorious visual splendor! Wrong.

There is such a thing as “white space.” The adage “less is more” is hardly ever more true than with design. Again, design’s primary task is to deliver a simple, clear message, and your design should reflect that.

Imagine if all you saw on a sign advertising a restaurant were small thumbnail images of each of the entrees offered there. It’d be too busy. Yes, it would showcase their main product–but with little or no impact. Instead, you could pick one of their best-loved dinners (based on solid knowledge of customer feedback!) and interpret it into a simple, sleek design. 

Having lots of ideas gives you lots of options. The hard part is trimming it down to the best one. You are doing your client a favor by sticking to only the best design: no more, no less. 

How to Avoid Making a Design Mess

Get used to saying no to some of your best ideas. The whole reason for brainstorming is to find that one jewel in a pile of sand. Get outside feedback from people whose aesthetic you trust. Is this too busy? Are there too many elements that distract from the overall message? And, as always, keep your client in mind: this is not for you, it’s for them. 

Miscommunicating with the Client

Our last and perhaps most significant mistake a designer can make is about communication. You can have every duck lined up in a row, but if it’s not what your client told you, it’ll get sent back–and it may even lose you a client.

Front-load all your time to this one goal: fully, 100% comprehend their expectations and directions. They are paying you for your creativity, yes, but your creativity must thrive on specific, concrete guidelines. Save your abstract absurdist art for your private studio at home. You must be on target with your client!

How to Avoid a Communication Fail

Don’t underestimate face-to-face communication. Emails and texts may be convenient, but they are notorious for creating disputes through vague implications and passive-aggressive tones. 

Also, seeing someone’s face typically helps us remember they are human, that we like them (maybe!), and that they deserve respect. Double- and triple-check your directives so you don’t miss a crucial detail. If an issue comes up, have your account manager give them a call so you can get to the bottom of it quickly. 

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In Review

Your efforts as a designer can mean the difference between profitability and solvency for a business! It’s best to keep that in mind as you work. If you avoid these eight bad graphic design mistakes, you’ll secure your chances for keeping your clients!

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