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Seven Design Mistakes to Avoid

October 23, 2012

I’ve been entertaining the idea of writing a post that displays some of my design work from the old days so that I could show my evolution as a designer and provide tips to new graphic designers on what not to do.

Then I reconsidered…I figured that on a website where I’m attempting to sell myself as a graphic designer, it might not be the best idea to showcase substandard graphic design. What if the ugly picture got indexed by the search engines and associated with my name? What if the client I did the work for sees it and sees me bashing what he/she paid me good money to create?  (Although…I do everything I can to either a) dissuade a client from a poor design choice or b) make the best of what I have to work with…)

Instead, I’ll just attempt to laundry list examples that come to mind of thumbs down work…

Overuse and/or goopy-looking use of the blending options in Photoshop

When you’re just learning Photoshop, it’s easy to get excited when you discover all of the built-in effects that are available.  You might apply the effects without being aware of all the settings that can be adjusted to prevent the look of over-beveling, drop shadows that are too thick and dark, a stroke that is too wide, etc.  The “less is more” design principle should always be given some thought when a designer is in the midst of working with the blending options effects in Photoshop.

Poor Font Choices on Websites

Nowadays, there’s no excuse for anyone to launch a new website that includes text written in Arial, Tahoma, Verdana, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, or Georgia (although I might make an exception for Georgia, because it can be pretty when used creatively).  With the wide variety of fonts that are available in web-safe formats, and especially with the availability of Google Fonts, everyone has access to thousands of fonts that will render on your website without needing to be embedded in graphics.

At the moment, my favorite Google Font is “Satisfy,” as you may be able to tell since I’ve used it throughout my website.  I also really like “Varela Round” and wish that it was available in bold, italics, and thin…

Poor Font Choices in Graphics and Logos

If you are at all observant, you know the cliche fonts out there that have been ridden hard.  Zapfino, Papyrus, and Trajan Pro were everywhere.  With the many free fonts websites out there, no one should open a yoga studio and create a logo written in Papyrus.  And no local magazine should use Zapfino as an accent font.  Period.

Oh my goodness – this is incredible.  I just took a minute and googled “logo with papyrus font” and look what I found: http://www.papyruswatch.com.  It is an entire website dedicated to pointing out the overuse of this font!  It says, “Papyrus Watch sets out to document and expose the overuse of the Papyrus font.” Wow, I have seen it all…this is a clever site for sure.

I need to stop and get back to creating the list, but I just found this blog article: http://courtneyrosecs.com/articles/overusedfonts (note as of May 4, 2016 – this blog is no longer live).  The writer’s list of overused fonts is right on the money – Comic Sans, Curlz, Zapfino, Copperplate, Papyrus, and Zapfino.  Couldn’t agree more.

No Regard for Line Spacing

When lines of text have no room to breathe, it hurts your eyes and can detract from the overall quality of the design of a web page, poster, newsletter, etc.  My rule of thumb is that line spacing should be at least 10-15 points or pixels larger than the font size.  So if your font size is 14px, then your line spacing should be 24px at a minimum.

Use of Uncustomized Themes

If you are developing a website and are planning on using a pre-built theme, never assume that you can get away with not customizing the CSS. Some people who deploy websites may think that it is aesthetically acceptable to apply a theme to a website without making adjustments to the cascading style sheet file(s).  It is possible that coincidentally it could not look bad, but in general, a website that uses a generic style sheet looks like a site that uses a generic style sheet.If you are hiring a web designer to design a website for you, make sure that the designer knows CSS, and look at his or her portfolio to ensure that spacing of objects, font sizes, line spacing, navigation menus, hyperlinks, and all other elements on the site have been given close attention.

Use of Lackluster Banners with Un-compelling Text

If you are going to have large banners with featured information, take the time to find some interesting subject matter.  We don’t need to see a panoramic shot of your waiting room.  Are you trying to sell your waiting room or are you trying to sell your service or expertise?  We don’t need to see a picture of your office with the name of your company beneath it.  No, we want to see your office at a cool angle and an engaging tagline to go with it.  Catch our attention!  Convince us to get in touch with you and give you our money!

Use of played-out, unpleasant, or stereotypical color combinations

Based on my research, it is arguable about the exact number of colors there are that exist in the world, but it is fair to say that there are tens of thousands – if not millions – of colors that the human eye can perceive.  Because there are so many choices available, it can be hard to find color combinations that work and that are also inviting.  However, if you are a designer, it’s your job to take the time to find colors that make people stop and say, “Wow, orange is not my favorite color, but I love how it’s used here with this vibrant shade of maroon” – or something along those lines.

If you need inspiration for coming up with interesting color combinations, check out this website: http://madelineweinrib.com.  You might wonder why I’m sending you here, but once you see the interesting color combinations on the fabrics and throw pillows, you’ll understand.

I’m coming down of my soapbox.  Thanks for your attention and comment or write me and let me know what I’ve left off this list!