Graphic Design Mistakes

We've all heard it before, the person who claims to be a graphic designer because they know photoshop. Or how about the small business owner who creates his own website to save on costs. Maybe you know someone who printed their own business cards off a graphic design template they downloaded online. Anybody who wishes to call themselves a graphic designer these days can, they just have to buy a computer, the latest Adobe Creative Suite and give themselves the title. Does that mean they are a good graphic designer? Without any training, probably not. It doesn't mean they can't be good over time, but graphic design is an art form that communicates an idea or a thought with visual clarity. It is a skill. A hard skill to master. Sure, it's a skill that can be learned.

These Common Mistakes Should Be Avoided

Too Much Stuff - Poor design is usually cluttered design. Good graphic design communicates in a clear manner, and when there is so much stuff on the paper (or screen for websites) then the message gets lost. It's one of the most common mistakes, to keep piling on elements to the design that aren't necessary. One of the best tips I ever got was to strip away everything that isn't necessary to the message and that is usually the most effective design.

Bad Type - Graphic design is so much more than just pretty pictures. One of the most important, if not the most important, piece of graphic design is typography. A huge mistake graphic designers make is poor font choices and poor type layout. Typography is not just picking a nice font either. It's the relationship of the characters to each other, to the design piece, and to the message. The shape of the font, the size of the type, the color, all these things fall under the typography category and make or break your design. Study up on typography and try not to use too many different fonts in one design. One or two fonts is usually plenty, (sometimes three). I try to keep them clean and in relation to the design.

Effects - Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign and QuarkXPress all have pre-set effects in the program. Some are nice, some or not so nice. Using a bunch of them together usually results in disaster. There is a time and place for drop shadows, and even glows, but most of the other effects look pretty cheesy.

Trendy - The best graphic design transcends time. Take a look at the work of Paul Rand, , his designs from the 1950's, 60's, 70's and 80's still look great today. Trendy design for the sake of trendiness is not good design. Unless you require a trend in your graphic design try to communicate with good design principles and your own creativity instead.

While working with these common mistakes in mind you'll be able to further enhance your graphic design skills.

Photo credits: Michael Ludwig.

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Great advice. Well written also. Thanks


I think you should follow this with a related tip about dealing with clients and how to draw some lines between what they want to add to the design and what graphic design principles state,
You see, here in Egypt most clients have really really bad artistic taste and they think of them selfs as brilliant designers so they won't listen to you and you end up with a design that you hate completely.


Nice comments and like everything in life we are always learning something new.


Yup, I spent 10 years in an office as a glorified designer and I've learned more freelancing then I ever did by doing exactly what the client wanted. ;) There are only a few pieces from the mid 90s that I can still look at in my portfolio and go "That was good design." I still consider my work 'in progress' because the more I learn the more I don't know. *l* It's a fun wheel that expands my horizons every day.


All said, nice post i am a a graphic artist myself.


During my carrer with photography, I have found how many photographers think they can be a good graphic. But it isnĀ“t "automatical", I will keep my photographing as graphic can esp. with typography made my images still more valuable - a good graphic. :-) Thanks for a very interesting blog, I enjoy it!


I've got more harvest from it!


Just right. Thanks!


nice tips, cheers!


I agree with you thump up for the post...
Cheers :)


Very good post! Thanks!!


Oh Richard, I think I need to print the first paragraph and stick in my office. Due to recession company has fired designers and now everybody is designer. So this piece of blog might help.

BTW as usual a great piece of information even to seasoned designers. And thanks for the share

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