6 Common Mistakes in Graphic Design

Graphic designers have to be very detail oriented and often are required to wear more than one hat at a time. This can lead to simple mistakes and oversights. Here are some common graphic design mistakes and how to avoid them.

Not Breaking Out of the Box

“Thinking out of the box” is one thing, designing outside of it is another. Too often, designers constrain themselves to rectangular frames. As a result, their layouts feel flat, predictable, and boring. Given a series of photos to use as assets, many designers immediately start creating rectangular or square frames for them, rather than being creative and finding different ways to incorporate them.

There are several ways to get creative with your layouts, including the use of clipping paths to combine photos with typography and truly make them part of the design, instead of an afterthought or inconvenience. Designers need to allow themselves the freedom to be creative, and sometimes that means stepping away from the project. Get away from the desk or cubicle and take a moment to discover some real world inspiration!

Spell Checking and Not Paying Attention to Details

Being detail-oriented is extremely important as a designer, especially if you’re dealing with print work. If you make a mistake on a website, it is usually not a catastrophe since things can be corrected in real-time. But once something goes to print, mistakes are costly and usually one can’t be corrected (other than reprinting).

Imagine getting the company phone number wrong in a billboard or a nationwide print ad, that kind of mistake can cost the company a considerable amount of money and will likely cost you the job. If you’re a freelancer these kinds of mistake can lead to lawsuits. Measure twice, cut once. When working on your projects be sure you are performing a spell check, have someone else proof read your work, and check for any potential mistakes before sending off your final files.

Knowing the Right Tool for the Right Job

Often designers become overly dependent on the tool they are most comfortable with, particularly Adobe Photoshop. While Photoshop is one of the most powerful tools available to designers, it is not always the best tool for the job at hand.

When working on projects with a large concentration on typography or on logo design projects, Adobe Illustrator is a much more powerful and versatile tool. Some designers avoid using it for logo design because they are uncomfortable with it despite the advantages it offers such as scalable sharp vector graphics for logos (instead of pixelated raster graphics).

Not Showing Clients Work in Progress

Communication with clients is a challenge for many graphic designers. Following up with clients and keeping them updated on the process is very important and often makes the difference between getting repeat business from them or seeing them go elsewhere. Clients like to be involved and it reduces their anxiety. Designers like to be isolated and focus on their work, since that reduces their anxiety. Ultimately you have to be willing to meet in the middle.

This is why it is important to set deadlines and milestones so that the client knows when in the process they can expect to see some results, even if it is not the finished work. This also means designers don’t have to feel that they put hours of labor in only to be told at the last minute that things need to change or something is wrong.

Avoiding Templates in Favor of Originality

Originality and creativity are important, but it is equally important to remember the difference between “art” and “design.” If you were an artist, doing unoriginal work or basing your work on something else is unacceptable, in design it is often absolutely necessary. If you work as an in-house graphic designer the most efficient way to work is to focus on production and the process.

It will be very rare that as an in-house designer you will need to create a stunning piece of clever design work. Typically you will be overloaded with repetitive tasks on short notice. By using templates, whether purchased or created by yourself, you can save time and maximize your productivity. Productivity and versatility are the things in-house designers is graded on the most rather than their creative skills. Using a template to get the work delivered early, with time for revisions is better than being original and late.

Not Staying Organized

A cluttered workspace and lack of structure tends to make starting (and completing) projects very difficult. When designers keep things clean and organized they find it easier to work. Imagine not having a blank canvas and being told to draw over the scribbles. It would be painfully difficult to see where you work begins and ends.

Keep your work area and your computer desktop clean and organized. Create naming conventions for your files and try to keep them uncluttered. Label your layers appropriately in programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to save time and guess work for yourself or anyone who needs to open the file later. You’ll find that this makes your design work flow much easier and with less stress from day to day.

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Posted on: November 14, 2014

Roberto Blake

Roberto Blake is a Graphic Designer helping Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses improve their branding and presentations. Roberto also teaches Graphic Design and Adobe Tutorials through his YouTube channel and community. Roberto's Photoshop artwork has been featured in publications such as Advanced Photoshop and Photoshop Creative Magazine. See robertoblake.com

6 Comments on 6 Common Mistakes in Graphic Design

  1. “… that kind of mistake can cost the company a considerably amount of money…” in a section about spelling/ detail?

  2. Thank you for catching that Robin we missed it. The beauty of digital media is that we can fix one typo in a 1,000 word article in seconds once a mistake is caught. You will find that not matter how detailed you think you are or how many pairs of eye’s look something over, mistakes do happen. I’ve yet to read a major trade publication without a typo. Thanks for reading!

  3. LOL”You will find that “NOT” matter how detailed you think you are or how many pairs of “eye’s . . .” 

  4. Some people are just Grammar Nazi’s. I enjoyed the article and found it refreshing. I’ve been in the print industry for 36 years and have had to move over to digital. I have to say there is a lot less anxiety about mistakes going to the screen than going to the printers.

  5. Being required to use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling is not being persecuted. (…just Grammar Nazi’s”) It is absurd to argue that incorrect use of language and incorrect spelling is acceptalbe. By the way, in your sentence,”Grammar” should not have been capitalized, and “Nazi’s” is plural, not posessive, so the apostrophe is incorrect.

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