In this article we will be talking about the top ten ways that graphic designers can often make amateur mistakes and the best ways to combat and rectify these bad habits to hopefully lead to better and more thought out solutions for your clients. But don't worry if you're no amateur, even you experienced designers can take some graphic design tips and tricks that you may have forgotten about over the years or even just a refresh of those old techniques that got you to where you are today!
Straight to digital
There are many key benefits to sketching out your design concepts before jumping into the realm of digital design. One of the key reasons being the rate at which you can develop and get ideas down onto paper much more quickly than you could with a mouse and keyboard (unless you're using a graphic tablet of course). You can also play around with the layout of your design by sketching many different thumbnail versions to see which one is a potential contender, this help as thumbnails are generally drawn side by side which makes comparing them so much easier.
Sketching is also a great reference point for you to show your clients, you can give them an idea of what processes and ideas you went through to finally solve their graphic design problem. Once you have mastered this initial step in the design process you will find refining these ideas to produce a final product becomes much easier and far less time consuming.
Too Many Fonts
Let's just get something straight before we being, there are no rules when it comes to how many fonts you can use when it comes to graphic or web design, it all comes down to your preferences and what you think the design needs, but be weary.... be very weary.
Generally a lot of designers will tell you that two fonts really should be enough, as the old saying goes... three's a crowd. This is generally because even though two fonts doesn't sound like a lot, once you take into consideration all of the weights you can use, bolding and using italics, you really do have a good variety and a good selection to choose from. Now I know I said three's a crowd and in most cases it is but if done with the greatest of care and consideration you can make three fonts work uniformly, It can just be a bit more tricky.
Why does it matter you ask? Well when designing typographic elements for any type of design you will find that some of your content will have more importance than others, limiting the number of fonts will make it much easier for you to separate this content and give the important text more prominence which will also create a far more visually appealing design rather than a mashup of all of your favorite fonts.
no white space
White space should be considered it's own element in design, it is as important as the size and weight of your header fonts or the contrast and brightness of your primary colors, without white space we would live in an extremely tight and suffocating world of fonts and colors with no room to breathe. Ok this may all seem a little bit dramatic but it's pretty much that bad.
The reason white space or negative space is so important is because it will be the separation between all of the elements in your design, it doesn't matter what you are designing for whether it be web or print white space is vital for successful design.
This separation means that you can use the power of negative space to draw attention to chosen elements of you work. Space can make element and typography feel larger and stand out over other design elements.
Finally Empty space also has It's own style of design, openness helps to create a feeling of stylishness and grace. It can give a product a premium and lush feeling. So used correctly and in the right context, negative space will be something you can rely on to enhance your design work whatever it may be.
Knowing when to stop, over-designing
Over designing is something that faces all graphic and web designers at some point. The pursuit of perfection can lead us down a dark and dangerous road of cluttered design, wasted time and inevitable the reversal of too much design.
It is incredibly difficult to know when a piece of design work is complete, in fact It's almost impossible but it is something you can become experienced at. Generally over designing will be the implementation of far too complex elements than are unnecessary to solve the problem at hand. This may involve adding drop shadows to header texts, changing color for gradients and a multitude of things that could potentially be completely irrelevant to the problem. You have to ask yourself why, why am I adding this shape, why am I enhancing this text, why am I doing anything. If the only really is pure to create a more complex and "interesting" aesthetic, then stop and take a sped back because designing for design's sake is not solving a problem, It's showing off, and people can see right through it.
Think about what you are doing all the way through your design process. continually ask yourself question as to why you are doing what you are and you will find that you will come to a much more conclusive end product rather than if you mindlessly incorporate assets and elements to your design for the sake of it.
Not having a check list
Let's keep this on short and sweet, It's very simple, if you don't have a checklist things can and will get missed when your design comes to production. Here's a short list of things to keep in mind.
Is everything spell checked?
RGBA or CMYK?
Are all objects/text outlined?
Check image file sizes, can they be reduce?
Have they been proofed by someone else?
Are all color codes correct?
Do you have appropriate rights for fonts/image and graphics?
This is just an example of some things that may be on your design check list, tailor yours to fit your project workflow and design style.
Using too many colors
Similarly to using too many fonts, using and abusing a color palette can absolute kill the entire point and message of your design. Again if you compare your number of colors to the number of fonts, really you only need 2 or three to make a huge impact with your overall design. Don't forget, you can use different vibrancies and opacities of one color to creating variations of the same family, which will be much less of an assault on the eyes. In opposition to that you will find too little color can often cause a poorly defined design which may cause your message to be less evident. It can be difficult to balancing too much or too little color but once perfected it really will strengthen your portfolio and overall skill level.
Cheesy stock photos
Stock photography is a part of most designers lives and is mostly inevitable due to the added expense of hiring a freelance photographer in comparison to the relative low cost of most stock photography websites. The problem with this is that stock photography website have developed a stereotype, they are known for producing unnatural and forced poses of business men in suites and women in high heels smiling with a clip board. This works for some people but for the mass majority it just doesn't get the message across. When you are choosing your stock photography, be sure to make sure the photography is completely relevant to your subject, not loosely related but the image completely represent what you are trying to say. Another thing to be mindful of when choosing stock photography is where it is going to be used and whether it will be overlayed with text, choosing an image that fits your needs can be challenging but perseverance will prove to be worth it in the end.