Design is, of course, subjective, and what will receive a positive remark from one person, may be a negative from another. Yet, while personal preference will come in to play when designing, it’s important to get the basics right – something which everyone will appreciate.
Making basic mistakes is only natural, but if they happen again and again and become a habit, a problem can soon begin. Because there’s nothing like being stuck in a design rut is there?! And with excuses such as ‘but I’ve always done it this way’ wearing thin, and even losing your clients in some cases, it’s time to brush up on those basics and go back to design school.
Here are the design mistakes you are making and how you can get back on track.
Believing everything should be symmetrical
We’re taught from a young age that symmetry equals perfection and balance, yet using perfect symmetry in every design that you create isn’t necessary.
Far too often, symmetry is used as a way to immediately draw focus to the message that you, the designer, want the user to see first. Symmetry also allows a design to feel balanced, instilling a sense of normality to the user when they view the design – yet, symmetry isn’t essential to all types of design.
Instead, experiment with asymmetry – where there is no symmetrical quality to the design. This will allow to you become more explorative with your design, and move away from a ‘formatted’ templated feel to your work, and instead, come up with a unique design.
Using too many techniques
Similar to how when your teacher would tell you not to include every PowerPoint effect on each slide, the same goes for design. The best designs are often the simplest, and cramming as many effects into one piece of work will overwhelm the audience, and leave your message obsolete.
Before you begin a project and open up your chosen design package, take the time to thoroughly plan out what you want to achieve, and whether you have any specific tools or techniques that will be particularly useful for this piece of work. Planning will also help to save you time experimenting with different designs – especially when time is tight, which leads on nicely to the next point.
Being too quick and losing quality
If you are just starting out in design, then it can be tempting to say yes to each job which comes your way in the hope that it fills your bank balance and your portfolio. However, if you become over run with work and are scrimping on quality for the sake of boosting your finances, then it’s time to start saying no to new projects, as you’ll be unlikely to see repeat business or receive positive feedback.
Whether it’s a limited budget from a client that is holding you back or not enough time to complete the project to a high standard, it’s important that you speak up. Communicate with the client and explain that if they have to achieve X then they need to pay for X amount of time. Pricing your work appropriately and knowing your time constraints, will ensure that you aren’t taking on too many projects, and are instead filling your work day with projects which are paid well and can be completed in the time given.
Not reading the brief or asking questions
Following on from the above point, it’s important that you understand the brief fully and ask any questions that you have – no matter how small or big – so that you are on the same page as the client as to what needs to be achieved.
Read, and re-read the brief as many times are you can before you begin, and ensure that you refer back to it while the project is a work in progress. Whatever you create, it has to appeal to the target audience and be relatable to the brand, so it’s important that you keep those two goals in mind.
Not repeating the design
When creating a body of work for a campaign, there needs to be a certain level of consistency throughout the work, with design elements repeated throughout so that the design is cohesive.
Failing to repeat common features in design – for example, title placement throughout a document – could lead it to become disjointed. Layouts, fonts, spacing and colours should also be repeated or have some commonalities too.
Forgetting to consider font and kerning
Sometimes you can get so caught up in the visual, image elements of your design, that font can take a backseat. Yet, the text is likely to be one of the most important parts of your work – it informs the user, after all!
The style of the font you use can convey much more than simple the words that it is displaying, so before you select the default option ensure that you are looking at the alternative fonts that you could be using.
How you display text can also impact how the user interacts with your design, with readability said to be best when between 45-75 characters (including spaces) are included on one line. Kerning, the spacing between each letter, should also be adjusted to ensure that it is optimal, as it can make the difference between words being cluttered and unreadable and easily viewed.
Failing to export your file correctly or check your work
You’ve spent hours working on a piece of work, only to export it incorrectly or haven’t compiled the document in the correct way, and it’s these simple mistakes which can make or break the presentation to a client.
Rather than rushing to get the work sent off as soon as you can, ensure that you leave sufficient time at the end of the project to check your work for any errors (or get a fellow designer to look over it if you can) and to export it in the correct format.
Chris Hardy, Owner of Xchange Training comments, “one of the biggest errors we see is when an excellent piece of work has been created, but it lacks technical execution. This means that effectively all that hard work has been for nothing without correction as the work hasn’t exported to its intended file type correctly. You can have all the creative ideas in the world, but attention to detail is essential, as these mistakes can end up ruining the end result. It’s so important to ensure that you are aware of how each design programme works, which is why we recommend regular training courses so that skillsets do not become outdated and designers are aware of the latest program developments.”
Mistakes are easy to make, but when repeated they can become costly and brand damaging to both the client and you as a designer. Slow and steady wins the race, so don’t rush, take your time and you’ll create a piece of work that is free from errors.
Emily Jarvis is a former business consultant, she is currently working as a freelance writer sharing her expert advice and tips within the business industry.