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Common Design Mistakes

Casey Mathison

March 17, 2015

common design mistakes

It’s happened to all of us. You’re walking down the street, minding your own business when suddenly; an obnoxious St. Patrick’s Day event poster is attacking your eyeballs. There are spelling errors, the text is blurred and illegible, the graphic is pixelated and is giving your frontal lobe a very serious ache. Nobody should have to be subjected to this! Design matters, you guys. We’ve compiled a list of common design mistakes to avoid when designing. And hopefully, with this list, we can all start saving innocent pedestrians from visual torture, one poster at a time.

Misuse of Font

Improper typeface choice can lead to a very confusing, unreadable design. Using the wrong font for your content can cloud your message. I mean, you wouldn’t use a Circus theme font for your business plan (unless, of course, you’re in the business of clowns) because you wouldn’t be taken seriously as a professional. Also, overusing typefaces can also lead to a confusing design. Try to use no more than three typefaces to keep things organized and flowing. A good tip is to find a typeface with multiple families within itself (Narrow, Bold, Condensed, etc.) to add variety but to keep a streamlined design.

Forgetting to Spellcheck

This is debatably the greatest design mistake on this list. In theory, it’s a simple step in the design process, but in reality, it’s often missed. Worst case scenario; your material is printed and published before the mistake is caught, and it is out there for the world to see and judge. Best case scenario; your client or superiors catch it before it’s too late, but it still reflects poorly on you. You’re a designer; attention to detail is a key part of your skill set and job description. Don’t sabotage yourself with something so easily avoidable. If you’re not an expert at spelling, don’t fret. Use someone else! The best thing about working in an agency is the ability to utilize the team and their strengths. Don’t work with an agency? Well, there’s also spell check.

Shortcuts. Shortcuts. Shortcuts.

Use as many as possible! You thought I was going to tell you to avoid taking shortcuts, didn’t you? Not this time! I’m talking about keyboard shortcuts. Getting click happy with the mouse is actually taking up far more of your valuable time than necessary. Adobe Suite is chock full of keyboard shortcuts for nearly every command. Do yourself a favor and learn them. This will streamline your workflow and maybe even reduce those carpal tunnel pains.


Contrary to popular belief, print is not dead; it’s just evolving. To properly set up a design for print, you need to find out a few things from your client first. Here are a few tips to remember:

  • Find out what type of printing they plan to do (digital, offset, etc.)
  • Find out the material or substrate they are planning to print on
  • Make sure to calibrate your monitor every few months so you can view colors accurately
  • When using images and photos, make sure they are high res (minimum 300 ppi)

These are just a few pointers, and are barely scratching the surface, but most importantly, remember to find out the clients print intentions before you dive in.

Being Overly Sensitive

Taking criticism too personally, or being too sensitive can be very destructive to a designer, emotionally and creatively. I think we’re all guilty of this. I mean, this design—it’s your baby. You’ve spent an entire night dreaming it up, then an entire day executing your dream, only to have it critiqued and tossed to the side like Sundays leftovers. But remember, it’s not an attack on you, it’s just not what the client wanted. Always save these designs and maybe somewhere down the line you can re-work and use them for a different project.

Lastly, never oversell and under deliver. Know your boundaries and capabilities. Never be afraid to ask for help and opinions, and keep the communication lines with client’s wide open. This will save headaches down the road.

Most importantly, have fun with it, heck, even get a little weird sometimes. After all, that’s why most of us got into the business of being creative, isn’t it?

Can you think of any other common design mistakes that drive you crazy?!

Let us know in the comments below or connect with us on twitter!

#design #creativity