9 Common Mistakes Graphic Designers Make
To err is human, to forgive, divine.
But alas, not everyone is forgiving.
Technical errors such as using too many fonts and colours to lack of inter-personal skills can often land graphic designers in a soup. In this article, we share ways to help you wade through the cloudy waters of creativity.
Here are 9 common mistakes made by Graphic Designers:
1. Using Too Many Fonts
How many fonts is too many? The ‘justified’ answer is anything more than three.
Too many fonts can distract and confuse the reader. For brochures, advertisements and shorter documents, limit yourself to two fonts, while multipage publications like magazines can often get away with more.
Study font families and use bold, italics and different sizes of the font family as captions and subheads. Serif fonts are easier on the eye in print, while sans-serif fonts work better for web use.
Can’t identify a font? Upload an image of it on myfonts.com/WhatTheFont and let it do the needful.
2. Using Copyrighted Photos
Every designer in the making knows what this symbol means. Photographs, illustrations and most forms of creative art are usually protected by copyright, meaning that all rights of that work belong to the creator.
The bad news? In most countries, one can face legal trouble for using a photograph without the permission of the owner, especially if it’s used for advertising or promotional activities.
The good news? Copyright laws came into effect not to give the author the right to deny their work to other people but to encourage fair usage. So, reach out to the owner. Chances are he/ she will reply with reasonable terms of usage.
3. Not Kerning Fonts
Have you ever squinted your eyes and tried to read a word that is spelt one way but looks like another? It might be a kerning problem. Kerning is the space between two characters and adjusting this space often improves legibility.
Sometimes, a font’s default kerning isn’t suitable for certain character combinations. An article by www.canva.com suggests to look out for the troublemakers – slanted letters such as A, K, V, W, Y, letters with arms or cross strokes such as F,L,T and letter combinations like W or V + A; T or F + a lowercase vowel.
In her book, Type Rules! noted typographic educator Ilene Strizver talks about the influence of technology on typography. In 1448, came the birth of printing before which all books were hand copied by scribes. The characters of the alphabet were carved into metal because of which the spacing between certain characters could not be easily adjusted. This was probably the first instance of kerning.
4. Using Too Many Colors
Colours evoke feelings. This makes colour one of the most important elements of graphic design. Whether it is a company logo, card or any other piece of art, colour is as important as the message one intends to relay.
The job of the graphic designer is to create visuals that pass the client’s vision to the customer. Using too many colours can distract and confuse the customer. But when used rightly, colours can have great impact, even for website conversions.
Of course, you could also break all the rules, experiment with fonts and colours and become the next Alan Fletcher or David Carson.
5. Grammar & Spellcheck
If you missed the spelling error in the last sentence, you need to be reading more attentively. Sometimes it helps to read the text aloud to catch mistakes. For everything else, there’s spellcheck. Photoshop does have a spell checker. (Photoshop – Edit – Check Spelling).
6. Not Staying Abreast with New Information
Designers today enjoy a wide selection of design software tools be it Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, Affinity Designer or Adobe Indesign. Assuming you are harnessed with the skill of one or many of these (11 Ways to Become a Successful Graphic Designer without a College Degree), it is imperative to keep yourself updated with new information. Read design books and journals and stay active on Instagram, Dribbble, Pinterest and Behance.
The most naïve mistake a graphic designer can make is assuming that he/she knows it all. We’ve all heard the line A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The powerful effects of design tools may help get the angles, shadows, leading and kerning right but it is the thirst for more knowledge that leads one down the path of few mistakes.
7. Being Afraid to Experiment
The true method of knowledge is an experiment – William Blake.
Many brands believe in following trends and new trends are often born through innovation and experimentation.
Do not be afraid to think out-of-the-box. Do not let a challenging client diffuse your creative spell. Do not be afraid to have a voice and be heard.
Trying new things opens up new avenues and opportunities for work. For instance, with the rise in demand for graphic novels, publishing houses are on the lookout for illustrators who are story-tellers. The New York Times https://nyti.ms/2VuxhI5 talks about Jerry Craft’s ‘New Kid’ that won the 2020 Newbery Medal and put graphic novels right up there along with other genres.
8. Lack of Inspiration
Look for inspiration in the everyday things of life. A good mathematician can practice geometry by the patterns on the floor tiles of his home. A good designer can be inspired by the forms of nature. Did you know that the famous World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) logo, sketched by artist Gerald Watterson, was inspired by a giant panda that was introduced to the London Zoo in 1961?
Sometimes, the answer is in the little details around us. And sometimes, on Pinterest.
9. Absence of Effective Communication with the Client
Things they never taught you in design school – how to communicate with clients.
Being an effective communicator is not as simple as it sounds. The bitter truth of the business is that most clients are like bulls barging through your china shop. Some will offer sufficient creative freedom (don’t let go of these guys!) and some will want to micro manage every step until the phrase ‘patience is a virtue’ never felt more real.
So how do you communicate better? Whether you’re writing a client an email, conversing with them on the phone or having a face-to-face talk, there are some unwritten rules to abide by. For example, pay attention to the tone of voice, practice active listening, be clear and concise and try to speak their language. Say ‘No’ only if you must and when you do, phrase it tactfully. “I might be unable to complete the project in a week but I can definitely give it to you in 10 days” sounds more positive than “No, I am sorry, I cannot complete the project in a week”.
One can take the bull by its horns, if the communication cards are played right.
As you work on more projects, you are bound to make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t stop because mistakes are proof that you are trying.
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