Graphic design needs to communicate a message. It can be beautiful, compelling, interesting, or humorous, but it must always communicate a message. Good design enhances meaning, while poor design distracts the reader or blurs the message. While it’s tempting to go overboard with graphic design tools, great design stems from knowing just how much to use to communicate effectively. Whether you’re a DIY designer or experienced, you’ll want to avoid the 7 cardinal sins of graphic design.
Make it fantastic, not fontastic
Even basic software programs these days have a wide selection of fonts and styling options, so you’re not impressing anyone by using all of them. Too many fonts styles are confusing for the reader and uncomfortable to look at. Stick to one or two fonts, three at most, and find an easy to read font for the main text of your communication.
Use effects tools effectively
Styling tools can make your design look dated and downright ugly. When using styling tools, take care to not lose the aesthetics of the font itself. While the outline tool has a certain 90s feel to it, the rainbow gradient effect can bring back traumatic memories from the 80s. Rainbow Brite wasn’t an aesthetic in the 80s and nothing you can do now can change that. A simple, subtle gradient can enhance a design, but don’t go overboard.
An awesome design can be ruined by an important spelling error. Most popular design programs include spell checkers, but don’t rely on them too much. Take extra care with words that have a similar spelling to another word, because sometimes the spell check will guess the wrong word. Check that the program doesn’t autocorrect deliberately misspelled words such as company or place names. Double check details like website addresses, phone numbers, and QR codes.
Don’t alter the Logo
The logo is critical for brand recognition. Don’t stretch it, add to it, or change its colours. If you feel you have to change the logo to fit the design, then you need to change the design.
Take care of rags, orphans, and widows
Line breaks in software applications can distort your design and compromise readability. When working with a block of text, review how the text creates white space in your final design. In typography, the “rag” is the shape of the text on the left or right margin. The right margin is usually the one you have to worry about, but the left margin can also produce distracting white spaces around it.
The white space around “orphans” and “widows” can also affect readability. Orphans and widows are short bits of text that sit by themselves on a page. They might be one or two words, or parts of words. A widow is a paragraph-ending line left all alone at the top of a new column or page. An orphan is a lonely line of text at the end of a paragraph, or the first line of text at the end of a column that has been separated from the rest of its paragraph. Rags, orphans and widows can all be avoided by reworking the text or adjusting the type settings.
Keep it clean
A disorganised, confusing mess scares consumers away. “We’re having a gigantic sale” is a far more effective message than a sales brochure displaying 200 products. Whether on a website or in print, the white space around your design elements matters. Highlight important buttons, links, images, and text by using a less is more approach.
Don’t offend the senses
Being different isn’t a sin, but there are style guidelines that most people can agree on. If you want to appeal to most people then it’s best to follow them. Sayings like “blue and green should never be seen” and “black and navy, how unsavoury” all matter when you’re publishing to a wider audience. Some people dismiss anything typed in Comic Sans and have little patience for Papyrus or Curlz MT. Get a fussy friend to go over your design before you publish – just don’t ask them while wearing socks and sandals.
If you’re looking for expert advice on your next graphic design project, contact
the friendly team at Dark Horse