Graphic design is a complex craft that requires creativity, technical prowess, and problem-solving skills.
Even experienced designers can fall into traps or develop bad habits over time that hold back the quality of their work.
Below are 5 of the most common pitfalls graphic designers should be aware of.
1. Failing to communicate effectively with clients
One of the critical yet often overlooked skills graphic designers need is the ability to communicate successfully with clients. Designers must fully understand the client's goals, brand identity, target audience, and vision for the project in order to translate those into an appropriate design. Some common communication mistakes include:
- Not asking the right strategic questions upfront to clarify the objectives
- Being a passive listener rather than active listener during discussions and feedback sessions
- Presenting designs without explaining the rationale behind the choices
- Using too much industry jargon rather than plain language
- Not establishing a collaborative relationship based on trust and transparency
Strong communication, questioning, and explaining skills allow designers to create tailored designs their clients will be satisfied with.
2. Making amateur font choices
Choosing the right fonts is foundational to good design. A font conveys style, tone, mood, and meaning beyond just the words. Designers who lack experience in typography often make font mistakes like:
- Defaulting to overused system fonts like Arial or Times New Roman
- Pairing fonts with no regard to consistency in style or weight
- Using decorative fonts that are distracting or hard to read
- Choosing too many different fonts in a single design
- Selecting fonts that connote the wrong message for the content
Carefully selecting complementary font pairings, limiting font varieties, and choosing fonts tailored to the brand are keys to typographic success.
3. Overdoing effects and trends
It's tempting for designers to go overboard with trendy effects in order to make designs feel modern and fresh. However, moderation is key or these effects can become gimmicky. Examples of overused effects include:
- Excessive drop shadows with heavy opacities
- Overly-complex layered gradients
- Relying too much on texture and noise effects
- Distracting color overlays on photos
- Overlapping elements with high transparency
The most successful designs use these effects sparingly to subtly enhance elements rather than dominate the overall look and feel.
4. Neglecting white space
Whitespace refers to empty space between design elements. It helps reduce visual clutter and direct the viewer's eye towards the most important parts of the layout. Insufficient whitespace makes designs feel cramped while too much makes them feel disjointed. Common whitespace mistakes are:
- Filling every possible inch of space on the page
- Allowing text or images to run from edge to edge
- Not differentiating white space usage for headers and paragraphs
- Having text awkwardly broken between pages or columns
- Failing to align whitespace properly between items
Strategic use of margins, spacing, indentation, and other white space creates visual harmony.
5. Using low quality images
One of the hallmarks of amateur design work is pixelated, distorted, or poorly sized images. Designers must pay careful attention to:
- Choosing photos with sufficient resolution for enlarging
- Properly scaling images to retain clarity and avoid pixelation
- Matching image styles to create cohesive look
- Editing and optimizing images for reduced file size
- Applying appropriate filters and adjustments to enhance images
- Using proper image formats for web vs print usage
Mastering image selection, manipulation, and use conveys professional polish.
By avoiding these common mistakes, graphic designers can elevate their skills substantially and stand out from the crowd.
Keeping these pitfalls in mind during the design process leads to more polished, cohesive work that effectively meets client objectives.