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Top 5 Major graphic design mistakes made by non-graphic designers

October 2, 2019
Szymon Zurek
5 min
illustration of a basic round logo showing a red blue and grey gradient comparisation

Graphic design text kerning saying equal space versus optical space

1. Not kerning fonts correctly

To explain further what kerning is, it is “the spacing between letters or characters in a piece of text.”  Just because something is spaced out evenly, doesn’t mean it will look balanced. This is because different letters have different shapes with different amounts of negative space. This is the first and most obvious mistake. It is not surprising as kerning text doesn’t come easy and usually good kerning is learnt through observing thousands of logos and typefaces but also designing them.

flavour showing optical spacing and negative space in graphic design

2. Mathematics and ‘perfection’ are not always the way to go

This mistake is like the one with kerning, as the same principle applies. Shapes that are spaced out evenly in the mathematical sense may not look right and seem off-balance because of the negative space. The simplest and quickest example here would be to use a set of letters with flat sides as well as curves and negative spaces.  When designing different geometries, always keep in mind that manual spacing is most effective when dealt with a variety of shapes as you can see in the example.

consistent and inconsistent font usage across branding

3. Inconsistent fonts throughout the brand

his is a common mistake in entry level businesses, but anyone can fix it very easily and quickly. If you just started your business, you are probably establishing yourself digitally first. Usually you only need 2 fonts for this purpose. One font for headings and subheadings (best to choose one with different styles – bold, italic, medium, regular etc…) while the other font is just for body text.

visual representation of gradients and the grey area therebetween the in graphic designm

4. Not smoothing gradients

This is debated even in the design industry. I often see logos using gradients like on the left logo. I argue that if there is a grey area in a transition between two colours, you must add in another colour to smooth the transition out. However, there are many logos, graphics and a few graphic designers that would disagree with me. Should gradient transitions be smoothed by adding additional colours? You get rid of the grey area, but you are also adding in an additional colour to the brand… This is not a simple decision to make and many factors must be considered by the designer who is building your brand.  

Of course, not all gradients are going to have this grey area. This issue appears mostly when transitioning from one complementary colour to another.

5. Using elements that cause unreadable text

It is really simple to spot this. If you want to read it, make it readable… Too often I see images that don’t have high enough contrast to the text, and so the text simply gets lost. Above you can see two examples that I quickly found from the web.

If you can’t find contrasting images, and you are unable to do colour grading, adding a drop shadow to the text is a solution. Although the drop shadow effect is out of trend for years and makes the graphics look cheap, it is better to use it as a solution because sometimes practicality is more important than visuals themselves.

Bonus tips

  • I understand that graphic design is expensive and often someone in the company will have some sort of idea about the software and have some artistic intuition. That said, if you can get a hold of a professional designer to critique the work for a fraction of the cost, they can point out all the flaws and alternative ideas and that way you will be much better off.

  • Too often I see companies that have no brand style guide to follow – heck, most companies don’t even know what one is! To put it very simply and quickly, it is a collection of rules and graphic assets that will determine the entire brand visuals. It is important if you want to stay consistent and win over consumers by turning them into loyal customers much quicker.

  • Not having a proper brand strategy in place when coming to a graphic design agency can waste a lot of your money and time. If you don’t have a dedicated brand strategist or you are not using a branding consultancy, you and the graphic designers will waste a lot of time on revisions which will ultimately cost you more money.

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