Starting out as a designer can be super daunting. With directors looking over your shoulder and fussy clients to answer to, it can be tough not to make mistakes.
Even as a seasoned creative, it’s easy to fall into bad habits – and sometimes, things just slip through the cracks…
To help, the experts at Friends of Design have come up with some mistakes they see often, and offer some handy pointers on how to fix them. Whether you’re an intern or veteran, be on the lookout for these major design no-nos.
- Not checking your copy
Sure, the client provided you with text – but are you really going to deliver your final product with a glaring typo?
“A good designer is always going to have to do a little bit of copy editing – even if it’s just a basic spell check!” Friends of Design Web Department Head Kerry Hugill says.
Luckily, even if you’re not a copywriting aficionado, there are plenty of nifty programs and apps out there you can use to give you the edge, like Grammarly – or you could simply rely on good ol’ fashion spellcheckers.
Even Friends of Design Print Department Head Kate Hilson isn’t ashamed to say she refers back to it often.
“My spelling is not amazing but that’s why the spellchecker was invented. There is nothing worse than find a spelling error, especially in someone’s portfolio!”
- Using bad typography
Be on the lookout for bad kerning, orphans and widows, Designer and Print Lecturer Sabina Kopp warns.
“Young designers need to pay attention to details and the micro-typography. Nobody like to read text that’s full of rivers.”
- Disproportionate scaling of images
“It’s done by many designers, in any software package,” Sabrina says. “But definitely one of the worst mistakes to make!”
Whether you’re a newbie or an old hand, plenty of designers mistakenly stretch images at some point. Even if it’s only a pixel or two, it’ll draw the eye – and mess up your whole design.
- Designing logos in Photoshop
Still using old faithful Photoshop for everything?
“Ugh no!” says Sabrina. “As designers we use vector tools like Adobe Illustrator to design logos and icons, which allows us to resize and rework anything, as we’re not bound to pixels.”
- Not taking ownership of the project
“For me, one of the biggest mistakes I hear when there are mistakes in the text or poor images is: ‘but that’s what the client gave me’,” says Kerry.
Even the images your client provides may need a bit of retouching to make them pop, she adds.
“Your goal is to put out the best product – sometimes you need to go above and beyond. You can’t just throw up your hands, shrug your shoulders and go ‘oh well’.”
“As a Creative Director – I don’t care what the client gave you – that’s not an excuse.”
- Saving your work haphazardly
Phew, you’re done! Slap all the files into a folder and you’re good to go right?
Not quite. Bad filing will look super unprofessional – no matter how fabulous your designs are.
“You can’t just throw your work onto the desktop or everything into one big folder,” Kerry says.
She has her team create a folder per project, with clearly labelled sub-folders for the different components, with names like ‘Working Files’, ‘Scans’, ‘Given’, ‘PDF Proofs’, ‘To Print’.
“That way everything is neatly compartmentalised and easy to find.”
- Relying on design trends
It’s definitely important to have a good understanding of what the latest trends are – but not if you’re replicating them for every single project.
“What works for one brief or company won’t necessarily work for another,” Kate says.
Each client or brand deserves their own unique style, Sabrina adds. “Design in a way that makes the most sense for the brand – which might not be trendy gradients and bold typography.”
Plus your designs are going to look old-fashioned and dated as soon as people get over the latest trends.
They’re fun to play around with and they’re a great source of inspiration – but you want your design to last longer than a few fads.
- Over-promising and under delivering
If you know you’re not going to deliver what you promised in time, ask for a deadline extension rather than deliver a design that doesn’t tick all the boxes, Kate advises.
“As a lecturer, I would rather you add two additional days to the deadline than have students deliver it to me two days earlier in poor shape,” she says.
But if a deadline is absolutely non-negotiable, you need to do what it takes to deliver your best work.
“We have all lost a little sleep at one point to make a deadline and learnt the lesson to better time-manage,” she adds.
- Just doing what you’re told
Now, this may come as a surprise but it’s actually a good thing to question your client – within reason, of course.
As Kerry points out, they’ve hired you because you’re an expert in this field. “Yes, they’re going to have their own ideas, and you need to respect those and treat them as such,” she says.
“But your job is also to guide the client through the process and best options. It’s important to remember that you’re working together – you’re both trying to get to the best final result.”
- Being scared to fail
Playing it safe will rarely blow the client away, Kate says. It limits your chances of failure, yes – but how will you ever grow as a designer if you’re sticking to the straight ‘n narrow?
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with failing,” she says. “You learn so much from it!
“Start researching, get inspired. Young designers are so lucky these days that they have the most powerful tool at their fingertips: Google. Use it!”
Want to learn from the experts? Friends of Design has a design course to suit you!