12 Big Don’ts for Newbie Graphic Designers

Starting a career in the Graphic Design industry can be daunting. There are many Dos and Don’ts (mainly Don’ts) and rules that you’re supposed to follow, but how do you even familiarise yourself with those? To save you the trouble of making all your mistakes yourself, I’ve gone ahead and made a few for you. We’re going to talk about noob mistakes that could be soul crushing to your career as a designer. Some of you might be guilty of making some of those God-forbidden mistakes but don’t fret; I am too. After all, you don’t start with knowing everything – trial and error is the way we pick up new knowledge. So let’s go ahead and jump right into it:

Don’t make poor font choices

You can’t go crazy when designing a piece that has quite a bit of copy in it. Sure, script, calligraphy, and modern typefaces can be fun, but they need to be used in moderation. Otherwise, your design is not going to be readable in bulk copy. You might think that basic serif and sans serif fonts are boring, but truth is they are highly functional and effective. Also avoid using fonts that are too similar.
A good tip is to combine Sans Serif with Serif fonts.

Don’t make typos and grammar errors

You’re not hired as a copywriter so most of the time it’s not really expected of you that you should write copy for a design or an infographic. You must always, however, proofread your work to make sure there aren’t any spelling or grammar mistakes.

It looks highly unprofessional, and chances are you will not hear from that client again any time soon. Even small things like punctuation are something to be mindful of.
After all, copy-pasting is a big part of this job and we’ve all suffered from the double-space monster at some point of our career.

Don’t hyphenate words

This is probably one of the first things you learn at design school, and also probably one of the most common mistakes you still do to this day when dealing with loads of copy.
On most Adobe products there’s a little “Hyphenate” box inside the Paragraph window. UNTICK IT NOW.

Don’t go crazy with kerning and leading

You might think that increasing/reducing those two to fit your designs will not harm the overall look of your piece. Think again – it can go overboard and ruin everyone’s life.

Don’t fill all the white space

This is a common one, mainly among clients. Do not succumb to their need of filling in all white space because the client wants their money’s worth! Your design needs space to breathe.

All this information fits into an Instagram post.

It’s also the devil. Only give the information people need to convince them they need more.

Users don’t mind clicking through a website or scrolling down as long as what you’re giving them is enough to trigger their attention.

Don’t underline text

Never, ever underline stuff in your design. Ever. I don’t like to use the word “rules” very often when it comes to design but this is one of those things I would consider a “rule”. Leave underlining for hyperlinks.

Don’t scale text, images or logos

This is pretty straightforward and you might think a bit redundant in a list like this. You’re a designer after all right? Who would even stretch text or photos? Well, if you ever read through a company’s brand guidelines they always have a section that looks like this.

There’s a reason. People do it.

Don’t use other people’s work without attribution

Something you need to be very careful of, is using images, vectors, assets, icons or even fonts without checking the copyright first. Going on Google images and downloading something you like and using it in your design is a big NO. Not the kind of no you can just be like “Oh well, I’ll fix it next time”. The kind that will get you in trouble. You can use stuff if they are under a creative commons license and don’t require attribution. Or ones that are free. That’s cool too.

Don’t stack colours that clash

Always pick your colour palette before starting your design and be mindful of how you use it. In order to increase text readability, it is important to choose the right colour for a font and its background.

Stacking colours that clash too much can make a design unreadable or cause clients to come back with feedback like “This is making my eyes bleed”. I may or may not have had this feedback for a design I made in the past.

Don’t over-brand

If someone sees a piece where your/your company’s logo is prominent right at the top, it comes off as “Here’s a graphic about me and my company and everything that we do”.

What you want it to say is “Here is some content that’s going help you. Oh by the way I/we did it.”

You can instead stick your logo at the end of your piece, or just create a really strong brand style so that people recognise your pieces whether they have your logo or not. But that’s a story for another time.

Don’t overcomplicate things

Keep your design simple so that the reader processes it and interacts with it. When you add things like images, fonts, effects, colour, etc, ask yourself “Why?”. Is it because the information needs to be organized and you’re using colour to separate things:

or is it because you want the CTA button to stand out?

If your answer is “just ‘cause”, it might be the wrong answer.

Don’t refuse to learn new skills

You need a fluid mind for creativity and keep learning new skills and tech. That way you can adapt to the marketplace for new skills or you get left behind and get marginalized. I’m talking about designers who refuse to move away from old software like Photoshop CS6 to CC or learn how to use new software like Sketch instead of Illustrator for web design, just because they don’t want to learn new things. You have to be willing to go in the direction where your profession is heading.

As I already mentioned I too am guilty of making some of these mistakes at the start of my career and looking back I wish I had someone to slap my eager-to-design hand. It’s crucial for a designer to avoid these rookie mistakes and step towards making the most out of their designs.

However, do not think that Graphic Design is just a long list of rules that you have to follow in order to be successful. There’s plenty of room for creativity, free thinking and even rule-breaking sometimes, as long as there is design thought and reason behind it. Check out my article on Free Resources for Graphic Designers to see if you can find some inspiration for your own designs!

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