Have you ever seen bad graphic design? You know, that ugly logo or brochure that makes your eyes hurt. It’s bad enough when other people do it, but then there are those moments where we create bad designs ourselves. Unfortunately, we can’t help it; bad graphic design is an occupational hazard for designers. The good news is that these mistakes are easy to avoid if you follow some simple guidelines and establish a few processes before you start designing anything. In this article, I will show the seven biggest mistakes that designers make – so that you don’t have to experience them yourself!
What Is Bad Graphic Design?
Bad graphic design is terrible at conveying the intended message or making an impact. It isn’t good because it doesn’t meet its purpose, and that should be to express a specific idea in the most engaging way possible. So, if you’re doing lousy work, your audience isn’t getting anything out of it – nothing worth remembering anyway! That can be the result of any of the following: Not having a process, sending clients logos with color and stylized the first time around, using the same font in all of the branding materials, using stock photos in the logo, inappropriate imagery (even if it’s an accident), following popular trends, or making the logo overcomplicated.
How to Avoid Bad Graphic Design
You can avoid bad graphic design with these seven tips. You can find more information about running a creative agency and achieving visual design success on our YouTube Channel or in other articles like this one. Be sure to check them out if you’re worried about making design mistakes (and even if you aren’t, just to make sure you’re not overlooking something).
Have a Process to Avoid Bad Graphic Design
What do I mean by no process? A lot of people just shoot from the hip, especially when you’re a new designer. You don’t have a strategy: discovery to research to sketching to mock-ups, all these different pieces of the logo design process are super important if you just decide to draw something random without actually getting to know the client, their business, their heart, or their background.
What they do, why they do it, and what they do better than everybody else is what you need to know. Otherwise, you’re just creating something that looks cool, and just because it looks cool doesn’t necessarily mean that it functions well. You need to do more than make something look nice; you need to develop a process. This aspect is important; I’ll probably write a whole article on the logo design process. If you’re not familiar with this, this is something that I want you to do right away.
Send Simple Black & Whites
The second mistake is coloring and stylizing the logo and sending that to the client the first time. So every single logo design you create–I’m going to say this one more time–every single logo design you create should always go to the client first in black and white, and you need to give them those expectations. So it would be best if you told them that you’re going to send it to them in black and white. Why? Well, it’s essential if you send a logo that looks beautiful in black and white and the client loves it in black and white, then when you add the colors and all those fancy effects and the mock-up on the wall with the reflection.
You see all these people doing a lot of logos that are getting sent over like that. They’re using all the style and colors and all these drop shadows and bevels. That stuff is a distraction from the core concept of the logo. If you’re going to create a great logo, it needs to look fabulous in black and white so that it can get a wow. Milton Glaser says, “There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” So it would help if you focused on making a logo that looks beautiful in black and white. That would be the second mistake I see all the time.
Use More Fonts (But Not Too Many)
The third mistake (a big and super common one) is using the same typography–the same font–that you’re using in your logo in absolutely everything branding-related. Please make sure you have multiple fonts–not too many, two to three fonts is the magic number here–but make sure they are different.
There are a lot of people that will take, let’s say, Bleeding Cowboy. (I should mention this is one of my least favorite fonts.) They’ll take Bleeding Cowboy, and then they’ll make all the rest of their branding and all the rest of their type Bleeding Cowboy. Or they’ll use Trajan, or they’ll use Montserrat, and all the rest of their fonts are Montserrat across the whole page. This practice is a big no-no when it comes to branding. It’s a big no-go in logo design. Please focus on making the logo font its own unique font aside from the rest of the brand, so it stands out and is different from everything else.
Stock Photo Logos Are Bad Graphic Design
Logo design mistake number four, this is a big one. I’ve seen this happen many, many times. Don’t use clipart. Do not put images or photos inside of your logo. It is absolutely pointless. Logos are not designed to have clip art or pictures inside them. If you do have a snapshot, it needs to be like an art piece that you see in fruit companies who have images of landscapes in the background or mountain ranges drawn by hand and drawn with care and detail and things like that; these are hand-drawn – it’s okay to do a hand-drawn simple art piece for the specific brands.
The general rule is not to put photos in your logo. I don’t want to see a colored image in your logo. So stay away from that stuff. Keep the logo simple, and we’re going to jump on that here in just a minute. Still, simplicity is an essential piece of your logo design, so that’s one of the big mistakes that I see is people putting clip art and photos and these really complicated graphics inside of their logo designs, and that’s just a big no-no.
Watch Out for Unintended Imagery
Inappropriate imagery happens all the time, and it can be hilarious, but it will damage your reputation as a designer. I’ve seen some that are inappropriate like it looks like a butt cheek with something going up in between, or it may look like another, even more unacceptable, part of human anatomy. Look closely at the negative space in your logos to ensure that it’s not sending the wrong message. You want to make sure that these logos are appropriate and that they actually work when you do something like big letters and with little letters after them to make sure you’re not spelling out something you didn’t intend to.
You don’t want your logo to be taken the wrong way and communicate the wrong message. Logo design is your first impression; it’s a significant impression. You only get one chance to make a first impression right, so it’s imperative that you get the logo right and you don’t try to go outside of the box too much. I want you to be creative, and I want you to think outside the box, but if you go way outside and people don’t understand what the brand or the logo is or what it says, you got a big problem. So this issue is a big one that I wanted to make sure that you guys were also aware of.
Trends Are Not Timeless
Number six is following the popular hot trends in design; there’s a lot of crazy designs and concepts and trends out there. The paper design and material design and all these different things are fad trends, but one of the worst is using the most popular font, like using Papyrus or Bleeding Cowboy. When the Bleeding Cowboy font came out, I think every tattoo shop in America changed their logos to this font. It’s one of the worst fonts you could possibly use for a logo design. So don’t just follow the trends because everybody else is doing it.
Be original. Be authentic. Be different. Following the trends isn’t going to set you apart. It’s going to make you blend in with the crowd. And that is the exact opposite impression I want you to have in your business, and I want you to give to your clients. So that’s what I’m about – helping you stand out, so do not just follow the popular trends. If there’s something cool that you like personally and you want to wrap a concept into your design, then do that but stay away from the trends and the fads.
Simplify to Avoid Bad Graphic Design
The last one and this is probably one of the most important ones. This problem is a very subtle thing that I see people do, but it’s ubiquitous and over-complicated. I understand the creative brain. We get all these ideas, and we want to put Easter eggs in there as Disney does; we want to develop these innovative concepts. But one of the worst things you can do is put three, four, or sometimes even five ideas into a logo design. Instead, focus on one core concept for the logo.
Sometimes it’s okay to do two. If you look at the FedEx logo, it’s got the little arrow in it; that’s a secondary concept. You got the Amazon logo: they have a little smile from A to Z, and all that. They have some hidden gems inside some of the best logos in the world. However, some people do unique colors, and they change one letter in the font and make one letter bigger. They try to do like five or six concepts within one logo design or one wordmark to make it so unique that it just makes it busy and doesn’t make it memorable.
These seven tips all boil down to three fundamental rules for creating unique logos: make it simple, make it applicable, make it memorable. Bad graphic design happens to all of us now and then, but you can use these tips to help make sure it doesn’t happen again. I look forward to seeing you guys in the next article. I’m Adrian Boysel and as always, keep looking up.