Most everyone has heard of instances of photoshop mistakes where a model somehow loses a leg or finger due to an overzealous graphic designer airbrushing away her ‘imperfections’. If you haven’t, please do yourself a favor and google “Photoshop Fail” to see what images come up. It’s so bad it’s good.
I can’t believe how many times these examples of what NOT to do appear in the mainstream media. They took a chunk out of Demi Moore’s hip on the cover of W Magazine, they over-thinned the thighs of a model in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue so that she looks like she’s standing on toothpicks, and they stretched a Ralph Lauren model so much she looks like she’s part giraffe. As a consumer you think ‘rookie mistakes’ and laugh at how stupid it is that someone was paid to do such a bad job.
Well, I really wish everyone would start paying a bit more attention to another kind of bad design, which I’m going to call ‘desktop publisher fail’.
Now, before you get angry at me, I’m not saying that everyone who takes on the task of desktop publishing sucks at it. I’m also not saying that you need to have a degree in graphic design to create something attractive. What I am saying is that just because you put together a flyer in Microsoft Word it does not make you a graphic designer.
Can I please scream that from the rooftops??? Microsoft Word is NOT a design tool! I don’t care if it has lots of fonts, clip art and borders!
Deep breaths…. Anyways, I admit that I am a little bit of a design snob. I’ve found it helpful as a marketing guru to learn and use graphic design programs over the past 12ish years. I’ve also found it worthwhile to take a few graphic design classes and collect a stash of books and magazines that inspire me.
It is so very important that your business has a cohesive look with your branding materials. Think about it, if you see a photography company that has a terribly designed brochure, website or business cards, are you going to trust them to do the photography for your wedding? If you walk into a law firm that uses 15 different fonts on its newsletter and a mess of colors on each page, do you feel like they’re a professional firm to deal with?
Just as the packaging to a food helps you decide whether you want to purchase it, the packaging of your company influences people to buy your products or services.
Here are the top 5 easily fixable mistakes I see in graphic design:
- Using too many words and not leaving any white space. When you have a page of nothing but words (as in a newsletter or on an advertisement) there is nowhere for your eyes to rest. White space actually makes your pages more attractive and easier to read. If you must be super heavy on text, adjust the line spacing and margins.
- Including too many accent colors in one design. Just because you can use every color in the rainbow doesn’t mean that you should! Colors should complement your message content, not draw attention away from it.
- Too many fonts on one page. I’ve seen over 10 fonts on a normal four-page newsletter before. I know it’s exciting to have a lot of font choices, but please don’t use more than 3 – 4 at the most. Too many makes your design look messy and immature.
- Playing with font effects. Many amateurs excessively capitalize or play with underlines, strikethroughs, italics, shadows and other special character effects. An excessive use of these effects makes a page look cluttered and unprofessional, so please don’t use them unless absolutely necessary. And then, only sparingly.
- Image scale mistakes. Often it is necessary to change the size of an image or logo that is incorporated into your design. Please, please, please make sure that when you change the width of an image you also change the height. I can’t tell you how many squished logos I’ve seen lately!
Pull out a sample of everything you have that represents your company. Are you making some of these mistakes right now?
* There are instances that a graphic designer will use any of these tips to their benefit in their design. For example, using 50 different fonts purposefully in an advertisement could end up as a masterpiece. However, for the typical inexperienced desktop designer you’re going to want to heed these tips.