Here’s the thing about design: it’s either good or it's meh.
Basically, it either captures your audience’s attention or it fails to hold it longer than a fleeting glimpse. As a marketer, however, you’ll come across several instances when you need to create designs. It’s here you need to be mindful of creating designs that are clear, clutter-free, and attractive.
To help you improve your 2020 graphic design strategy, we reached out to professional designers to put together a list of bad design mistakes you need to avoid this year.
Ready to create visually stunning designs that wow your audience? Let's discuss the exact things you should be avoiding and how to remedy them!
Look at the image below. Can you see the difference in the design with and without kerning?
The text looks visually more appealing after kerning, doesn’t it?
“Even though it may sound simple, poor kerning can ruin the overall impression that you want to make with your design. Your written words may look completely unreadable or confusing or in some cases, it can even be comical. Pay close attention to kerning if you want your design to be visually balanced.”
Rebecca Bowen, Digital Designer at Trident emphasizes, “Thinking desktop-first is a huge mistake. [Instead,] think mobile-first for all content you are designing; it's how people are consuming things.”
A Comscore report highlights mobile devices take up 70% of the time spent on digital media. Considering this stat, doesn’t it make sense to design with mobile users in mind?
Bowen suggests, “keep things simple, imagine someone viewing on a small screen and ensure that how you design works for that size. Pull out the important content and make sure that's what your audience takes action on.”
Lack of whitespace is another design flaw to avoid in 2020, according to Daniela Verduga, Designer at Visme. Verduga shares, “overloading your design or trying to fill every space is a common mistake for non-designers or clients.”
However, adding white space can save designs, making them understandable, visually appealing, and clutter-free. Essentially, whitespace, also known as negative space, is the clear space in design. It doesn’t mean empty space with a white background. Instead, white space is all the unmarked space of any color, background image, pattern, and texture.
Not only does it make your design elegant, but it also puts emphasis on certain design elements such as your call-to-action, which makes your message stand out. Research also confirms white space can increase comprehension by up to 20%.
For instance, note how the use of whitespace is making the text in the second paragraph far more readable than the text in the first paragraph below:
“Consider the white space as an element of design just as important as fonts or colors. Don't be afraid to use it! You can see how the design takes a whole new level – the impact is stronger and the message is more clear!”
Although it isn’t wise to jump onto every trend bandwagon, it is crucial to pay attention to what’s prevailing so you can “avoid the mundane,” as Mio’s graphic designer, Harriet Ruscoe recommends.
“It’s particularly important to take note of new trends in graphic design for 2020 as the world of social media content and web design is more competitive than ever amongst brands. Being innovative and diverse with colour, typography style and illustration concepts is key.”
For 2020, you should use:
Typography is a major element responsible for making your design readable, accessible, and usable. So, let’s not forget typography or the text component of your design.
Mistakes here are common. Christopher Moyer, Managing Director at Hard Luck, states: “A lot of design – even otherwise strong design – comes paired with poorly executed typography.”
Moyer recommends playing with new typefaces:
“It’s easy to fall into routines and use the same go-to fonts again and again, when there may be more suitable options for the task at hand. In 2020, we’ve also got unprecedented access to drop dead gorgeous and affordable – or free – typefaces.”
At the same time, he suggests refraining from trying every new font without first giving it some thought: "Deploying loud, expressive typefaces thoughtlessly, transforms impact into tackiness.”
Flat vector images (such as the one shown below) have witnessed significant growth in the past few years.
The SVP of Marketing at SEMrush, Maxim Roslyakov, notes the same:
“A while ago, flat vector images started to gain huge popularity and stock services started to sell such pictures very extensively. Still, the number of such images in picture stocks is impressive.”
Despite their numbers though, Maxim notes that “their main disadvantage is that they are very similar to one another. Stylistically they are all the same, drawn in one style and with the same colors. They have neither beauty nor uniqueness and it is assumed to be unprofessional to use such images in the canvas.”
This means using flat vector icons in abundance is not only unprofessional, but it also sips any uniqueness from your design.
Another design mistake to avoid is “a mismatch between the visual emphasis (salience) given to a piece of information and its real-world importance,” according to Carolynn R. Johnson, Lead UX Designer at Daedalus.
Johnson sees excessive clutter in design. This clutter could take the form of too much text or various design elements, like shapes. Whatever the reason, the end result fails to deliver its key message.
In Johnson’s words:
“Your most important piece of information should be what attracts the viewer's attention; but often designs are cluttered with less important data that are given the same visual priority, which pulls the user’s attention away from what you want them focused on.”
On the surface, designing for your audience may sound simple. But as Sam Orchard, Creative Director at Edge of the Web notes: “This happens a lot with people new to the industry. Instead of thinking about the target audience and their preferences, they rely on their own tastes or current trends.”
When this happens, Orchard states:
“You end up seeing promotional material for the local bookstore that looks like a flyer for a night club. Whilst everyone wants their work to be right on trend, if that style doesn’t resonate with your target audience, you’re not doing your client any favours.”
So you know what you have to do, right? Design for your audience.
Another very important graphic design mistake to avoid is failing to welcome new AI in design.
The CEO of Visuals by Impulse, Caleb Leigh observes:
“We're seeing breakthroughs in machine learning that are allowing artists to automate stages of the creative process like never before. There are huge innovations in design software on the near horizon, which will save artists tons of time and headache.”
Owing to this growth of AI in design, Caleb thinks, “those who invest time into learning these new tools will gain a competitive edge and see their productivity skyrocket. Those who cling to old ways and procedures will be left behind. Very soon, designers will be faced with a critical choice: adapt & evolve, or stagnate.”
On the surface, designing may seem simple, but there’s a lot of thought that goes into the process. Make sure you keep your target audience in mind as you design and avoid these mistakes to create wonderful designs that not only attract your viewers but hold their attention too.
Continue discovering the right way to approach graphic design by checking out G2's hub with over 50 graphic design resources sure to bring you an abundance of knowledge!
Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer by day and a novel nerd by night. She crafts research-backed, actionable blog posts for SaaS and marketing brands that aim to employ quality content to educate and engage with their audience. You can read her freelance work on her website, Ink & Copy.
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