The 5 Deadly Sins of Graphic Design

The 5 Deadly Sins of Graphic Design

What if I told you there were things in your profession that you should never do. Things that, if done, would bring relentless scorn from your colleagues and hurt your reputation for years to come. The deadly sins. Each profession has them. And without fail, each profession has individuals that ignore them. This post will reveal the 5 Deadly Sins of Graphic Design.

1. Stretching Text or a Logo

Would you be surprised if I told you this happens a lot? You shouldn’t be. It happens more than you’d think. A logo is the first item a prospective buyer sees of your company. As such it should reflect the company at its best. It should be clear, concise, and comforting. If you have any doubts, reference the brand guidelines (link to page) of the company you work for. Most companies have them. Do your best to follow them.

The same respect should be given to the text “on the page”. At no point should text be stretched in a vertical or horizontal manner. Kerning (letter-spacing) and leading (line-height) is one thing, but manipulation of the letterforms should never be done. It’s a faux pas and a dead giveaway for an amateur designer.

2. Too Many Typefaces and Fonts

First we should define a typeface and font. A typeface is a distinct design of type. Helvetica is a typeface. A font is a subset of a typeface. It’s type in a specific size and weight. Helvetica bold italic is a font. Today, due to digital design, these words are used interchangeably, but to designers they have specific meanings.

Too many typefaces are used all to often. You tend to see this deadly sin in larger projects like a white paper, case study, or website. That’s because designers tend to lean on more than 2 typefaces to help define hierarchy. It’s an easy trap for beginners to fall in to. I’ve found that two typefaces is plenty as long as it has multiple weights (fonts) and sizes available. I suggest using different fonts (not typefaces) for a distinct look in headlines, sub headlines, and body copy. It will help you develop the hierarchy you want while affording you overall cohesion.

3. Doing Spec Work

You’ve might not have ever heard the term spec work before, but you’d certainly understand the concept if explained. Spec work, or speculative work, “is work done prior to engagement with a client in anticipation of being paid—occurs among clients and designers.” And in the AIGA Designers Manual spec work is a no-no. It degrades the profession. Do doctors give free medical advice? How about lawyers? Giving away free work sets an unrealistic expectation that other designers should do the same. Don’t do it.

4. Overuse Effects

We’ve all seen ‘em. The “I created this in PhotoShop” designs that scream newbie. The piece contains effects on top of effects on top of effects (3rd party link) that should be considered a crime. Let me be clear, effects of any kind should never be the main attraction. They are meant to enhance your point of view. As such, they should take a back seat to what you want to say. Your message should always come first with the effect complimenting the design. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

5. Relying Too Much On Design Trends

Trends are just that – trends. And relying on them too much shows your lack of creativity. That’s not to say you shouldn’t see how you can employ trends into your designs, but reliance on them to no end is not the answer.

Anything you create should be relevant and the best solution for the problem at that time. Remember, you want the design to stand the test of time. Trends come and go, but great designs will last forever.

The 5 Deadly Sins of Graphic Design