The Deadly Sins of Graphic Design

Yes, this is real. What you are reading is true! There are rules to graphic design. I praise those who love to learn and be a do-it-yourself entrepreneur. Especially if funds are tight for adding these types of services to your business, you love learning and have a true knack for being creative. However, I’m going to repeat myself … Yes, what you are reading is true. In order to accomplish a consumer effective design, there are certain rules to be followed.

If you are interesting in learning and wanting to do things on your own (congratulations for entering into the land of design) or a noob graphic designer, please keep reading …

  • Naming Digital Files:
    Not naming your digital files properly can cause confusion or possibly even lost files later down the road. We do have naming conventions, so read up and keep yourself organized. Here is a helpful link to get you started …

  • What the H – E Double Hockey Sticks is Bleeding?
    This is printing that goes beyond the edge of where the sheet will be trimmed. In other words, the “bleed” is the area that will be trimmed off. So please, mind your edges (and page centers) so you don’t lose a chunk of your design.

  • Photoshop Filters:
    Do not in any circumstance use a Photoshop filter to disguise a low-quality image. We know Photoshop is beyond the gods and has quite a few tricks up its sleeve to help but please do yourself a favour and just find/request an image with a higher resolution. Even if it costs a couple bucks. A good quality image goes a long way.

  • Print and Web Versions:
    Make sure you create a logo that works for both print and web. This should be created in a vector (the creation of a digital image through a sequence of commands and mathematical statements) application so that you can enlarge as big as a billboard to as small as your business cards or even a pen.

  • Spell Checking:
    Try not to rely on your spell checker too much. Your computer can do a lot to help you out, but if you use the tools at your disposal without thinking or double checking your work on your own, you could find yourself in big trouble with an error you may not be able to go back and fix. So please, proofread. Then read it again, and again.

  • Flattening Photoshop Files:
    Do not in any circumstances EVER flatten (to bring all levels of a multi-layered image down to one plane) your Photoshop file. You may never know when you need to go back in and make some changes. This is irreversible.

  • Text Alignment:
    Make sure to never center align large chunks of text. Your readers will have to work harder to read text aligned this way which in most cases makes the read move on to something else and avoid your content all together. It’s best to always left align. Right is also suitable in some cases.

  • Improperly Kerning Type:
    Kerning is the space between letters and if this is not consistent, your text can be completely misread. There is enough mishaps online to prove how important this is.

  • Stock Website Logos:
    When you are going for originality, stock images are an absolute huge no-no in design-land. Especially when you can run into some copyright issues later down the road. Stay far away from this one. If you need help, there is always someone online, somewhere who can help.

  • Shadow and Embossing Overdose:
    This automatically look amateur and tacky. This is not a trend and never will be. Please, I beg you, stay far, far away from this forgotten design trend.

  • Unreadable QR Codes:
    Make sure your QR code has not been broken in the design process (or even flipped so it’s backwards or upside down). This can render them useless by blurring excessively or reducing the size or contrast too much. Also, do not place words or pictures around the code. The margin cannot be secured by doing so and makes it impossible or difficult to read by any smart device.

  • Icons Convey One Message:
    Icons are best when they are simple and unique. They are meant to convey a single message, not ten. Icons must first and foremost communicate meaning. They are by definition, a visual representation of an object, action or even idea. If the icon is not immediately clear to your users, it is reduced to mere eye candy – confusing and frustrating eye candy – and adds unnecessary visual noise that hinders people from your main message or task. To keeps things simple, I would like to suggest the following site as a resource …

  • RGB vs. CMYK Colours:
    Your RGB (red, green, blue) coloured design may look perfect to you on your screen because RGB colour codes are meant for online viewing only. Almost 100% of printing companies use a CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) process and if you don’t print with these colour codes you’ll soon be disappointed to see the distinct colour differences between the two types.

  • Poorly Executed Images:
    There are a few things in this world that make a good design look quite unprofessional and a poorly clipped image is one of them. Also, another design no-no would be to use the “live trace” tool in Illustrator. Please, for the love of your brand and the face of your company, spend some extra time and be patient with your clipping tool in Photoshop and get it right. If you feel stuck or like you are not getting the results your hoping to achieve there are many resources and videos online to guide you through this process.

In the end, when it comes to graphic design, there are a lot of do’s and don’ts (even more than I’ve listed for you here) that people like to spread as personal preference, so take them with a pinch of salt. Design projects may have pitfalls. And these pitfalls can impede progress or even derail the entire project. The above list is worse than your average pitfall because they can ultimately “kill” your design if you are not careful. Making progress in any design project is much easier for you and your viewers when you are cognisant of the deadly sins I’ve listed here for you today. Awareness is the key. If you can read it, see it or understand … it’s most likely your viewers can’t either.

And when in doubt, do your research, ask or feel free to contact me. I’m always available to lend a hand to someone who loves to learn this creative knack!

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Picture of Crystal Kordalchuk

Crystal Kordalchuk

Crystal is an artist, a writer, an organizer, a dreamer, a doer, and down-right proud of it NERD!.

Struck with a love for #AllThings creative at a very young age, Crystal dreamed of a life fueled by her passion for creating and bringing the stories and images in her mind into reality.

As she worked toward her dreams, she earned a diploma as a Computer Applications Specialist then another in Graphic Design and from there began to develop her extensive background in multimedia and the arts. She began her worked in the magazine industry as a layout designer and had a succession of design jobs thereafter. It was her role as a graphic/web designer that gave her the first real glimpse of her future. Soon she began a side job as a freelance designer while keeping one foot in the corporate world. A spark was lit! She turned her freelance gig into a full-time business combining design work with her other passion: creating organization from virtual chaos.

Crystal is one of the most organized individuals on the planet. She is by all means a Zen master of her crafts. She excels at helping others become “untangled” and provides her clients with tools to run their businesses smoothly while she takes care of the details behind the scenes. Thus Virtually Untangled was born. A successful business where her work as a top notch creative in graphic and web — with a twist of virtual assistant — married into one amazing place where clients can come with their virtual messes and become magically untangled. Crystal can always make sense of even the most unorganized chaos and offers a virtual detox of order and peace, so her clients can get busy doing the work that they love the most.

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