14 common graphic design mistakes & how to avoid them.

Craig Greenup 28/08/23, 11:00

14 common graphic design mistakes & how to avoid them

Graphic design mistakes make a big difference to your brand. Whether it’s a stretched font, a colour clash or a cluttered layout, design blunders make your company look unprofessional. When mistakes appear in digital products, they hurt the user experience too.

Luckily, some of the worst graphic design mistakes are easy to avoid and rectify – as long as you know what to look for. That’s why we’ve put together this list.

So take a look, and whether you’re a newbie designer or a business owner playing around with Canva, you’ll be able to create designs that make a brand and its message stand out for all the right reasons.

14 graphic design mistakes to avoid

1. Using too many fonts

The first of our graphic design mistakes to avoid – cramming in more fonts than you need. When you have too many typography styles in a single design, you confuse your audience. Text becomes difficult to read and every different font competes for attention.

To prevent font fatigue, limit yourself to a maximum of three fonts per design. As a general rule, the smaller the design, the fewer font styles it should feature. One is sometimes enough.

2. Forgetting to include white space

White space is the empty space (not necessarily white!) that surrounds the main elements of your design. Failing to include enough white space is one of the worst graphic design mistakes you can make.

Without white space, your design becomes cluttered and confusing. It’s hard for your audience to pick out key elements and your message gets lost.

So how do you create enough white space in a design?

Using a grid system can help. This helps you to position elements consistently – and include enough padding around them.

Adopting a less is more design mindset is also a good idea. By removing a border, an illustration or a fussy background, you increase white space and improve your design.

3. Choosing the wrong colours

Colours have an emotional impact on a viewer. Green is calming. Red is associated with passion and energy. Dark blue conveys a sense of strength and dependability. And then we have colour combinations. Some colours complement one another and some clash.

Designs that don’t take colour theory into account are unlikely to make the desired impact. They fail to make an emotional connection with an audience. And use colour palettes that offend rather than appeal.

To avoid colour scheme graphic design mistakes:

  • Brush up on colour theory
  • Think about brand values and messaging when deciding which colours to use
  • Try to create contrast within a colour scheme
  • Limit yourself to a colour palette of 3-5 colours

You might also like to play around with and select colour schemes by using an online tool like Adobe Color Wheel.

4. Failing to consider visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy means making the most important information in a design bigger and more eye-catching than the rest. It indicates to your audience what they should look at first, second, and so on.

Designs that don’t consider visual hierarchy are less effective. Your audience struggles to find relevant information quickly and you may lose their attention before they’ve understood your key message.

For good visual hierarchy, prioritise the information you need to include. Then, with the help of sizing, contrast, white space and layout, create your visual hierarchy, presenting the most important information with the biggest, boldest styling.

5. Not prioritising readability

It’s easy to get carried away with a beautiful design. But if your audience can’t actually read your message, it’s not going to create the desired result.

If you’re worried that your text isn’t readable enough, try changing the font. Sans serif fonts are easy to read online while serif fonts work well in printed materials. Elaborate, cursive fonts should almost always be avoided.

Also, ensure there’s enough contrast between the text and background. If you’re laying text over a background that is too similar in colour, the text gets lost.

6. Bad kerning

Kerning is the spacing between letters. It helps to make your text readable. And it can prevent brand embarrassment too. Take a moment to consider how the word ‘click’ looks when there isn’t enough space between the C and the L!

To prevent graphic design mistakes (and outright profanity) in your creations, opt for manual kerning rather than letting font software do it for you. This is particularly important when it comes to big, noticeable headings.

Also, remember that kerning is about the perceived space between letters. The space doesn’t have to be mathematically equal because different letter combinations require different spacing. Text just has to look evenly spaced for you and your audience. So trust your gut and your eye.

7. Bad line spacing

The spaces between lines of text is often referred to as leading. Too much space between lines makes text feel disconnected. Too little makes text feel crowded. Either way, your audience will struggle to read the message.

Ideal leading varies depending upon the font you’re using. It also differs depending on where text features in the visual hierarchy – multi-line subheads tend to be tighter than body copy, for example. So to correct this common graphic design mistake, change leading manually.

Another top tip. Black text on a white background is super easy to read. If you’re using any other colour combination, increase the leading to ensure readability.

8. Using low-quality images

Another of the worst graphic design mistakes? Using low-quality images. Blurry or pixelated photos or graphics make your brand look unprofessional.

The same is true of stock images. You may get away with one or two – but stock images look generic and prevent you from developing a strong brand identity. Customers may even doubt the authenticity of your product or service.

So when it comes to images, ensure they’re of a high enough resolution for the medium they’ll be presented in. Also, consider investing in some professional photographs that showcase your business and what you do.

9. Inconsistency

Perhaps you’ve used one set of colours and fonts for a brand website. But then make completely different design choices when it comes to business cards and brochures. Inconsistency is another graphic design mistake to avoid because, when a company’s graphic design is all over the place, the brand becomes less memorable and engaging.

Ideally, before you start any graphic design, try to establish a clear sense of brand identity. That might mean consulting or creating design guidelines. You can then use this framework to inform each new graphic design creation. It helps to ensure that any new designs complement existing assets. And that new designs sit cohesively alongside one another.

10. Not making your design versatile

So you’ve created a great brand logo for your website. But then you realise that this logo doesn’t look too good on your packaging – or on your social media profiles – or on a white background.

Your design isn’t versatile enough, which means you have to do more design work while running the risk of design inconsistency too.

The best designs can be used across a variety of brand materials. So to avoid this graphic design mistake, consider all of the places that you want your design to appear. And then ensure you have designs for each medium. You may need to consider:

  • Colour schemes – how will your graphic design look when placed against a variety of backgrounds?
  • CMYK vs RGB – you need to pick the right colour mode depending on whether your design is printed or published online
  • Mobile responsiveness – digital designs have to translate to a variety of devices and screen sizes
  • File formats – save your design in vector file formats to ensure it can scale without losing quality

11. Overthinking your design

If you’re a perfectionist, the urge to keep tinkering with your design can be overwhelming. But as with any kind of art or design work, knowing when to stop is an essential skill. Resist the temptation to overdesign! Just because Photoshop gives you access to hundreds of filters doesn’t mean you need to cram each one of them into your creation.

To avoid making this graphic design mistake, keep the message you’re trying to convey at the front of your mind. Is a new design addition helping you to convey that message more effectively? Or is the message becoming lost in a sea of unnecessary design elements and effects? Ask yourself these questions before making each new addition and you’ll know when enough is enough.

12. Designing for yourself, not your audience

When designing for a company – whether that’s yours or someone else’s – it’s easy to make design choices based upon your own preferences, rather than those of your audience. You end up with a design that you love but that fails to impress your target market.

So before you dive into a design, get a clear idea of your audience. Create customer personas, study competitor designs aimed at your segment of the market and try to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. In doing so, you’re more likely to create an empathetic design that really resonates with your target market.

13. Forgetting to proofread

A beautiful design can be totally ruined by one tiny typo. Whether they appear in print or online, mistakes in your text look unprofessional, and they’re another graphic design mistake to avoid at all costs.

To prevent typos, proofread text before you show your design to the world. Remember that spell checkers tend to miss some errors – so go over your work carefully and consider showing it to someone else to see if they spot any mistakes you’ve overlooked.

14. Thinking inside the box

Every designer gets inspiration from the design trends they see around them. But copying trends, without considering how relevant they are to a brand or an audience, is counterproductive. You’ll end up with something samey that fails to catch the eye of your customers.

To avoid this graphic design mistake, push yourself. Avoid using the same formulas time and again. Don’t be afraid to take some creative risks and come up with something totally unique. Sure, some of what you do won’t work. But you may end up creating something original that wows your audience and prompts them to act.

Stop making graphic design mistakes – and start building a brand you can be proud of!

Your graphic design directly impacts how your business is perceived. If your designs aren’t up to scratch it can give customers low expectations of your goods or services – and push them towards your competitors.

We can help you avoid these design mistakes and create something that really captures what you’re all about. Just get in touch to find out more about Radical’s graphic design service.