Graphic design is a field of art that is both dynamic and staid at the same time. There are trends and technologies which have come up in the last few decades to revolutionize the industry. However, the essential rules at the heart of graphic design remain unchanged through time and innovation. If you commit graphic design mistakes which run counter to these rules, you will end up ruining your otherwise meticulous piece of artwork. Here we have profiled the five most common mistakes and how you can avoid falling foul of them.
1. Improper Kerning
Kerning is the adjustment of space between typographic characters to ensure easy readability. Most non-designers have no idea how the space between characters matter in making a piece of text (whether that is a word, phrase or a page of instructions) neat and readable. Yet this should be the focal point of a graphic designer. Kerning is a visual exercise: it is about adjusting the perceived space between characters, not the actual distance between them. In other words, it has nothing to do with ensuring mathematically equal spacing is retained between the characters. Moreover, the default spacing the computer uses on typed characters is rarely fitting for kerning purposes. This may not be a big issue for regular size-12 text but it attains far much greater significance in the sort of logos and banners graphic designers have to produce in the course of their work.
To ensure proper kerning in your design typography, learn to think of each letter as being surrounded by an invisible box. Actually, as a designer you could draw an outline of these boxes for every character. Just be sure that no evidence of this outline remains in your final design. The trick is not to keep each letter within a box but to ensure that how those boxes touch and overwrap across each other is visually appealing. There are some specific tips and rules to keep in mind when working with certain letters but these are beyond the scope of this guide.
2. Chaotic Hierarchy
One of the most powerful skills a graphic designer has to master is that of ensuring their designs depict strong and purposeful hierarchy. Hierarchy is a concept that is essential in all natural orders. In the context of graphic design, hierarchy is attached to the arrangement of visual elements in order to denote importance, flow and balance. If the hierarchy you assign to the elements in your graphic design project depict a chaotic, not balanced hierarchy, the visual appeal will be lost.
To ingrain proper hierarchy in your visual work, you need to master important concepts like color and visibility, size, scale and perspective as well as typography. The most important elements of your visual work, be they shapes, images, words or letters; need to have the most prominent depiction of these concepts. Always begin by depicting these more important elements in your work first. These are the elements you want to grab the attention of those viewing your work within a glance. Ensure that they get and retain their intended place of prominence at the top of the visual hierarchy. Proceed to work with the elements which are of secondary importance and then the least important, applying the same concept in relative fashion.
3. Failing to Design for the Medium
Many inexperienced graphic designers tend to only think about the appeal of their work based on the appearance on their computer screens. This is a horrible mistake, especially if the final work of design will be depicted on totally different media such as books, magazines, billboards or even mobile electronic devices. As a designer you must therefore always think of the surface on which your work will be depicted rather than letting the default settings of your graphic design application on the computer.
The media which proves most challenging for graphic designers working in the computer age are often those of bound books and magazines. Other than the usual margins at the end of the pages, a graphic designer depicting artwork for such media must account for the space between two pages which will be lost when the book or magazine pages are finally bound together. This space is called the “gutter” and failing to consider it could ruin your impressive work of design.
4. Getting out of the Box
The highly cliched phrase “thinking outside the box” has its place in graphic design. Of course. But this is only when talking of boxes in a figurative sense. In the more literal sense of designing a graphical project, straying outside the box is more of an anathema than not. In graphic design these boxes are known as frameworks and are vital in helping pave the way forward.
Therefore the best advice about thinking outside the box for a graphic designer is: “think outside the box, stay within the frame”. In some instances, the frames are not always four-sided shapes. You must learn to keep your artwork confined in them. Just as important is ensuring that when two frames overwrap, the contents remain balanced and retains a sense of perspective. These are essential considerations if your work is to prove not only appealing but beautiful to the viewer.
5. Spelling, Grammar and Semantic Mistakes
It is true that a graphic designer requires a very different set of skills and box of tricks to succeed compared to a creative writer. However, the graphic artist’s work must stand up to unforgiving scrutiny when it comes to rules of grammar and semantics (the logical meaning of a piece of text). Arguably, grammatical and semantic mistakes in a piece of artwork are more noticeable (and catastrophic) than they would be in a lengthier but text-only piece of creative writing.
As a graphic designer you may not always have the tools creative writers have to weed out typos, grammatical howlers and unintelligible word combinations in the same sense as a creative writer. Yet you must still guarantee that none of these make it to the final piece of work. If you are not very good with the mastery of the language you are using for your art, work with someone who is literally proficient in the language to identify and eliminate such errors while still retaining the creative appeal of your work.
Graphic design is often about serene beauty and flawless perfection. This is why a graphic designer must work tirelessly to keep mistakes that ruin their work out of turn. There are many likely mistakes but the ones discussed above are the most common and impactful. Stay clear of them and you are all set for success in your venture as a world class graphic designer.