Some mistakes to avoid when you are learning graphic design
1. Producing two or more design concepts that are very similar
This is something I remember doing in one of my first design jobs. You get asked to come up with ideas for the design of a logo (or other piece of design) and instead of designing 3 very different options you put in the same idea that you have done slightly differently – for example changed the font and colour or created the icon in a slightly different style. I soon learned that if the client didn’t like the first idea, then chances were they wouldn’t like the two similar ones either. With 3 very different options hopefully one design would be heading in the right direction.
A couple of years ago when I was very busy I tried out a young freelance designer to design some new advertisements for one of my clients. I asked for 3 different design styles and sent her a couple of examples of the ones I had done in the past. What I got back was three variations on one of my old designs – text moved, images moved but overall same “feel”. I ended up having to do them again myself.
2. Adding things in rather than taking them away
Things in general always look better when they are simpler, it’s hard to avoid wanting to add in extra graphic design elements. This is difficult for any designer but especially the novice. Remember the sayings KISS – keep it simple stupid.
3. Concentrating on Features Rather than Benefits
Another one of my old rather eccentric bosses had a saying that he always loved to say (especially when I was working on advertising design concepts) was “Sell the sizzle not the steak”. What he meant was, don’t just concentrate on the features of a product, concentrate on how they make the users life better.
4. Not targeting the right audience or having enough gravitas
You could produce the most beautiful design but if its aimed at the wrong target market it’s unlikely to do its job. Its easy to get caught up in doing design that you like rather than what is appropriate. It also needs to be heavy-weight enough for the topic – a light humerous advert design may not work for a serious/expensive product or service.
5. Not presenting the finished design in the best way possible.
If you just present your first designs as a PDFs with trims as though you were sending it to the printer it will not have the Wow factor for a new client. Make your logos look like they have been applied to stationery and livery (applied to vans etc) or create a 3d visual to show off your new packaging design.
Some free image resources which may be useful for mocking up your designs include:
6. Not sketching first
Sketching allows a graphic designer to think and put their ideas down quickly. It also allows creativity to flow. When you start on a mac you don’t necessarily have direction, and can get bogged down with tools and filters rather than the concept. One simple sketch can encapsulate a design idea but leaves scope for experimenting with different styles on the computer.
7. Underselling Design Work
Young designers just starting out in graphic design often undersell themselves. I had someone contact me not long ago who was charging a very low hourly rate, I suggested they raise it, but they felt they weren’t worth it. It is easier to bring your design costs down rather than up. It is always difficult knowing where to pitch your prices, I have had some people shocked when give them a quote, and another told me I was very cheap (those are the ones when you kick yourself)!
What mistakes did you make when you were learning graphic design?