Getting Serious: Mistakes to Avoid in Graphic Design

Graphic design is an important component of developing a visual representation of a brand or message. Good graphic design can help businesses stand out, effectively communicate their message, and leave a lasting impression on their target audience. Poor graphic design, on the other hand, can harm a brand's reputation and make it difficult for the message to reach its intended audience. Because visual communication is becoming increasingly important, it's critical to be aware of common graphic design blunders to avoid. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common errors and offer advice on how to avoid them.

graphic designer working on a business card for a business/company.

Designs That Are Overcomplicated

Overcomplicating designs is one of the most common mistakes in graphic design. Designs that contain too many elements or are overly busy can be overwhelming and confusing to the audience. This can result in a graphic design that is difficult to understand or worse, entirely misunderstood. The key to a successful design is to keep things simple and straightforward.

When planning your design, pay attention to elements that are critical to your brief, and what can be omitted. Limiting the number of colours and fonts in your design will keep the layout clean and uncluttered and try to balance all the various elements so they are not competing for attention. A good rule of thumb is to employ a clear visual hierarchy. This means the most important elements stand out and the rest of the design plays a supporting role.

Improper use of colour

Another common error is the misuse of colour. The choice of colour must be carefully selected and should not be rushed. Colour has a significant impact on how people perceive a design and how it makes them feel. Too many colours will appear indecisive and visually chaotic and colours that do not complement each other can cause an uneasy feeling that can detract from the overall look and feel of the design.

When choosing colours, consider the message you want to convey as well as the target audience. Colours, such as red and orange are warm and cosy and can even evoke excitement and energy.  Cooler colours, such as blue and green, can evoke calmness and tranquillity. It's also important to consider how colour is perceived in different cultures. For example, in western cultures white is associated with purity and innocence, but in many eastern cultures white is a colour of mourning.

graphic designer designing a logo using a CAD software.

Typography Ignored

Typography is a vital element of graphic design that is oftentimes undervalued and sometimes ignored.  Using too many fonts, failing to use appropriate font sizes, and ignoring font styles and weights can make a design appear amateur and ill thought out.

When selecting fonts, choose no more than two or three fonts that complement each other and be sure to include a clear visual hierarchy. Make sure the font sizes are consistent and readable and appropriate to the mood and message being conveyed. Remember that serif fonts are typically used for print materials, whereas sans-serif fonts are typically used for digital materials.

Image Quality Issues

The quality of the images used in a design can be the making or breaking of a design. Low-resolution images or the wrong file types is a very distracting and unprofessional looking decision. Even with the correct images, if they are incorrectly cropped or cut, it can change the entire image and therefore alter the impact of the design.

When choosing images, ensure that they are high-resolution and of high quality. Use appropriate file types, such as PNG or JPG, and ensure that the images are properly cropped. Image size and resolution is especially important for printed designs.

graphic designers looking at images on a desktop, a colour wheel/palette can be also seen in the desk.

Not Considering the Target Audience

The principal aim of a graphic design is to convey a message to a particular audience, it is therefore vital to always keep the intended audience in mind. This includes sensitivities to cultural differences, age, gender and numerous other factors. While a failure to consider the audience is an important part of reaching and attracting an audience, a mis-step can also inadvertently cause offence or miscommunicate the message.

A mindful approach to your audience's needs will  ensure you create designs that will resonate with them and effectively convey your message. For example, if designing for an older audience, you may want to use larger font sizes and age appropriate cultural references. If you are designing for a younger audience, you may want to use more vibrant colours or bold graphics.

Not Testing Designs

Another common error is failing to test designs before they are finalised. Soliciting feedback, testing designs in different formats, and testing designs with different audiences can yield unexpected results that may cause you to reconsider certain elements of your design. Testing can help you expose errors or mis-steps that you may not have otherwise spotted.

Before you finalise a design, ask for feedback from others; especially from your target audience if at all possible. Test your design in a variety of formats, such as on different devices to see how it reads and if the design works on different aspect ratios and sizes. Consider testing the design with different audiences too, this will show you how well it resonates with various groups. All of these final testing activities will help you to identify areas that may require improvement before the design is finalised.


Avoiding common graphic design errors is critical for creating designs that effectively communicate your message and leave a lasting impression on your target audience. Taking into account factors such as simplicity, colour usage, typography, image quality, target audience, and testing will allow you to create designs that are visually appealing, easy to understand, and will resonate with your target audience . Remember that good graphic design takes time and effort, but the results are well worth it. So, always strive for excellence in your designs and keep these tips in mind.

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Written by: Fiona Byrne

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