Don’t make these 5 design mistakes

Blog / Article 

Many small business owners, like yourself, often feel they need to design their own marketing materials. Whether it’s because of a tight budget, a short timeline, or their concerns of working with a freelancer, they decide to go it alone. Designing is not something that comes easily to everyone. In fact, many professional designers spend years honing their craft. But, if you find yourself in the position of designing materials for your business without a freelance graphic designer—or any design experience—make sure you avoid these 5 commonly made design mistakes:

1. Too much content. 

Just because you can fit 1,000 words on your postcard advertisement, doesn’t mean you should. When you’re designing marketing materials, keep in mind that your audience will not be reading it word for word, but instead, will be scanning for information. When you cut down your verbiage to only what’s absolutely necessary, you increase the chances that your piece will be successful. When designing, keep this timeless phrase in mind: less is more.


2. No white space (or not enough). 

This touches on point 1: just because there’s a whole page of space available for your flyer’s information, doesn’t mean you should fill it all. Leaving white space (aka blank space, devoid of any elements) can improve your design in a variety of ways. White space can actually increase reading comprehension, legibility, hierarchy, and flow. Leveraging white space in your design will also help create a clean, professional, and organized look.


3. Confusing or conflicting hierarchy. 

Creating hierarchy in your design is instrumental towards crafting an engaging, legible, and professional piece. Hierarchy is the placement and look of elements in order of importance. Establishing a hierarchy will create flow in your piece and direct your audience’s eyes to look at elements in the order you constructed. You can create hierarchy in a variety of ways, whether it be with size, color, white space, or placement.

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4. Too many fonts. 

Remember that phrase I mentioned back in point 1? Less is more, and that absolutely applies to your use of fonts. A great rule of thumb for fonts is to only use 2 in a piece. If you’re starting to hyperventilate a little, remember: fonts usually come with at least 4 variations (regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic). So really, at 2 fonts per piece, you’re working with 8 variants. And I’m not saying that everyone will burn your marketing piece in protest if you use 3 fonts. You can use 3 if you can justify it. If you want to add a third font, ask yourself this question: “What does this font bring to the design?” And if the answer is something a little more substantial than “I just really, really love this font,” then feel free to use it. 

5. Not sticking to brand guidelines. 

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ve probably gotten the sense that “you need brand guidelines” is my mantra. If you don’t have brand guidelines, check out this article to help you make some. When you’re designing your own marketing pieces, it is important that they remain consistent across the board. That doesn’t mean that all of your pieces need to look identical, rather it means that you should use the same fonts, colors, and general style. That way, every time your marketing materials touch your audience, it triggers their memory from the last time they interacted with one of your pieces. Sticking to brand guidelines improves brand recognition and helps you stay top of mind. 

So the next time you design materials for your business, make sure to avoid these 5 common design mistakes. Keep in mind that less is more in terms of written content. Make sure you leverage white space to create a clean aesthetic and increase legibility. Create a clear hierarchy in your piece so that your audience knows where to look first, second, and so forth. Only use two fonts in your piece (three if you’ve got a really good reason). And last but not least, stick to your brand guidelines.If you don’t have brand guidelines, consider making some. 


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