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8 Common Design Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Jessica Barkell

What makes a design good or bad?

It's true that "good" or "bad" design is somewhat subjective - we all have different tastes. But there is a difference between good and bad design in the sense of how it effectively communicates a message. 

Good graphic design will inspire responses and clearly communicate visual information. Bad design, on the other hand, will impede and muddle that communication.

Here are 8 common pitfalls of design and how to easily avoid them:


1. NEGLECTING WHITE SPACE

A common mistake is trying to put too much content in a small space. This causes content to look cluttered and therefore hard to look at for the viewer. 

White space creates contrast, guides people’s eyes in a particular direction, and establishes a clear visual hierarchy. Embrace white space and give each element room to breathe. 

8. NO VISUAL HIERARCHY

The same way too little white space can create a cluttered look that is hard to read, lack of visual hierarchy (even with sufficient white space) can also make content difficult to view and digest. This leads to ineffective communication.

Visual hierarchy creates interest and prevents our eyes from glazing over. It also signals to the viewer what information is important by providing structure.

3. TOO MUCH TEXT IN ONE LINE

Reading line after long line of text can cause eye fatigue. Content is much easier to read if you keep the measure, or the length of a line of type, short.

Research shows that optimal readability of text is between 45-75 characters per measure, including spaces. 

4. TOO MUCH CENTER ALIGNED TEXT

A common newbie design mistake is to center-align large chunks of text. This makes text hard to read because it looks clunky due to ragged left and right edges.

Small amounts of centered text can be great when it comes to visual interest. But like the saying goes - more is not always better - and it's actually really bad when it comes to overusing center aligned text.

It’s best to use left- or right-alignment. Save the centered text for headlines and short lines of text only.

5. COLOR OVERLOAD

Contrast is an important and powerful design tool. We’re wired to notice differences, and contrast adds focal points and prevents things from looking boring. One way to do this is by using different colors. But like we said earlier - more is not always better. 

Too many colors (or a poorly chosen color palette) can make your design look garish, overwhelming, and cluttered. It's generally safe to stick to between three and five colors - just make sure they compliment each other! Even three to five clashing colors can have the same garish look as too many colors being used.

6. FONT OVERKILL

Contrast is an important and powerful design tool. We’re wired to notice differences, and contrast adds focal points and prevents things from looking boring. One way to do this is with different fonts. But like we said earlier - more is not always better. 

A general rule of thumb is to pick two or 3 different fonts at the most and stick with a pattern for each fonts use. For example, all headlines are one particular font, size and color while all body text is another specific font, size and color. Just don’t overdo it.

7. POOR KERNING

Kerning refers to the individual spacing between letters of text - and it can make a huge difference when it comes to readability. If two letters are too close together, it can make words look messy, unclear, and difficult to read. If kerning is done right, it creates a neat, visually organized piece of text.

8. PERFECT SYMMETRY

Balance is one of the fundamental principles of design. It refers to the way elements are distributed throughout a layout, and it provides a sense of order and stability. However, balance doesn’t have to mean using perfect symmetry all the time.

While symmetry isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a boring and easy way to convey information. By using asymmetry, you’ll create visual interest and spontaneity, and also capture people’s attention effectively.


Without good design, even the best, most powerful idea gets lost in the mix.

By learning how to avoid common design mistakes, you’ll be able to create content that looks clean and professional, while also conveying your message effectively.

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