The big 5 – common mistakes that designers make

The big 5 – common mistakes that designers make image

Having a degree from the best design college is great, but the true equalizer in the industry is experience. If knowledge is power, then experience is knowing how best to use that power. Experience is gained by trying, making mistakes and learning from your mistakes. In this article we will touch on five common mistakes designers make, either as newbies or, even worse, on a daily basis as professionals.

“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.” B. F. Skinner

1) A poor creative brief = a poor design

One of the most common and continuous mistakes made by designers occurs before the creative process has even begun. A poor brief will result in a poor design or even worse, the wrong design. This happens when the designer doesn’t understand what the client wants; when there has been a breakdown in communication between the designer and the client; or when the designer pushes their own ideas over the client’s vision.

It’s a common mistake that fortunately can be fixed with relative ease. Know who your ideal client or industry is that you want to design for and stick to it. Know your client, listen to what they want and get as much information from them as possible. Clear and open communication is essential. Your opinion does matter, you are the professional after all, but it isn’t all powerful. At the end of the day, it is the client’s brand/ vision, not yours.

2) Stock is great… for a stew

When you’re going for originality, stock vectors and images are not the way to go. While stock vectors, photography or logos are a quick and affordable solution, you are opening yourself up to all sorts of problems. Not to mention the risk of copyright issues down the road.

Where possible, try to purchase images for your designs/ website, or even better, have a photographer take images for you. This will eliminate the risk of any copyright issues and make your design unique.

3) A good logo works for both digital and print

Don’t assume that the logo you’re designing is only going to be used on a website or social media page. Although digital is the way forward, sometime or another printing will need to be done, whether its for a business or a billboard, and the logo needs to look great and work here too.

Design your logos as vectors in Illustrator, that way they can be scaled up or down without losing quality. They can also be pulled in to Photoshop or InDesign depending on your need. Remember to also design a variation to your logos, a landscape and a portrait option that can be used on everything from social media and websites, to business cards and even a pen.

4) Down the rabbit hole

Enjoying what you do is the key to a long and successful career. You become so engrossed by the new logo you’re designing or the cover for that magazine that you kick into ‘tunnel vision mode’, nothing can touch you. You work with speed, passion and a swagger that would make Denzel give you two thumbs up. Finally, success… you’ve completed your masterpiece, too bad you’re five hours over the allocated project time.

Every designer has done it, and to be fair, not everyone can have super time management skills. But don’t stress, an easy fix is to list all your deliverables before you begin the project, and allocate the appropriate time for each, then stick to it! Time management tools like Tick or Toggl are also useful, and browser plugins or desktop apps make it easy to keep track.

5) The proof is on the page

This goes together with point 4 and is equally as crucial if you want to have a long and relatively smooth career. You’ve spent hours, even days on one of your greatest brochure designs ever and finally, your masterpiece is complete. You stretch out in pride while the file is sent through to your boss, you are an artist. Your pride quickly turns to frustration as your boss points out several grammatical, spelling and spacing errors, not to mention the entire paragraph you omitted on page 7.

Let’s be honest, not everyone is made to proof read or quality check their own work. It doesn’t mean you can’t read or follow instructions… it’s nothing personal. You’ve spent so much time and effort on it that your eyes see what your mind wants them to. Always get someone to go through your work, a fresh mind and pair of eyes always help, and remember to leave time in your project not only for checking but for amendments too.


Everyone makes mistakes, we’re human after all, so to climb to the top of that design empire you need to not only accept your mistakes but learn from them too. It’s not how many times you fall that counts, it’s how many times you get back up and keep moving forward that really matters. Keep pushing, keep trying and never stop learning!


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