4 common design sins

Experts have one thing in common. Over time, they develop a selective perception of their own field of expertise. Experienced programmers recognize poorly written code, cooks pay attention to details in a 5-course menu in a restaurant and I as a designer often find design flaws in printed materials, on websites, YouTube channels or on television. Some of them are not just simple mistakes but real design sins, which are sometimes expensive to fix once you have crept into the corporate design of a company.

A prominent example was Lufthansa. After the redesign of the corporate design, it was found that the new blue tone was too weak. The aircraft had to be repainted at great expense. Source: Reisereporter.de

Now there are not too many people who have to determine the design of an entire aircraft fleet. But even on a smaller scale there are things that need to be considered. The following list of design sins is aimed at all those who write applications, design YouTube, printed matter and websites themselves or produce videos.

1. long lines in justification

How nice when the text on a DIN A4 sheet is flush with all edges. Even if the justification appears attractive at first glance, it is often a horror for the reader. Especially if it extends over long lines. The justification format is used to compensate for the gaps to the right pages. This leads to irregular gaps between words on a line, which inhibits the flow of reading.

Now the justification of the justification still has its authorization, e.g. in magazine columns, to create a visual reference to the next column. Here, justified justification works because the number of words per line is clearly limited compared to a DIN A4 justified justification with small font. Practical tip: After about 7 to 10 words, the line should break.

Note: Long lines are bad for the flow of reading. Justification exacerbates this problem, because in addition the spacing between words varies. After about 7-10 words the line should break. For longer lines it is worthwhile to create columns. If your information is not legible, it is much more difficult to convey your content.

2. trendy logos

Design trends change quickly. Remember the operating system of the first iPhone. All app icons were glossy and mirrored. A few versions later, the user interface was flat and minimalist. I found a whole series of logos that were defined exclusively by a design trend and looked old-fashioned after a few years. The inclusion of design trends ensures a regular redesign of the logo. This is expensive. Not only the designer demands compensation. All advertising material has to be newly produced.  In directories the logo has to be changed in a time-consuming way. For cost reasons alone, logos should always be designed to be timeless. But how do you do that?

Good logos can be recognized by their unique shape. Colours may be important, but they play a subordinate role. Because Apple had to serve as an example, let’s think of the logos of Nike, Puma or Mercedes Benz. All logos also work very well without colours and graphic effects. In these examples, there were some small modifications and adjustments from time to time. But the core of the logo is always the same. The years of consistent communication of this logo have made the brands strong.

Note: Good logos also work without color. Here fits a saying that I learned while investing. “Back and forth to empty your pockets”. So avoid using a logo that bases its uniqueness on a graphic trend. This design approach will cost you a lot of time and money in the long run.

3. overloaded flyers

Probably you will find badly designed flyers in your environment again and again. Is it always just because of the designer? Maybe it is. But sometimes it’s also the customer. But I can understand the position of the customer very well. He wants to convey his information to his target group as economically as possible. What could be more obvious than using the last square centimeter of the flyer for the information.

Far from other graphical weaknesses, many advertising media are very inefficient because they are simply overloaded. If all information is equally important, then in the end nothing is important at all. In general, product images should have space to develop their effect and texts should be arranged in a clear hierarchy so that the communication of the flyer works well.

Remember: Less is more. Overloaded advertising media overtax the target group and become inefficient and therefore expensive.

4. print web optimized PDF as flyer

Why create a new PDF file when all the information in the PDF file is already available on the website? What initially seems to make sense from an economic point of view involves a number of problems:

  1. The web optimized PDF uses a different color profile:
  2. The colours will be clearly falsified in printing.
  3. Images and graphics are highly compressed:
  4. In the printout, images and graphics look pixelated and blurred.
  5. The print file requires a larger dimension:
  6. With two-dimensional graphics, an ugly edge can appear in the print result.
  7. Unsuitable folding marks:
  8. If the flyer is folded, the folding will be imprecise, because the print file has the folding marks in a different position than the web-optimized PDF.

Note: This procedure is not recommended because the flyer will look bad in the end and an adjustment of the PDF file and a reprint are inevitable if your advertising material is to look professional and serious.

Which design sins do you know?

My list of design sins should help you to avoid expensive mistakes for your advertising material. Of course there are many more design sins. Which one do you know? I look forward to your comments.

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