I write to you today with the most humble of offerings — a list of a few graphic design mistakes I have made myself over the years. They’re the simplest of things that make all the difference when you’re creating any kind of designs for social media or digital platforms.
Now, you may not even realize you’re making some of these mistakes. And that’s okay!
It’s like I’m quietly taking you aside and letting you know there’s lettuce in your teeth. You want someone to tell you that, right? But it feels a little embarrassing at the time?
No embarrassment here. How would you have known you had lettuce in your teeth without a mirror or a friend?
Let me be that friend for you, but with your designs. Here we go.
Mistake #1: You’re adding letter spacing to lowercase text.
It’s tempting, I know, especially when you discover that adding letter spacing to all caps words gives it an immediate air of polish. However, lowercase letters don’t need spacing. We read lowercase letters all the time without letter spacing, right? So, additional spacing just makes it harder to read.
Mistake #2: You’re ignoring margins.
If you’re working in Canva, here’s a quick tip: In your design, click File in the menu and make sure “Show margins” is checked. Dotted lines will appear on your canvas — work to keep your design inside of those lines for an optimum viewing experience. Unless you’re doing a super stylized graphic where you actually want the text to bleed off the edges, keep your content within the margins so it’s easy to read and digest. This creates an ideal amount of white space for our brains to process what we’re looking at.
Mistake #3: You’re not creating text hierarchy.
Not all information has the same importance. Think of graphic design for a live event — what’s more important for you to share, what the event is about or the logistical details? No one will show up if they don’t even know what they’re being asked to show up for.
The fix is pretty straightforward: make the important info larger, less important info smaller.
Mistake #4: You’re using too many fonts!
I love fonts as much as the next person, but using too many will distract from your message. And it’s not just in an individual graphic (I’d say stick to two or 3 max in a single graphic, btw). When you switch between different script fonts depending on your mood, or all caps versus lowercase vs. sentence case, each in a different font, you lose credibility. It looks like you don’t know what you’re doing, or even worse, that you don’t take yourself seriously. A brand only needs 2 or 3 fonts total. Better yet, choose one font family and vary the styles (regular, italics, bold) and sizing for total coherency (and ease!).
Ultimately, repetition of fonts in your designs helps create brand recognition.
Mistake #5: You’re not organizing your graphics well.
They say that good design is almost unnoticeable.
If you read a graphic, get the message, and understand what it’s telling you, do you notice that the text was left aligned, or the elements were asymmetrically balanced? Probs not. You get the message and move on.
Proximity of elements, balance of the overall layout, and aligning of elements are important aspects of creating designs that tell your story. Organize the elements of your design in a way that amplifies your message instead of detracting from it.
Take a look at your designs and make sure your elements aren’t crowded, there’s enough white space, and your elements are aligned, one way or another!
So, you have lettuce in your teeth slash you’ve made one of these design mistakes. My best advice?
- Use all the tools at your disposal. If you’re working in Canva, learn the toolbars and what all the buttons help you do. Most of them help you create balance and organization!
- Practice! Design skills are just that — skills. And skills are honed by doing. Try and create and try again and keep creating.
- To help you in your practice, I made you a quick Canva tutorial to show you what all the buttons do in each menu so you know exactly what you’re working with.