Seven Serious Sins of Graphic Design

Seven serious sins of graphic design

Seven serious sins of graphic design

The Seven Serious Sins of Graphic Design

We are constantly being tempted, lured, and over-stimulated with design. Whether it’s commercials, magazines, books, brochures, business cards, Websites, or even product packaging; design is literally ALL around us. Some of it is good. REALLY. GOOD. DESIGN.  And most of it…well…to be nice, let’s just say, it’s not real effective.

This blog often features (and will feature) a variety of topics related to marketing, especially designing for marketing, and we usually like to keep it positive (“try this” instead of “don’t do that”). But today, we’re taking the rocky trail, and we’re going to tell you what to avoid if you’re creating a design or looking for a good designer.

*Just one additional note, people who commit the seven sins listed below are often (not always, but often) amateurs or not graphic designers at all…

1. Using too many fonts. 

Using too many fonts

“Don’t you love looking at a poster with 12 unique fonts?” said no one ever. Really. The only document that should have more than two (OK, maybe three if there is a a really good reason) fonts is a document that is specifically for the purpose of showing different fonts. Other than that it is confusing to the brand, and in general, just bad design.


2. Using a font that’s hard to read. 

hard to read fonts

Since we’re already talking fonts, let’s keep going…it is tragic when a designer uses a font that the reader can’t actually read. This one really chaps our hides makes us angry! If the reader can’t read it, the design has failed instantly because the reader isn’t receiving the message. Mission failed. Crash and burn…you get the picture.


3. Misspelling words and making grammatical errors.

While this particular sin has produced some awesome online humor, like this McDonald’s sign…

Sorry, McD’s. This really is an EPIC FAIL.

It’s kind of sad. You are not in that much of a rush that you want to take the chance of spelling something wrong or making a grammatical error (especially an obvious one). Take an additional few minutes to proofread. Not a good proofreader? Fair enough. Ask someone to look over it for you. Chances are a second set of eyes will find the mistake quickly. If you think this doesn’t really matter, take a moment to search for the phrase ” spelling errors in advertising” on Google. Your mind will be blown, and you will definitely question the professionalism of some of those big brands. Just sayin’. (For the record, I purposely misspelled “saying.”)


4. Using too many gradients in one design. 

Too Many Gradients

I don’t see this sin committed too often, but when I do, I know this person has had no formal graphic design training. Anyone who uses a gradient as part of the text AND part of the background…no, I just keeping telling myself this person just has no idea what they’re doing.


5. Altering a logo…especially when it’s not your own. 

Altering a logo

This particular sin, I see often…too often! People think that altering their logo to fit the look and feel of a particular design is important. NO…no, no, no! Your logo is your logo for a reason. Logos exist for a reason. It is the personality and the foundation of your brand. Do not change it, I’m begging you. You want to use the logo that people will instantly recognize. If you alter it, what are you saying? Is your brand changing? Is this your new logo?  If you change it for a particular design and it doesn’t stand out at all, you will definitely confuse your existing customers. When you have the urge to alter your logo or someone else’s, just step away. Ya’ hear me? JUST. STEP. AWAY.

*Side note, I have seen a lot of experienced designers make this mistake so maybe some would say it’s personal opinion, but I believe it is sinful…truly sinful, people.


6. Leaving Widows & Orphans (with the exception of web design) behind.

No, I’m not speaking of someone whose spouse has passed away or children who have no guardians. I’m talking about the one tiny phrase that gets carried over to make a new column (a widow) and the one little word that ends a paragraph and takes up a whole line (an orphan).

what is a widow and an orphan?
Poor widows and orphans. It’s just tacky, not to mention a waste of space.

With the exception of Web design, where this can get rather tricky, there are an abundance of options to fix this in other designs.


7. Cramming everything you want to say into one small space.  

cramming everything

We’ve arrived! It’s our last of the Seven Serious Sins of Graphic Design! It might be last, but it’s a doozy. This sin is just one more way to ruin the message right off the bat. Once you choose what the message is, find a way to convey THAT message and that message alone. If you have more to say, maybe you need another platform (another ad, a new postcard, a separate flyer, etc.), or maybe you can refer the reader somewhere for more information (use a QR code to get them to your Website maybe). There are lots of options to fix this, but please appreciate the negative space and understand that it is as important to your message as the design.

Have you seen some funky designs or bad grammar in advertising recently? E-mail us!