10 Signs You are a Bad Graphic Designer

Yes, this is a controversial topic, however I hope to raise awareness of some mistakes you may be making in your graphic design pieces that are making you look like an amateur, but please keep in mind that none of these are hard and fast rules, this is only a general guide of things you should be aware of.

Please forgive me for the graphic and bad grammar / spelling in the picture above as I’m sure you can see it is a joke (rainbow gradients, comic sans, bevel emboss, 13 not 15, bad grammar, off centered type – yuk)

Anyway, I have compiled 15 tell tale signs that you may still be considered a (don’t quote me) bad graphic designer. Some of these have been taken from Robin Williams great book “The Non-Designers Type Book” that I recommended in the top 5 typography resources of all time.

1. Helvetica

Do you use Helvetica in everything?

Ok, yes I know, it is the most popular font of all time – but that is the downfall of Helvetica. Just because it is there, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Try something else next time and try break out of your habit. Just for some suggestions, maybe Trade Gothic, Formata, Futura, Antique Olive, Eurostile? And yes I know this website uses Helvetica Also check out the post 30 fonts to last you a lifetime.Spacer

2. Straight Quotes & Wrong Quotes

Do you use straight quotes still?

Straight quotes were for typewriters, times have changed! Look at the difference between the quotes above.

  1. The quotations are not hanging over the edge.
  2. Straight quotes have been used instead of true quotation marks.
  3. Quotation marks have been used instead of prime marks after the 7 and 3.
  4. An apostrophe has been left out in between it’s.

Learn the keystrokes to ‘real’ quotes in every application you use. Learn the MAC & PC keyboard shortcuts here.

Don’t type curly quotes when you need inch and foot marks (prime marks).Spacer

3. Quotations Not Hung

Do you NOT hang your quotation marks?

See in the picture in number 2, how the quote marks are hanging off the side of the quote, compared to the other one. Hang your quotation marks. Read your software manual (check their help files) to read how to do this or you can do it manually.Spacer

4. Double Returns.

Do you hit the ‘return’ or the ‘enter’ key twice between paragraphs or after headlines?

Using two spaces makes it possible to end up with a blank line at the top of a column plus it leaves way too much space between each paragraph – it looks disconnected.Spacer

5. Two Spaces After Punctuation

Do you add two spaces after each sentence?

This is a very bad practice and is not correct – Using only one space is the correct way.Spacer

6. Using Boxes Behind Text

Do you use plain boxes of colour behind your text?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to. Try something else, use a dramatic headline, use your white space, use a different font, reverse your type, use pull quotes, etc. Can you see in the above picture how the surrounding white space makes the text stand out on its own? You can use these in the correct places however be careful not to over use it.Spacer

7. Centred Layouts

Do you use a centred layout in your graphic design pieces?

Using centred layouts is usually bad practice as it creates a deadly dull look. See how much more effective the two green verses are, they are more dynamic (one is centred & one is left aligned). Using flush left or right gives strength to your entire page and usually is a better option unless of course there are reasons to use centred text. eg. creating a formal wedding invitation.Spacer

8. Borders

Do you use borders around everything?

This often indicates a beginner who feels unsafe with type that is uncontained. Use your white space. You can let it be there. Seriously.Spacer

9. Indents

Do you use half inch indents?

This is bad practice and is the old way (back in typewriter days). The standard is one em space which is a space as wide as the point size of the type. (what?) This is approximately two spaces, not five.Spacer

10. Hyphens For Bullets

Do you use bullets for hyphens?

This is a typewriter habit and is unprofessional. Try using dots or dingbats.