by Jessica Freeman | Featured Contributor
There’s nothing more nostalgic (or hilarious) than looking back at my high school and college design portfolios. My high school pieces were definitely worse since I was still using Publisher and WordArt! But, even as a designer in the beginning stages during college, I made a lot of mistakes!
Not every entrepreneur can be professionally trained (or educated) in the area of design, but many people try to DIY their own design. As someone who looks at design everyday, and made many of these mistakes in the beginning, take my advice below. Implementing these few simple changes will help take your designs to the next level.
- Using Decorative Fonts: People love to find and try new fonts. The only problem with this is that many people don’t understand the correct usage of fonts. A long paragraph is not the appropriate time to use a script font in your brochure or on your website.
- Solution: A good rule of thumb is to use decorative fonts for headlines, and a simple serif font for large bodies of text.
- Putting Everything in Corners: Layout can be hard to figure out. You don’t want things to be cluttered or top-heavy, so what is everyone’s go-to fix? Put decorative elements in the corner. Doing so causes your design to look amateur.
- Solution: Try to create hierarchy within your piece. Think of it like a newspaper – headlines, sub-headlines, and body text. This can apply to text and graphics.
- Too Many “Things”: Most people don’t like (or understand) white space. They think it looks too bare, or incomplete, when in reality – your eyes need room to breathe! When there’s white space in a design, people have a need to fill it. So, they find decorative elements to fill it, which usually results in a cluttered piece.This is especially true when it comes to images or graphics being used on social media. People will only see your graphics for a few seconds. If you want to provide value, you have to keep the design simple and easy to read. High-contrast and easy to read images (if there is any text) are more likely to grab attention and increase engagement.
- Solution: Be intentional about every element you include in your design. With a good layout, you shouldn’t need to “fill” any white space.
- Low-Quality Images: Finding good images for social media or your website can be difficult. You can pay for images, but not many self-employed people want to pay for images just to post on social media. The mistake many people make is stealing photos from Google Images, because they think it’s the easiest thing to do. Often, this results in low-resolution, pixelated images.While the low-quality of Google Images should be enough of a deterrent, that’s not always the case. Be aware that using images from Google is also a copyright issue. When in doubt, assume that the image is copyrighted – for your safety, and out of respect of the creator.
- Solution: Do some research and find a good, free stock image website. Unsplash.com is a popular site for finding free images to use online!
- Designing for Yourself: When working on a design, some people get caught up in what looks “pretty” or what they prefer themselves. If you’re selling life insurance and using pink swirls, people may not take you serious. It can’t always be about what you want.
- Solution: Keep your audience in mind when designing. What message are you trying to get across? What will represent your brand well? You don’t have to look like everyone else in your industry, but you need to look professional.
There are plenty of resources out there to help you refine your design skills – Skillshare, Creative Live, etc. But, sometimes it’s better to save yourself the time and frustration, and hire a professional. Some designers may even be up for bartering services. Even if you can’t hire a professional, reach out to a professional designer and see if they can give you a consult!
Jessica Freeman, professional graphic designer and owner of Jess Creatives, works with entrepreneurs, businesses and non-profits to create stunning graphics, websites and videos that help them stand out among competition so they can focus on doing what they do best.
After working in the corporate world for a few years and doing freelance on the side, Jess decided to take the leap to self-employment in 2014. Jess Creatives has had the privilege of working with some incredible organizations such as Georgia Tech University, Chick-fil-A Race Series, and Unique Venues.
After hours, Jess enjoys spending time with her husband, Aaron, and #FranktheChair. They currently live in Atlanta, GA, where they enjoy working out, volunteering, and working on side projects for Jess Creatives.