SQN Blog-vent Calendar: 5. Five Things Not To Do When Designing

For our fifth blog of the Advent season, our Creative Director Laura Faulkner has stepped up to the keyboard, as she hands out some helpful notes on how to avoid potential pitfalls within the design process!

Creativity may have no limits, but that doesn’t mean that there are no rules in design. Whatever the kind of design – whether it’s a logo, a website or a piece of branding – it’s important to remember there are some definite no-nos. Many businesses trip up when trying to cut costs by producing their own graphics in-house without realising the implications. Not only do they end up with poorly produced branding without that all-important crisp professional edge, they may even end up in trouble with the law, too. So what are the dos and don’ts of good design? Here are some things NOT to do:

  1. Don’t copy (and we mean really not. Ever)

The world of the Internet has meant it is ridiculously easy to check out other people’s work. This is a particular hazard for designers, as the results of their creativity are available everywhere you look. But a design is legally protected and you can’t copy it. The rights to a design are generally held by its creator, or by the company who commissioned the work. Either way, they can’t be reproduced. By all means, look at other people’s designs for inspiration – artists throughout history have done that – but you need to come up with your own creative solutions.  Also, when seeking inspiration for your work, be hyper-aware of trademarks. The simplest, most iconic designs are almost always protected by trademarks and you “borrow” them at your peril. You have been warned.

  1. Don’t ignore cross-platform use

When creating a piece of work such as a logo, it’s important to consider all the ways it will be used. It’s all very well coming up with a beautiful-looking design you’re very pleased with, but you also need to consider how it will look on different devices such as mobile phones and tablets. How will it appear scaled up on a huge poster? Or tiny on an Internet-enabled watch? Produce samples of your designs on every different medium to check they work in whatever way they will end up being used.

  1. Don’t ignore colour or fonts

As we have stressed before, a design has to be original, both in terms of creativity and the law. This includes colour scheme and font style. When scouting around for inspiration, you may well find colour combinations you like in other people’s branding. In fact, it would be hard not to. But when you’re coming up with your own designs, the colours you use need to stand out from the crowd and that means not copying other people. Colours are highly memorable and people will easily confuse companies which use similar shades, so make sure you don’t fall into this trap. Fonts are also very important, but are often not given the consideration they deserve. A good design might not include very many words, so it’s vital that those words are delivered in the best font possible.

  1. Don’t use gimmicks

Original design means just that. It transcends fashion and gimmicks, and stands the test of time. Good designers keep an eye on fashion and trends, but try to remain aloof from the fads of the moment when coming up with their work. A fashionable phrase or look may make your design look up-to-the-minute when you show it to your client, but that minute will soon pass and it will have dated within the year. Try to keep things simple and classic and your designs will be all the more memorable for it.

  1. Don’t overdo it

Fuss is the enemy of good design. It’s tempting when you’re working hard on something to fine-tune every detail – and you must of course do that – but try to always take a step back from your work and make sure it isn’t becoming overloaded. Less is always more. Simple is best. White space is King.