Friday, July 04, 2014

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Out as a Graphic Designer

Many fresh-out-of-school designers tend to make these avoidable mistakes. They are avoidable because they are common sense. However, they are easy to forget or ignore. Make sure you don't make these yourself:
  1. Design for print using RGB color spaces. Even though printers these days can handle files from RGB images, it's just best practice to use CMYK and assign a particular profile. You will have more control of the color outcome that way.
  2. Forget to lock your guides. I guarantee that you will move them as you work.
  3. Download and use images you find on the internet. Hey, it's free right? Wrong. You are violating someone's copyright. Want to ensure you are copyright compliant? Then create your own, or purchase the rights from stock agencies such as Shutterstock or iStockphoto. There are also plenty of sources for free images on the Net, like or Flickr. But, don't rely on them for every project.
  4. Be arrogant. Arrogance will not get you very far in such a competitive field. You might be very good. But who cares, if you are a pain to work with?
  5. Treating design as your personal art project. Designers are not fine artists. What we do is an art. But it's not for self-expression. We are in the communication and marketing business. Don't forget that. You are either making money for your client, communicating a compelling message, or creating something of value for other people. It's not about you.
  6. Follow the latest trends. It's a good idea to know what the latest trends are, and be able to use them. But using them as a solution is another matter. Your are working to help your client shine in all the clutter. Not add more clutter to be part of the cool kids. Learn what the trends are and go against them.
  7. Despise drawing. That's a mistake because drawing actually frees up your ability to come up with ideas quickly and makes you a more creative person. Take time to learn how to draw, and draw a lot.
  8. Ignore the audience while designing. As I said before, you aren't designing for yourself. Consider who you are designing for. And guess what? It's not the client either, even though they are paying you. It's your client's audience. Remember this and it will not only help your client be successful, but it will make you a better designer.
  9. Argue with the client. This is a common mistake, but understandable. What makes a designer valuable is their ability to see what the client cannot see. We help clients realize visual communication that's not only aesthetically pleasing, but effective. But what do you do if the client wants their vision to be what's implemented, and do not value your expertise as a designer? Let it go. Either let the job go, or just do what they want. But when doing what they want, make suggestions for improvement and do the job as well as you can. You may be the expert in what you do, but you are also the client's partner.
  10. Work without a creative brief. Believe me, you don't want to play the guessing game. Get down on paper exactly what the client expects you to do, how you expect it to be done, and what defines success. If you have this down, you and your client will be much happier and productive throughout the whole design process.
Photo courtesy Francesco of

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