Deadly design sins and how to avoid them
February 25, 2022

Design sins:

In all industries there are dirty, deadly sins that should never be committed. Get ready to cringe as we delve into some Deadly Design Sins. Don’t worry, we’re also going to let you in on how to avoid them! 

More than 3 fonts / overly decorative fonts

These days designers have access to fonts galore! There is an overload of the availability of fonts, which provides ample opportunity for creativity and original design. But, it also means the opportunity for misuse and poor choice of fonts. Like everything, there will be some great, some average and some absolutely terrible. The same goes for fonts. 

It is well known in the design world that some fonts like Papyrus, Comic Sans and Curlz are absolutely off limits. Using these will ultimately result in career suicide (yes, we’re that dramatic). Not to mention the cringe that designers feel when they see others using these fonts. It is important that your chosen fonts are professional, easy to read and suit your brand. 

In addition to choosing the right fonts, it is also important to not choose too many. It can be easy to get carried away with the vast array of options. But using more than 2 or 3 fonts can be confusing and can distort the image of your brand. We advise sticking to two and playing with size, weighting and hierarchy for effect. 

An example of to many fonts

Bad quality images/ pixelation

This cardinal sin is sure to damn you from the design world, or at least strip you of all the respect you once had. (Can you tell how much we hate pixelated images?). 

Grainy and pixelated images are the result of bad resolution and will make your design, website or print, appear unprofessional. 

A good resolution to aim for is 72 ppi for digital and 300 dpi for print. Though, the higher the better. 

No proofreading

This is an easy-to-commit design sin. Designers are often so focused on delivering good quality graphics that they forget to, or run out of time, to check the content provided to them. While a designer’s work is visual and rarely focuses on the copy, design is intended to convey meaning and messages. If a part of that message is incorrect like misspelt copy or inaccurate grammar, the whole design will suffer. 

It is always beneficial for a designer to get a few people to look over their work before finalising and sending it off to the client. The more eyes the better, and the higher your chances are of picking up on errors. 

We tend to overlook mistakes in our work when we’ve been working on the same thing for hours, so a fresh set of eyes is a great idea. It is also beneficial to have a copywriter look over your designs to copy and spell check. We have an in-house copywriter that checks ours.  

Non-complementary colours / bad contrast 

Apart from just looking terrible, non-complementary colours can ruin the viewer’s experience. Strong contrast is essential as it allows for your text to be easily readable and stand out. 

A general rule is to use a light text over a dark background and a dark text over a light background. This dark/light contrast generally works well and allows for easy viewing and reading. 

Designing without the medium in mind

While this may not have been the worst of sins a couple of years ago, it has become extremely important of late. There are countless ways to utilise design and they all have their own layouts, dimensions and specifics. 

Today, it is particularly sinful to create a one-size-fits-all design. Design can be used for magazines, pamphlets, social media posts, videography and so much more. It’s important to design for your medium. This doesn’t just mean to have the colours and dimensions right, it also involves understanding the intention of the design and how it will be perceived. 

This is where a corporate identity document would come in super handy as it would guide your designer on your preferred placement, colours etc.

Overcrowding and lack of white space

White space or negative space is the area that holds no content or design elements. It may sound like wasted space, but it is completely necessary for good design and layout. White space allows for content to be spread out and have room to be digested well. It also emphasises certain elements and draws our eyes to what is important. 

It is particularly important to avoid overcrowding (by using white space) when there is copy involved. When text is squished together it can be difficult and frustrating to read. 

White space brings a sophisticated, simple look to designs that make them pleasant to digest. 

Too much white space

While white space is a great thing, it’s possible to have too much of it. Too much white space means wasted spots where great design or content could be. It takes the reader out of the design as nothing is highlighted or emphasised. Your content is likely to get lost in too much white space. 

It is important to find the right balance with white space so that your design is exciting and sophisticated rather than bland and flat. 

Bad use of white space

VS

Good use of white space

Bad kerning

Kerning, in typography, refers to the spacing between characters in a font. This spacing should be even to ensure your copy is legible and that the message you are conveying comes across clearly. 

This is important for big headlines, to logos and all the way to paragraph spacing. 

Bad use of Kerning

Lack of hierarchy

Ever been on a website and not known what to read first or where to look. That’s because that designer committed the sin of no hierarchy (shudders). 

A designer should organise content according to a hierarchical structure that guides the reader through the design and leads to their end point. Visual hierarchy helps the viewer to understand and navigate through the content. 

Using templates over and over or repeating the same elements in every design

This sin is just shameful. Being a designer means being creative and coming up with new, fresh ideas all the time. It does not mean regurgitating the same design elements and sticking content into templates that you’ve used 12 times already. 

If you’re a designer who does this, stop being lazy and reignite your imagination with new styles and designs. If you’re struggling to find inspiration, read our blog post on how to find new and interesting design ideas. 

And if you’re looking to hire a designer, make sure you choose someone that will give you something uniquely you!

Focusing too much on what other people have designed and not trying to create something new 

Beware fellow designers, as this sin is an easy one to commit. This sin happens when a designer becomes so enticed and excited by the work of their peers that they focus too much on emulating their style, rather than creating something of their own. 

Using someone else’s work for inspiration is totally okay, and it’s necessary to acknowledge amazing designs and support each other. But when your own style and approach become compromised, you need to take a step back and clear your head. 

You’re in this industry for a reason, trust yourself and get back in-tune with your inner creative. 

Money takes priority and the design suffers

This is just the worst sin of them all for its cunning and greedy nature. It breaks our hearts when designers put a huge price on a project, take forever to do it and then under-deliver. Money should be the result of your efforts, not the reason you’re doing the work. 

It’s important that as a designer you take pride in the work that you do, and that you want your client to LOVE it when it’s done. When the money starts becoming your motivator, try to revisit why you got excited by the project to begin with and why it is that you do what you do. 

So designers, do not be enticed by these evils! Do not let the temptation drag you under. Stay strong comrades and continue creating awesome, unique, complementary and high res designs!!

Kayla Manfredo

Author

Kayla is our head designer and blog post gal. She works hard every week to bring you new and exciting posts along with Vanessa, who talks about marketing, and Mirko, who talks about buisness.

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