Today I want to talk to you about the most common design mistakes made by non-designers. I’m gonna tell 15 of them.

  1.  Avoid using words instead of visuals.

One, avoid using words instead of visuals. One of the most common mistakes is that amateurs and non-designers use too many words, too much text in their design. This might be their slide, it might be their infographic presentation and so on.

So what you instead want to do is to stick with visual cues and just the essential elements. To reduce some amount of content and supplement that with visual cues. That way the user can focus on what you try to communicate with them.


  1. Poor readability.

Number 2 is poor readability. Now with poor readability, one of the other mistakes is too much text. Too many lines of text and also the user is filling out their page.

If you look here at the bottom example, 50 to 60 characters per line is what you want to shoot for, think of it as approximately 2 or 3 tweets put together. And keep your phonograph very short.


  1. Mismatching fonts.

Number 3 is mismatching fonts. Now I’m gonna be talking a lot about fonts, font pairing. I’m gonna be doing specific videos on those but one of the problems is that there are too many fonts used and in this case, there are three different fonts that are applied and they don’t coordinate with each other. Makes the design look busier and doesn’t look very professional.

What you do instead, is to stick with 2 or 3 fonts maximum, instead if you need to do a variation, do a variation of the font. Maybe in Italic or Bold and that allows you to… Using different weights allows you to actually achieve balance and yet variation of your design.


  1. Not choosing the right colours.

Number 4 is not choosing the right colours. Colours are a very big deal in design, be it through the colour selection, or the combination. In this case, if you look at the example, somebody gave, you know, a child 3 or 4 different colour crayons and just basically had at it and that’s what it looks like. And that’s the problem with designers and amateurs is that they have a lot of fonts, they have a lot of colours and the disposals and they feel like they can just mix and match everything.

There are a few basic principles to follow in terms of colours, what you want to do is to you know, use colours that aid and improve the readability of the content and to grab the users’ eye and don’t inundate you with it. And also you want to have the right amount of contrast through the colors that you use.

So the example below you have 3 different colours and also if you look at it, there’s the orange, and the grey with the white to have a nice balance together.


  1. Lack of negative space.

5 is a lack of negative space. So in terms of negative space, I want you to think about your… Let’s see your living room. You have your TV and then you have your couch, and you might have a coffee table. You have this space.

You don’t have every object filling everything. And so the same you know, principle should be applied in your designs. And in the example above, what the individual has done is to just completely occupy that area with something. Free space, negative space is a great thing in the design. So in the example below what you see is free space, negative space and the concentrations in the middle.

One of the great examples is Google’s home page, you know. It’s about the search and so the component that’s there is the search and so you don’t have to look around for it.


  1. Place elements arbitrarily.

Number 6 is to place elements arbitrarily. Now not aligning elements is a big deal as well in design. So if you look at the two examples, the one above, there’s no purpose and direction.

Things are just space apart. In the example below, you have kind of the content that is left justified and so there’s a certain order and a balance. That’s what you want to shoot for.


  1. Failing to create contrast.

Failing to create contrast. So that’s another element that you want to concentrate on. It’s a mistake made often by non-designers. You have light text, your foreground over your background. And if you look at the example below, what’s happening is you have a dark text or a white background. And so you have achieved a good balance of contrast.

So you want to use colours that are contrasting shades and levels of saturation. So in this case, if you look at it, you have a light grey, you have a navy blue and goes along with a brighter orange.


  1. Not scaling properly.

Number 8 is not scaling elements properly. And in this case, one of the mistakes that I see often non-designers and amateurs make is that they keep everything the same size. They don’t take advantage of these tools or the disposal to scale things. And when you scale things, you want to emphasize.

Larger elements are the emphasis or the focal points. So if you look at the work dramatic and the work effect, primarily the word dramatic is the first thing that you see. Through scaling, you can gear and also achieve a certain focal point with your audience.


  1. Hard-to-read text.

Number 9 is hard-to-read text. So this actually kind of goes with the example that I mentioned before, another mistake is the contrast. Again, you have text, that’s kinda blue, and the image behind it is very hard to read the text. And so that’s a no-no as actually one more common mistake that I see often being made.

But if you look at the two examples and compare them together, on the one below, we have a nice contrast. We have light text, white over a darker image and so it’s very easy to read and focus on the text that’s been shown to you.


  1. Inappropriate font combinations.

Just a few more to go. Number 10 is an inappropriate font combination. So if you look at the examples here, you have a rustic image and in the forefront, you have a font and the colours look like they should be on the box of a Barbie doll. And it doesn’t correlate with the image behind it. Now, look at this one. In the example here you have, the image is driving the usage of the font. So the fonts and the image behind it, they’re in perfect harmony.

That’s is where you want to always shoot for. Think about when you’re selecting fonts, think about the environment and what you’re trying to achieve. Message and also the surrounding area that there’s gonna be on.


  1. Inadequate space between lines.

Number 11 is inadequate space between lines. So this one again you know, the Problem With Leading, you have words “problem with” are stuck together and then you have the “leading”. What you want to instead do is you know, it’s okay to have line breaks but the line breaks should have a purpose. In case you have a short paragraph and you have a header. So there’s a little bit of separation between them and that’s an okay thing to do.


  1. Using raster images.

Using raster images is number 12 and again this is a common one. So images in general you know, they’re big maps. And what that means is that there’s pixelation in them. If you take images and if you scale them up, they will become pixelated such as the example here. And it’s okay to scale them down but never scale them up. That’s a big tip I can provide you to the non-designers.

And also you want to stick with using vector shapes and text. So one of the good things is, these days visual tools such as PowerPoint, Prezi, and even our tool Visme, all the text, and the shapes are vectorized. So you can stretch them and size them as big as you want and as small as you want and you will never lose the resolution. So you want to use it as much as possible and then when you do bring in images you know, try to avoid sizing them up.


  1. Striving for complete symmetry.

Now number 13 is striving for complete symmetry, okay. Here’s the thing, when you’re creating content for digital and print for someone, you don’t have to always have perfect symmetry. And you know, you’re not creating a car that needs to be aerodynamic or a plane, this is digital content and/or design. And in that case, you know, you wanted to be after the harmony. You want to create balance. If you can achieve balance without making things symmetrical, is perfectly okay.


  1. Failing to communicate effectively.

Number 14 is failing to communicate effectively. So here’s the thing, you’re creating content for your audience, as to the whole purpose of it. So you want to always make sure that the content you’re creating, you don’t overdo it and also you get the message across. And the example here, and this is a mistake that I believe designers and non-designers make. I’m guilty of it myself. What we do is we put too many objects and shapes, and we’re trying to over-emphasize things.

However what you want to do is to minimize, use the minimal principle. In this case, you have, text and you have a supporting, supplementing icon. And so together they have a nice balance, there’s a white space and everything just kind of fits and it is in harmony.


  1. Not being consistent.

Last but not least is not being consistent. So consistency is key. This is about contrast, and the use of colours and it all goes down as well into fonts. And the example here, you’re looking at fonts, text. So you got good colour and the use of the font. The text on the left is smeared, on the right side it is you know, the colour doesn’t balance with the rest.

What you instead want to do is you know, pick a font, pick a colour palette and stay consistent and you know to create a sense of unity and cohesiveness with your design. So in the example below, you can see that the colours, the orientation, the use of the fonts – everything is balanced. And so it’s actually taking advantage of the number of the mistakes that I mentioned and it’s reversing those and so you achieve this nice clean design below it.

So those are the 15 design mistakes I want to talk to you about. There are more of them. We have a nice blog post that talks about 19, so there are 4 more that I did not over here.

I’m gonna put the link below. Go ahead and take a look at it. And again I promise you, if you put a few of these into works, and it doesn’t matter what type of content you want to create. Perhaps it’s a presentation, it might be a Word document, maybe it’s for print or maybe it’s for the web regardless, if you put these principles into works, they’re very easy to follow.

I promise you the quality of your design will be improved and again at the end of the day, you want to practice. Thank you. See you guys next time.