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Resplendence, a blog from Radiant Resolution about graphic design

Common Mistakes Designers Make (That Will Cost You)

All designers make mistakes. But there are many ways to reduce common (or big) mistakes seen everyday. One way to prevent mistakes is to always be sure to use a proper template. As a designer, I've created a number of templates for different design projects (such as a pamphlet or poster), and within those templates I've tested and tried various styles (or automated effects) and continue to refine these templates when I learn easier, faster, or more efficient ways to design. Also, every designer should make it a habit to spell check every project before they send out the proof (sounds like a given, but many designers don't even know there is a spell check in some programs). These are just a few ways to avoid some of the common designer mistakes, but here are some other mistakes you may not know about that can really slow down production or even cost your business a lot of money to correct.

Not Cleaning Up Logos

I'm using an example of a logo that was professionally designed, and then the original file was sent to me for edits. The first problem was that the font wasn't originally outlined, which I'll get to next. The second problem was that the artwork was not simplified. If you'll notice in the image, when I selected the logo, there were layers of the design overlapping. The reason this is a problem is mainly for any outside printer, especially for printing vinyl or embroidery, because everywhere there is a break in a shape, the printer will automatically make a cut the vinyl (or change the stitching on an embroidery machine). Multiple layers also make for a more complex, larger file that's harder to work with and leaves room for errors.

Not Embedding/Outlining Fonts

The next problem I run into often is when another designer doesn't outline or embed fonts, and then doesn't include the font they used within their design. What happens when I open one of these files when I don't have the proper fonts installed in my computer is that they are replaced with a default font, which can not only change the look of a design, but for bigger documents can even rearrange the alignment of the text and throw everything off. When a designer saves a document they have the option to "package" a project in the menu, and the program will automatically collect the fonts they used and store them in a folder. If you are transferring a design from one designer to another, be sure to ask your first designer to send you a packaged file.

Not Zooming In

Sometimes, a design is done by a professional artist and looks great at a smaller size. But I'm often asked to take a previously designed ad or flyer and increase it to a large poster size (or even something as big as a trade show booth). When the artwork is blown up, tons of alignment errors show up that I then have to correct. So instead of just a simple resize, it's turned into a detailed redesign and I charge by the hour.

No Bleed or Crop Marks

Another really common error is when a designer intends for a design to bleed off the page, but they did not extend the artwork over the edge and provide crop marks for the printer. Sometimes it can be as simple as forgetting to check the "include crop marks" box when exporting the file, so it's easy to overlook. But, a designer should always reopen their file after they save an examine to make sure crop marks and bleed are included, along with any special instructions for the printer.

Not Utilizing Styles and Master Pages

Styles and master pages are extremely helpful tools for designers, especially when working on a large document such as a newsletter or a book. When a client sends me a file and requests a drastic change (like all chapter titles changed to a different color in the document), it should be as easy as one click in the style window. But often times the style wasn't utilized, and I have to manually change every title in the document (and bill by the hour). The same goes with master pages. Sometimes the client will want something changed throughout the document like the placement of the page numbers. If the page numbering scheme is included in a master page, it's again a simple, one-click change. If not, I'm again tediously tweaking every page.

Not Spell Checking

Though it's the client's responsibility to approve the final proof, your designer should always run a quick spell check before sending out the proof. I also make it a habit to copy and paste contact information directly from the client onto the project in order to prevent any typos. While typos still happen, making these simple steps habit help to prevent most of the big ones.

Using the Wrong Color Scheme

Sometimes, I'll receive a file from a client who is complaining that the colors don't seem to print out correctly and they look different on screen. The file will often have spot colors (Pantone color system) or the RGB color scheme (used for projects seen on screen only), when they should be in CMYK. Here's some more information for you on that, if you're still curious.

Using the Wrong Programs

Designers typically use the Adobe Creative Suite, and mainly use Illustrator for illustrations and logos, Photoshop for photography-heavy imagery, and InDesign for larger multi-page documents. I'll often receive a design in Photoshop that would have been easier to create and edit in InDesign, or vice versa. In some cases, I'll have to recreate the file in another program. Be sure to discuss with your designer which programs they plan to use before hand. And it's a big red flag if they say anything other than Illustrator for a logo, because they can't create a vector graphic in InDesign or Photoshop! If you are hiring a designer for the first time, be sure to go over some of these points with them to make sure you are on the same page. And remember, you often get what you pay for, and if your designer is unaware of these seemingly small mistakes, it may be costing YOU more money in the long run.

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About Brittany Klein

Brittany Klein is a freelance graphic designer from Maryland. She established her company, Radiant Resolution, in 2008 after receiving her Master of Arts degree in graphic design from Savannah College of Art & Design. She has since written blogs, e-books, and articles centered around graphic design and fine art for many organizations across the country.

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