Design Mistakes that Make You Look Like a Newb

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One of the things that we all know to be true regardless of our chosen field, is that everyone makes mistakes. Just as the sun will rise and set, this is one of life’s little inevitabilities. Not only that, but in the design field, as in many others, mistakes are an important tool in our learning process. So making them is not necessarily a bad thing, but the unfortunate truth is that it can be. Especially if the mistake that we end up making, reflects negatively on our design business. In these cases, while there still may be lessons to take away from the mistakes, the bigger picture is the impact it will have on your professionalism.

professional Design Mistakes that Make You Look Like a Newb

If it makes us look less than professional, it tends to be bad for business.

Those mistakes are the ones we really want to be on guard against to prevent our business from taking any sort of negative hit due to them. So in this post today, we are looking at a handful of those mistakes that when made, make you look less like an established designer, and more like a newb. So naturally, when you can, these are certainly the areas to avoid when it comes to that inevitable time for us to commit some sort of professional faux pas.

Using Graphic Editor Defaults

One of the major mistakes that get made by designers from time to time that can often cast a less stellar reflection on our skillsets and reputation as a designer is that when using some sort of effect or filter in our graphics editor, we do not adjust or tweak the settings at all and simply opt to use the default. This is certainly an easy one to watch out for, however, in the interest of time or whatever, it happens more than it should. And while there are more serious design sins one could commit, this one speaks volumes loudly to our abilities as a designer, especially to our colleagues.

Whenever you apply any sort of effect to your piece, you should take the time to tweak the settings to get them specifically aligned to your project. The default settings for most graphics editors tend to be so basic, and to some degree even a bit exaggerated, examples of the effect that they should always be looked at as a starting point. Never an end. Drop shadows are a great example of this in most cases, as one of the default settings is to use solid black to create the shading. When in reality the color used should be a darker version of whatever the color the element being shadowed is. And with just a little effort, we can move beyond this newb mistake.

Not Using a Contract

Another major mistake that some designers commit, against all the warnings from those in the community who have already been burned this way, is they neglect to use a contract when working with a client. And there are many who think that doing business this way is the only way to go. However, any designer who has worked for hours for a client without a contract in place, only to have the client completely flake out with regards to payment or follow through, knows that sting. And more importantly they know that sting can be avoided eight to nine times out of ten by simply having a contract in place.

contract Design Mistakes that Make You Look Like a Newb

If there is nothing to sign, some clients might be apprehensive about proceeding.

Also, clients that have hired us in the past have insisted on a contract being in place for multiple reasons. For one, it made them feel more at ease, as they had worked with designers in the past who did not use a contract, and the project went less than professionally. They also wanted to ensure that all of the project points that we had discussed and agreed upon, such as price and deadlines for example, were actually set in stone. So it reassured both them and us that everyone was on the same page for the project. So there are clients out there who will look at us more as amateurs and not as true professionals should we go forward without a contract.

Not Saving Copy With Layers

The next mistake up for discussion is less likely to make us look like newbs as much as it is likely to make us feel like newbs should we fall into this designer pitfall. It is the mistake of not saving a copy of the finished design complete with the individual layers it took to create the end result. This may not seem like anything major, unless you have had it come around and bite you in the backside in during your tenure as a designer. The first time you have delivered what the client expressed was a perfect design, only to have them get the files and then ask for such a minor adjustment that they think it nothing, but you no longer have the layered copy of the design. Instead all you have is merged down together.

layers Design Mistakes that Make You Look Like a Newb

Suddenly, that minor adjustment that the client is asking for, becomes a major task often complete with headaches galore and numerous bouts of kicking yourself in frustration. So you can see how this mistake can end up being a costly one for the designer, should the client still be owed a revision or two according to your initial agreement. This is why it is always a good idea to take that extra step and make sure that you keep a copy on hand of the final draft complete with layers. And just for that extra bit of sanity maintenance, do yourself a favor and name all of your layers as well.

Not Knowing Your Limits

Another mistake that often happens in the design field which can reflect poorly on our business and give off the impression that we are somewhat less than professional, is to not know the limits of our abilities and schedules. This is important for a number of reasons, but for the most part it is important because we really do not want to over-commit ourselves to projects that we do not have the time or the skillsets for seeing through completely. When we drop the ball in either of those ways, it reflects a newb status that can be hard for us to then shake in their eyes.

reach Design Mistakes that Make You Look Like a Newb

It is an imperative to know the limits of your reach.

Another thing to consider here, is that when this happens, it very rarely only impacts a single project. If we have too much on our plate, and try to take on more, usually we end up falling behind on more than one of the projects we have in progress. So we have to remember that this is generally not just going to effect one client, one project, and one perspective of our business’ capabilities. No, it is going to have much more of a ripple effect, so if we can take steps to avoid it, then we should get to stepping. No matter where our focus lies, knowing our limits is key to being able to find success in our pursuits.

Being Less Than Available

Another pitfall that designers often casually stumble into thinking little of how it reflects upon them, is to be less than available with regards to clients, users, colleagues, whomever. If we swim in the online design community waters, there are numerous expectations that are placed on us communication wise, and failing to effectively meet these expectations can give the impression that we are a little less than capable of keeping up. So we want to always be sure that we remain reachable to our various online audience bases.

Either through consistent social media interaction, or via quick e-mail response times, you want to keep those connections and lines of communication open as much as you possibly can. Being able to manage your time so that each day you are, in some form or fashion, available to the public is a near must for being able to keep that professional edge from wearing off of your business. There are many fantastic articles and complete systems that can assist you with this effective time management in a step by step way should you need more of an in-depth approach.

Being a Slave to Trends

As far as mistakes go that make us look like amateurs, being a slave to design trends without forming or finding an individual voice of our own is a major one that happens more than most of us would like to admit. Naturally there are going to to be trends that crop up on the design landscape from time to time that steal our focus, and this is not to say that on occasion we cannot indulge and get trendy with a project. However, we need to know when to draw that line and come back to the originality and individual flare that we have which can make us great. Trends are great, but they come and go. You want your work to be more lasting than a trend, so why would you allow your work to be a slave to them?

That’s a Wrap

That does it for this end of the discussion, however we are now turning the dialog reigns over to our readers to carry on in the comment section below. What pitfalls would you add to the list? Or what additions to the list do you think are being overblown and are not as pivotal as they have been described here? Whatever your two cents is, now is your time to leave it with us.

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There are 12 comments for this article
  1. rafael armstrong at 6:06 pm

    I have to agree wholeheartedly on the layered file issue (I would add “keep editable type” as a corollary). However, I have to slightly disagree with the “know your limits” statement. I think it’s perfectly fine to play it safe (so to speak) if the risk is seriously getting in over your head. But, to be fair, IMO there can’t be growth– in any area of life– without taking some risks and pushing those limits a bit.

    • Robert Bowen at 8:57 pm

      Hey Rafael,

      Thanks for the follow-up! I really like the keep editable type hint…would’ve added it myself, but I always forget to do that :) !

      The knowing your limits section isn’t about playing it safe, it is about not over-committing yourself schedulewise. Knowing how much you have on your plate and whether or not you can effectively pile more on. Taking risks is essential for being able to grow, as you mention. Now it mentions knowing the limits of our abilities for the simple fact that if we take on a job that requires more than we can deliver on, then it will tend to look less than favorable on our business. We need to know whether we are getting in over our heads, like you said.

  2. Jayman Pandya at 8:48 pm

    I like this post. Good read. We are not necessarily talking web design but maybe we can add reluctantly developed HTML or improper markup.

    • Robert Bowen at 11:44 pm

      I think those are worthy additions indeed, especially for a more web design focused chat. Appreciate the follow up.

  3. Sylvia at 2:13 am

    Good article! I was glad to see that I already employ many of the above tips, and therefore feel like less of a Newb.

    However, I am definitely guilty of a few, especially trying to save time by using default graphic styles. I was recently called out on this in one of my designs by a fellow designer, and I have been trying to pay careful attention to this detail moving forward.

    • Robert Bowen at 11:46 pm

      Thanks, Sylvia. Glad the post was helpful. And you have done the important thing, you learned from your mistake and you are growing as a result. ;)

  4. Pingback: Design Mistakes that Make You Look Like a Newb | Speckyboy Design Magazine
  5. MATHEW CANTER at 5:09 am

    Informative post indeed and I agree also to some extent but Taking risks is essential for being able to grow, as you mention. Now it mentions knowing the limits of our abilities for the simple fact that if we take on a job that requires more than we can deliver on, then it will tend to look less than favorable on our business. We need to know whether we are getting in over our heads, like you said.

    • Robert Bowen at 11:48 pm

      Appreciated, Mathew, and as pointed out below, the knowing your limits was not an admonishment against taking risks. They are too important a part of the growth process. Thanks for taking time to leave your thoughts.

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