Everyone has some idea of what they think graphic design is or should be. Some people’s descriptions are relatively true (albeit mildly offensive), such as “graphic designers just make things look pretty.” Most of these confused and overly simplified ideas are harmless, but there are a few design myths that can be harmful for designers and clients alike.
Let’s hash out some of the more common misconceptions, shall we?
DESIGN MYTH 1: Your logo should tell the whole story.
So many new business owners want their logo to be the design equivalent of a one-man band. They think they want to cram their brand’s entire life story into a single graphic. This is very bad for a number of reasons.
A logo is meant to be a recognizable icon that consumers will associate with the work you do. The more you try to incorporate within the logo, the longer it will take viewers to register what they’re looking at. Remember: a logo isn’t your company history. It isn’t your sales team. And it certainly isn’t a definitive collection of company values.
Combing all of your services, cost-effectiveness and product quality within a single logo is impossible. Instead, choose a logo style that matches the overall feel of your company. It will take you much further than graphic attempting to convey everything at once.
DESIGN FACT: They say less is more, and for good reason. Step away from the chaos, focus on one element and show it off in the best possible light.
DESIGN MYTH 2: Your brand should match the other brands in your industry.
This damaging myth about branding hurts because it keeps your company from standing out. Think about heating and air conditioning companies. If you’ve ever worked with one, either from a design perspective or as a customer, you can probably come up with a few common traits in their designs.
Including elements (see: any combination of sun, fire, stars, ice, snow, and water) in your logo will make the industry instantly recognizable, but are viewers going to remember what logo belongs to which company? It seems pretty unlikely.
DESIGN FACT: You want your logo to be recognizable, not forgettable. Instead of asking a designer to give you what everyone else has, take the time to figure out what sets you apart, and let that represent you to potential customers.
DESIGN MYTH 3: All design software is created equal.
It’s understandable that clients would make this assumption. They typically have no design experience. Many people have it in their head that Microsoft Paint (or its replacement, Paint 3D) is just an alternative to the Adobe software, but that is untrue. These programs actually have unique tools and are designed for a specific type of work.
Photoshop vs. MS Paint
Adobe Illustrator and InDesign, for example, are tools specially created with graphic design in mind. Too many times after wrapping up an elaborate design project have I had ac client request a file that’s editable in Word. No such file existed, of course, because Word does not have the same capabilities as Adobe Suite apps.
There are ways to save files that can be used in other programs, sure. The problem is that they are not especially reliable. For starters, elements can be lost during the file conversion process.
Think about it: You have a screw with a Phillips head. You can try using a flathead screwdriver to fix it, and you may succeed. You also may end up stripping the screw. If that happens, you’re going to dedicate additional time and energy replacing that damaged screw.
DESIGN FACT: If you are wanting something that can easily be edited in the future, be sure to talk with your designer beforehand. It’s important to make sure expectations are clear from the beginning. Clear communication is a crucial piece of any successful design process.
DESIGN MYTH 4: Every business needs the same marketing materials.
In the days before digital, it was really important for companies to have an identity system. Marketing channels were fewer, so it was easier to decide what was needed. Businesses only had physical elements to focus on. For general branding, they typically did not request much more than a logo, corporate letterhead, business cards, and branded envelopes. Posters or ads may come into play with special promotions, but there weren’t many channels to explore otherwise.
These days, brands function differently. What works for one industry isn’t necessarily beneficial for another. Many clients now focus a majority of their marketing efforts digitally. They have no use for custom letterheads or envelopes. Instead, these clients ask for social media graphics and web headers.
DESIGN FACT: Tailoring a design package makes sense both logistically and financially. Give your marketing strategy some consideration before starting a branding project.
DESIGN MYTH 5: Anyone can be a designer.
This is probably the most common, and also the most damaging, design myth. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has spent a considerable amount of time cleaning up messy projects. You know, those ones designed by their brother’s coworker who took a Photoshop class in high school. By no means do I think I’m the only person capable of helping you with your project. What I do have, however, is years of professional experience. An untrained person with a 30-day Adobe trial is not likely to possess the same skill-set.
There’s something about designing that many people don’t take seriously. Trust me when I say that looks can be deceiving. The design process is rarely as simple as the final result made it seem. The same can be said about other professions.
If there’s a leak, would you start ripping out the plumbing of your bathroom? Probably not. You’d be calling a plumber.
DESIGN FACT: Your brand deserves the same level of care and professionalism as anything else. Next time you’re thinking about starting a DIY design project, consider talking with an expert first.
This post was updated on May 20, 2019
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