The Worst Advice You’ve Ever Heard About Design

There’s a lot of misconceptions about design out there, and chances are you’ve heard them. You may even believe them. Are you guilty of listening to this advice about graphic design?

It Costs Too Much

Maybe you’ve avoided hiring a designer because it seems too expensive at face value. Small businesses in particular feel that their budgets are tight, and allocating money towards “making things pretty” isn’t a valuable investment.

Would you pay $50 for a gourmet meal in a dumpy restaurant? Probably not. The same logic applies when you’re asking customers to trust you with your product, website or service with an unpolished appearance or poor user experience. Designers are trained to not only address the aesthetics of your business, but to approach each task as an opportunity to maximize your target audience’s experience with your brand. People buy products they trust, and they don’t trust the dirty salesman with torn clothing. You’ll need to invest in your business through good design to succeed in the current business environment.

My neighbor kid can use Photoshop, so s/he can design for me

An understanding of tools is not the only thing you need for good design. A trained designer brings a plethora of experience in meeting business objectives, like increasing your click-through rate, setting up your document for a reasonable print cost or making your logo work better at both tiny pixel and large format sizes. And when your neighbor kid’s work isn’t as great as you thought, you’ve wasted a lot of time. Going for the neighbor kid’s work or DIY will likely cost you more in the long run.

If I don’t like it, then I’m right

Too often clients see designed pieces and knee-jerk react, “I don’t like it.” Your opinion may differ from your customers, and your experienced designer has approached the job with that audience in mind. Asking for other feedback isn’t a bad idea, but before you ask your wife, friend or that neighbor kid’s opinion, consider having a discussion with your designer. S/he can explain how each option fits the creative brief and your business goals. Remember, some of the most famous logos were rejected at first glance — such as the Citi logo designed by Pentagram.

Fill up this empty space

“White space” or “negative space” is not “empty space.” To some untrained clients, open space is wasted or bothersome. Designers use this white space to create visual relief in a layout, such as to balance heavy areas of text or busy artwork. It allows the human eye to rest, or to be drawn towards an area like a call to action. When you ask a designer to fill up an empty space, you’re probably asking her or him to produce bad design for you.

All I need is a logo

A logo is not a brand. Slapping your logo on everything alone does not make it polished. A beautiful logo will not save your ugly, user-horrible website. Be sure to fully address your branding and material needs with an experienced professional.

I’m paying my designer, so I shouldn’t have to buy (photography, coding, copywriting, SEO …)

While some designers offer other services, many are best trained to work on your design and hire other contractors for speciality work like coding and photography. Your designer may make recommendations to enhance the work with other services, like helping you pair down your super-long website into a consumable length. And it’s unlikely they’re suggesting it just to make an extra buck – you probably need it more than you think.

This designer hasn’t created something exactly like X before, so I need someone else

There are many things wrong with this line of thinking. First, designers often can’t show samples from every client they’ve worked for due to NDAs. So, you may be dismissing someone who has done something very similar before. But second, designers are trained to adapt their finished products to your business needs and need the opportunity to showcase their range of talents. Christian Bale didn’t start his acting career as Batman — he starred in very different roles like the ultra-skinny guy in The Machinist. People need to be given the opportunity to grow and succeed. If you see a talented designer, generally they’re quite capable of adapting to your branding needs, brand style and new formats.