Design is a series of decisions. When you know enough to make good decisions, everything you design looks better. And it’s not hard. Anyone can do it, even you!
Maybe it’s because I’m such a visual person, but I see a lot of really bad design decisions out there. I’m ready to call them what they are: dirty design deeds.
They’re cheap and they’re easy to abuse. You can avoid them once you know what they are.
In recognition of these dirty deeds, I’ve created a Please Stop list. If you’re using these techniques, please stop. Now.
Please stop using a rainbow as your company’s colors
Some companies can’t make a decision. They use all the colors of the rainbow to communicate their visual brand.
If you’re Binney & Smith’s Crayola crayons, you’re allowed. But if you’re not, then it’s time to get choosy about how many colors you use.
Color can work for your brand or against it. The way to make color work for your brand message is to pick two colors, and use them consistently in everything you do.
You can expand this palette with background tints and an accent color, but nothing should replace your two main colors. Use them all over so that your audience will come to associate your two colors with your company.
Please stop dipping into the font honey pot
I know what you’re thinking. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m the girl with over 13,000 fonts. I know … I have a problem. I’ve admitted as much. But I’m a designer, and I use them! I really do!
You, on the other hand, have no excuse. You don’t have to clutter your hard drive with thousands of fonts. You just need two.
Pick two fonts that represent your business. If your business is traditional, or your company wants to look large and corporate, pick a classic serif font.
If your company is contemporary, modern and high tech, pick a sans serif font.
If you’re a little of both, try combining them, but follow the hints here to find out how to do it right.
Please stop embossing everything
Remember glass buttons? Sure you do. They looked like this:
They were all over the web a few years ago. Everything was shiny and glossy.
Now the trend is embossing. You know what I mean, don’t you? It looks like this:
Don’t get me wrong: it’s a nice style, and it’s a lot more streamlined than those glass buttons. But it’s all over. Everywhere you look!
And it’s not design. It’s decoration. Design isn’t trendy graphic treatments. (More on that later.)
This year’s embossing is last year’s glass buttons. When it comes to design, if you want your site to look timeless, don’t hop on the visual trend bandwagon. And don’t depend on trends to communicate your message.
Please stop adding unnecessary drop shadows
Here’s another visual trick that is overused. There’s nothing wrong with drop shadows when they’re used to make things clearer. I made a short video to show you when to use them and when to avoid them here.
What it boils down to is this: if you put either type or an image over a background and there’s not enough contrast to see the edges of the image that’s on top, add a subtle drop shadow to help define the edges.
But if there’s plenty of contrast already, don’t add a drop shadow. It only makes your design look muddy and dark.
The best solution of all? Don’t pick colors or tints that will obligate you to use a drop shadow in order to see type or a shape. Drop shadows may be unavoidable at times, but you shouldn’t depend on them to make up for bad design decisions.
Please stop thinking good design is about visual tricks
Good design is about communication. That’s why I believe any one of you reading this blog can learn to apply design principles to your marketing materials.
When you focus on communicating clearly and make all your design decisions with that filter in place, you won’t expect graphic trends to carry the weight of your brand. You’ll know that only clear copy and visuals will do that.