When designing printed materials, there are some important things to keep in mind. Before contemplating business card printing or booklet printing, your artwork should fulfil a particular objective. While there is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ design, it is definitely possible to create an ineffective design. So, as well as considering what should be included and featured in your designs, it is just as (if not more important) to be aware of what should be avoided.

As a starting point, it is useful to consider what design means. Design is about using colour, shapes, images, graphic components and text to create a layout that is interesting and attractive. Essentially, the purpose of design is to deliver a message to the audience. An ineffective design results if the message is not communicated successfully.

Here we look at some of the key ‘Design Don’ts’

1. Use of fonts

One of the most common problems with many designs is that too many fonts are used. While we are blessed with choice, too many of us make the mistake of trying to incorporate too many fonts in any one project. We can all think of websites or printed pieces we have looked at, only to be confused and distracted by the use of many different text styles. When too many fonts are used the layout no longer looks clear, consistent or well prepared.

This applies to all fonts that are used in your piece, such as text used in banners, logos and for navigation. All fonts used should either be the same or should match others that are used in the design.

If you are looking to apply a rule, a piece should really include one, two or a maximum of three different fonts and all of these should compliment each other. Rather than using different fonts for different segments of your piece, different segments can be indicated through the use of other styles such as: italics, underlining or bold.

Ensure that the fonts you use are legible and, in order to effectively communicate your message, can be clearly and easily read. No one wants to labour over text, trying to decipher it.

2. Avoid poor quality and/or too many images

Sometimes, the inclusion of a poor quality or just a bad picture can repel people from your piece. While many of us have an extensive range of images at our fingertips and can access all sorts of pictures from the internet, nothing looks worse (or more amateurish) than a pixelated or blurry image. Such a picture does not create a favourable impression of your business, so make sure the resolution of the image is optimal for publication and printing in booklets, business cards and other documents.

Similarly, we need to make sure that graphics are not overused. Just because images are available, it is never wise to try to cram as many as possible into a piece; they should be used strategically and with discretion. One or two photographs or other images of excellent quality will make a far more positive impression than a heap of questionable images.

Whenever images are used, they should have a purpose; they should add to the text rather than simply filling a space.

3. Too much information

You may have some incredibly interesting information to share, but your audience will lose interest if there is too much copy. Very often, people turn to a piece because they are looking for particular information. They look for key information, knowing that if this need is met additional detail can later be accessed.

Sometimes less is more, so keep to the point and ensure that the most important information is foregrounded and easy to find.

4. Jumbled layout

The format and layout of your piece should be consistent throughout. Have you ever felt confused, baffled or even annoyed when looking at a booklet that uses mixed layouts? It is rarely visually appealing.

Keep in mind too that consistency is very important for promoting brand recognition and understanding what your business is all about. The last thing you want your piece to resemble is a conglomeration of bits and pieces hastily thrown together.

5. A lack of white space

Don’t try to pack too much information into a limited space. When too much text and graphics are used, there is no break for the eyes – it is tiring and tiresome to look at.

When white spaces are included, the piece looks less confusing and cluttered. Inclusion of white space quickly and effectively creates a more professional look for both your piece and your business.

6. Communication is unclear

Your designed piece should clearly communicate a message. Be clear about what and to whom you are communicating.

As you prepare the piece, ask some pivotal questions such as:

  • Who is this being created for?
  • Why will they be reading it?
  • What do they want from the piece?
  • What do they like and dislike?

Knowing and understanding your target market will inform and support the creation of your design. Although whether a design does or does not appeal is subjective, a good design will have a purpose, be visually appealing and successfully communicate a message to a targeted group of people.