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Common Graphic Designer Mistakes

by | Jun 2, 2014 | Articles, Design, Freelancing, Web Design | 0 comments

Common Graphic Designer Mistakes

Graphic Designer Mistakes

Being a graphic designer is a great accomplishment. You’ve been through school you’ve been through training, you’ve learned many different tricks of the trade. You had an internship and you’ve worked in an actual design business, which means that you actually have some experience in the design field. However, whether you are an experienced designer, or you’re just starting out, there are common graphic designer mistakes that are made every day. Below, I’m going to discuss these mistakes and how you can avoid them so that you can be a more successful graphic designer.

Not Diversifying Your Skills

It is important for you to diversify your skills. It is really difficult to find a job where you only work on logo design, or you only work on business cards, or something else specific. You’re going to need to know how to handle a wide variety of projects, such as designing flyers, logo design, business cards, signs, websites, and more. At this point in time you really can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. This is especially true if you’re just starting out. It takes years to hone and refine your skills to the point where you can make a name for yourself for one particular skill. You have to develop years worth of client work in one certain aspect, in order to be well-known in that area. Many designers make the mistake of thinking that they can only do print design without knowing anything about the web. That was true 10 years ago, but now it’s not the case. You have to know and understand both print and web design. The designs that you create for print, such as logo designs, have to be applicable to the web. Even if it’s just general knowledge, you need to have some in order to succeed.

Diversifying Your skills too much

I know this is going to sound crazy (and contradictory to my last point), but you shouldn’t diversify your skills too much. There is such a thing as spreading yourself too thin. This happens every day with a graphic and web designers. I think it’s important for you to have a handful of skills that you’re very very good at. However, you cannot be a master at everything. I know this is going to hurt your ego, but get over it. It’s the truth. You cannot be a master in every field of print and web design. Trying to spread yourself too thin means that you will be mediocre at best in everything. Mediocrity does not get you hired in the field of design. You won’t get a job in-house as a graphic designer by just being mediocre. It’s best to have a handful of highly marketable skills that work well with each other. Combine the tasks that you enjoy doing, with the skills where you excel, and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding success.

Not Networking

Graphic Designer Mistakes: Not networking

If you’re not networking in this day and age, it’s going to be super tough for you to succeed. If no one knows you, no one is going to hire you. You have to get your name out there and connect with other designers. It’s just like with advertising. The wider the audience that you can reach, the more potential that you have for getting hired. The more designers that you know, the likelier it is for you to at least get into a position as a freelancer. From there you could develop an in-house position if you want. I’ve been an in-house designer, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as being a freelancer. I would much rather be a freelance designer and make my own schedule. However, even being a freelancer, you have to network more than ever. You have to go to business events, seminars, and anything else locally where you can get in front of other business owners. The connections that you make at these type of meetings will end up being your next clients. If your design skills are your vehicle, then networking is the gas.

No Website

Graphic Designer Mistakes: No Website

I can’t believe I even have to say this, but not having your own website just doesn’t make sense. It is an essential item that you must have. Even if you are fresh out of school, you need your own website to promote your portfolio. Even if it is just schoolwork, you should promote it the egg your own website. How can you design a website for someone else, if you don’t even have one of your own? Many designers now are using their website as their online resume. Using HTML5 and JavaScript they’re creating dynamic resumes that people can view online and see all of their amazing skills. I guarantee you that these designers are getting hired a lot easier than designers that don’t have a website. 10 years ago you could get hired with a print portfolio, but now that just doesn’t happen. People are going to go on your website and look at your work first before they even call you.

No Portfolio

Graphic Designer Mistakes No Portfolio

Whether it is a print portfolio or an online portfolio via your website, you have to have a portfolio. There is no way around it, people need to see your work. I don’t know of any designers ever being hired before they saw the work that they could do. There is no excuse for not having a portfolio these days. You can get a free portfolio online with so many different portfolio websites. There is no reason not to have a portfolio. You can put your work on sites like Behance, dribbble, Cloroflot, and many others. Get your portfolio online so that people can see your work.

Not Keeping Up With Design Trends

Graphic Designer Mistakes: Not Keeping Up With Design Trends

Keeping up with current design trends is an important aspect of your career too. You need to know what’s hot right now and how you can adapt it to your client’s work. Now, I’m not saying hop on every design bandwagon that comes along, but you should be aware of all of the latest design trends. When a client comes to you and says “I need you to create my flyer in the flat design style,” how professional does it sound for you to say something like “I’m not sure what that is but I’m sure I could do it?” That sounds highly unprofessional. You need to know the current design trends for the sake of your clients.

Not Branding Yourself

It’s important to give yourself your own brand. Many designers don’t brand their own portfolio site, which I think it’s a mistake. If you are a freelance designer, you need to brand your portfolio site. Even though you’re a freelancer, it is still a business. Businesses have logos. Logos build trust and recognition. When you have a professional logo, and branding materials, you can pass out what is called swag. Swag is any material that you can give to your clients or potential clients that they will use in their office every day. Swag could be anything from a calendar, to a pen, to stationary. Every time they see or use these items, they will think of you and your business. This is nothing new, this has been done for decades. It is still just effective now, as it was 30 years ago.

Not Saving Your Money

Graphic designer mistakes: not saving your money

Many freelance designers start hitting it big and start making good money. This isn’t unheard of, it happens every day. There’s tons of money to be made out there as a freelancer if you know how to market yourself and your skills. However, many graphic designers make the mistake of spending all their money and not saving. It is important for you to save for the slow months. Believe me, they will come and you need to be prepared. Having two to three months of income setback for the slow times will mean that you won’t seem desperate when trying to find clients. Desperation causes you to make bad decisions. Desperation causes you to raise your rates and to look at potential clients as numbers and dollar signs instead of people. Clients, believe it or not, can smell this a mile away. It’s best if you just save your money, and be prepared for a slow time in your career.

This also means that you don’t need every new design toy that’s available. I love Wacom and I have one of their tablets. I use it for my business, because it makes me money. However, just because Wacom comes out with the new tablet doesn’t mean I have to go out and buy it as soon as it comes out. My old tablet works just fine, there’s no me to go out and buy new one. This needless spending is one of most common graphic graphic designer mistakes that I hear of. Designers will go out and buy a brand-new Apple computer, because it has the latest bells and whistles. The problem with this is, it does nothing for your business. It doesn’t benefit your business in any way, you’re just buying it because it’s the newest, shiniest thing on the market. This is a huge mistake and is the easiest way for your business to fail.

Ego: Not Taking Criticism Well

This one is a hot button issue. I say this mainly because a lot of design listen to have this problem. One of the first things that my professor told me in school, was that I need to be prepared to take harsh criticism. You cannot take everything personally, because you may not be on the same wavelength as your client. If a client isn’t pleased with your work, chances are it was because you weren’t listening to what they needed or wanted. It is our job as designers to deliver a product or service to our clients can be proud of. A client needs to love their logo, their business cards, their fliers, their brochures, and everything else that you design for them. This business has no room for egos and you need to leave your ego at the door. Your business will suffer greatly because your ego will get the best of you. You’re feeling should never be hurt because a client doesn’t like your design. Your design should be catered to your clients and their businesses, not your artistic vision. If your artistic vision doesn’t solve their design problems, then it is worthless and you haven’t done your job. Forget the ego, stay humble, and serve your clients well.

What are some common graphic designer mistakes you’ve made? I would love to hear your stories. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.

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