When first starting a career in design, it’s only natural to go through some mishaps in your design process and learning that you later realize where costly mistakes. Here’s a list of common pitfalls that many designers encounter (myself included), to help you learn from them as I have.
1. Over-designing a Product
Armed with a massive suite of digital tools for everything from mobile to motion, designers feel a need to show they can design something by adding too much. White space that is under constant pressure by the client to be filled with content or marketing links should be protected by the designer, rather than cluttered. For example, avoid underlining and bolding a string, when only one method of emphasis is needed. Design as necessary.
Not only will over-designing a product hinder a simple and accessible user experience, it is a misunderstanding of the moral and social responsibilities of the designer to not create visual pollutants or unnecessary waste in the design process/outcome.
Good design is as little design as possible.
— Dieter Rams
Avoid this mistake by: Understand why you’re adding each additional piece of ink, focus on creating value rather than adding features. Restrain yourself as you don’t have to use all the tools in your toolkit on one project.
2. Saving Incorrectly
Depending on the form your final product will be shown in, you may need different file types, iterations and etc. By saving incorrectly, or over an older file, you lost valuable information that could be useful in a portfolio, a showcase of your design process and proper handoff to a developer.
Avoid this mistake by: Have the next step of your process in mind as you save files. Save as new iterations as needed.
3. Prototyping Late in the Process
Nothing speaks as well as a prototype in action.
Nothing speaks as poorly as a designer handwaving in front of a room of clients. Start prototyping early in your design process!
It is the power of motion and animation woven into a story that can help you understand the context and understandability of a design.
Invigorate critiques and wow clients with a prototype demo or help your team quickly narrow down an option for usability testing through a quick and dirty prototype. Don’t delay, consider low-fidelity prototypes or seek out a tool among the vast landscape of tools available and hone your skills so you can rely on a few tools to get the job done.
Avoid this mistake by: Not sure which tools to use? Get started with my resource guide of popular design prototyping tools.
4. Unsustainable Design
That which we throw away, we fail to value. When we design and plan things to be discarded, we exercise insufficient care in designing or considering safety factors.
— Victor Papanek in Design for the Real World
Designers who are seasoned pros understand that design makes an important contribution to the future of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product or service. It values thoughtfulness and not obsolescence. It stands firm against trends.
Avoid this mistake by: Realizing good design and green design are not mutually exclusive attributes. Our efforts for sustainability matter as we build products that fit into the landscape of today’s world.
5. Making Promises It Doesn’t Keep
Design that makes grand promises should not let down its user. Expectations created through visual cues or interactions should not lead down to a page that has no return.
Simply put — you design should not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
Good design does not persuade people to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress other people who don’t care.
Authenticity is the best form of marketing. Trust cannot be compromised in good design.
Learn more about other common mistakes to avoid as a designer in Part 2 of this series. Feel free to leave a comment below on tips that have helped you along your career!
See more of my design work if you’d like or check out more of my work on my blog — thanks for reading!