The Do's and Don't's of Graphic Design

MonMon, Jun202163010 2021+00:00amMon, 28 Jun 2021 10:52:41 +0000

Is graphic design your passion? Mine too, and I mean that in the memey-est sense of that phrase. I have a very basic understanding of photo editing and design skills, which hasn’t stopped me from trying to create. Experimentation is key, but there are some simple rules of thumb you can follow that will result in better designs and more refined aesthetics than, say, your average meme.

Let’s talk FONTS
DO: try out stylised and unique fonts, especially for branding purposes. There are so many fonts out there that you have literally no excuse for using a janky font like Comic Sans or a generic one like Calibri. Check out our previous font blog post for ideas, or have a look at any of the websites listed below and find a font that resonates with you or your project.

DON’T: mix fonts, especially radically different fonts. It is a graphic design nightmare. Consistency is key, not only for sculpting out your own personality and/or branding, but also just for legibility. Having to change between fonts can be jarring for your eyes, and adding any extra amount of effort someone has to make just to read your design is a negative. Generally speaking, it is easier to create an aesthetically pleasing piece that flows nicely. Whereas, creating a similar kind of harmony with jarring elements – while possible – takes much more time to learn and master. Stick with the basics for now, though this isn’t to say you can’t scope out two or three fonts you use regularly, perhaps for different purposes. If you are tired of using the same old font, you can research fonts that pair nicely: has a 'pairing suggestions' section for each of its fonts that you can test out for free. 

i enter the web design class

How about IMAGES

DO: incorporate images as part of your designs. Of course, be careful about whether you have the right to use them (Google images, you may be surprised to learn, are often not fair use). In all honestly, Google images tend to be pretty low resolution anyway, so unless you’re making a deep-fried meme, I would avoid for that reason primarily. Alternatively, websites such as have a massive collection of free stock images, vectors, and even video footage. Having your own images bypasses any copyright issues and can add a personal touch, but they’re not always feasible, or perhaps not the quality you’re looking for. If you do use your own images, always ask for permission from anyone who features in them if it is okay for them to be in your design (and for it to be published wherever you intend to publish it).

A thumbnail I created for a Youtube video, which incorporates stills from the film Under the Skin

DON’T: overload your design with images. Unless you’re making some kind of statement about the bombardment of imagery and information in postmodernity, the visual chaos emanating from such a design choice is unlikely to work in your favour. Having one impactful image is going to stick with people more than lots of images in one visual space.

graphic design is my passion

This is partly bad because the images are badly edited, but also because there’s too much going on. It's an affront to the eyes.

What about COLOURS
DO: research colour palettes, combos, and meanings. is fantastic resource which shows you colour palettes that are analogous to the colour you’ve chosen, monochromatic, triadic, complementary, and split complementary (and more!). I feel that it is often an unhelpful tip to say ‘don’t use clashing colours’ as if that is either objective or intuitive to everyone. This wheel, however, shows you colours that complement each other in different ways. Or, go wild! Choose your own colours and see what you can come up with. Also feel free to peruse our colour blog, which explores what kinds of meanings and associations different colour palettes generally convey; this may help you make a decision of what kind of base colours you’d like to use and then you can springboard off of that into more precise tones.

colour wheel

DON’T: limit yourself to default colours on an editor. Whether you’re using Canva, Photoshop, or (the cheap – but effective! - photo editor that I currently use), they all have colour tools that allow you to either input hex codes (preferred), have a go at the colour wheel, or use a colour picker that allows you to select a colour you’ve found. There is a world of colour out there to go and explore, why stick to the defaults?

How does SPACING work
DO: think about spacing; are the letters far enough apart/close enough together to be legible? Are the borders around a text or image equidistant? There are no hard and fast rules; inevitably, there will be components in an image that throw it off balance and equidistance is not always possible. But generally, if you have a piece of text or a logo say, in a corner, make sure the edges have the same amount of space around them. For pieces with more elements, such as the image below, see how there is equidistance between where the ‘W’ sits and the ‘n’ in ‘green’ from the borders of the colour blocks they sit in. This creates a neater effect than simply overlaying the text willy-nilly. These are small details that not everybody consciously notices, but when implemented, they do create a neater, more aesthetically appealing design.

As for the logo, you may have noticed that the borders are not quite equidistant within the colour block it resides in, but this is so that it is not too far up and to the left out of the way, where it would then become disjointed with the rest of the elements (instead, it lines up with the left edge of the yellow circle). I’ll repeat that there are no hard and fast rules; the best thing is to experiment and see what works best for that piece.


DON’T: make your spacing erratic, uneven, disjointed, or too spaced out. The latter is the most common mistake, as it is easy to place elements around the border of your canvas and call it a day. Generally, try to keep things more centralised so they don’t ‘drop off’ the edge of your design. This helps to make the piece more cohesive, as the elements aren’t too far apart.


Of course, there is a level of subjectivity to all of this: what constituents ‘too far apart’, ‘jarring’, ‘janky’, etc.? I don’t have those answers, but these tips are tried and true, so once you master these, you can then afford to go and break the rules.

If you’re ever tearing your hair out, then fear not, because design lies in that strange area of both simplicity and complication. As art designer Paul Rand once put: ‘Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated.’ Practice makes perfect, so stick at it – that’s what I’ve been telling myself, anyway!

Written by Maddie Reid

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