If you’re new to graphic design or still a student, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times. We asked graphic designers to share their biggest mistakes with us to make it a little easier for the rest of us to cope. Here’s what they told us about their toughest days in design.
Spelling and typos happen to everyone, but in graphic design they can truly be disastrous. For Emily Mort, a graphic designer of three years, a tiny typo turned into a major problem:
“When I interned at a print shop, one time we were printing some banners, posters, and flyers for an event that we were attending. Everything had pretty much the same artwork, just scaled differently to fit the media. When we got to the event everything we had printed had the wrong phone number on it, off by one number. It was an utter disaster…we couldn’t hand out any of the flyers or hang the banners, so we basically just went to the event for fun and lost the money we paid for the booth and printing materials. The best way to prevent spelling and information errors is to simply have someone else look at it. Another set of eyes can do wonders and really save you in the long run.”
Not everyone loves being online constantly, and social media isn’t each creative’s cup of tea. For Nick Saporito, a freelance graphic designer in Philadelphia who specializes in branding-specific design, warming up to social media slowly proved to be a costly mistake:
“The biggest mistake I made as a freelancer was not taking advantage of social media from the start. A little over a year ago I started a YouTube channel where I teach beginners how to use design software. Fast-forward to today and I now have nearly 20K subscribers, am netting 140,000 views per month, and have acquired tens of thousands of dollars in contracts from the exposure my channel provides me. I’m now duplicating that success on Facebook and the future looks promising because of it. Freelance designers are often seeking exposure. Social media provides tremendous exposure and opportunities if you can learn how to leverage it.”
Everyone is eager to land that first paying job, no question. However, sometimes it’s wise to opt for an internship that teaches you the tricks of your given trade, especially in a competitive industry like graphic design, as Corey Jones asserts:
“Perhaps one of my bigger mistakes was not taking advantage of my internships as a young graphic designer. I had a dream internship and I took it for granted. I wasn’t focused, I goofed off with other employees, and I never really networked and formed those lasting relationships that are so important in our industry.”
Conversely, though, Jones reminds us that knowing your worth and getting paid for it is equally important:
“Another mistake I’ve made along the way was undervaluing myself on multiple levels. Granted, my skills were not really at the level that they are at now but I let people walk over me because I didn’t know any better. Even with my first job, I was so eager and afraid of not getting hired, even after an offer was extended, that I didn’t negotiate. I later would find out that less talented coworkers were making significantly more than I was.”
One final mistake that plagues even the most talented graphic designers is failing to balance business and marketing goals with personal design aesthetics. Graphic designer Michael Forsher of FreeLogoServices.com explains:
“In the business setting there have been times when I’ve had to compromise my vision for a project. As a designer, your creative concerns will not always align with a client’s vision for the project. The key to successfully designing for any company is first and foremost realizing that the client is trusting your creative and artistic abilities to help them reach their goals; you have a direct impact on their success. The biggest mistakes I’ve made in my career were when I became too attached to a specific design and moved too far away from the business goals of the client. To overcome this, I’ve worked diligently on expanding my understanding of marketing/branding techniques to help me better cater to a vast array of clients, while channeling my personal views of what great design aesthetics should be. Without this balance and skill set it’s easy to become known as ‘difficult’ to work with – and in the design world this can wreak havoc on your career.”
No one can enter a complex career like graphic design and avoid every mistake, but by learning from the biggest mistakes of graphic designers currently working in the industry you give yourself a distinct edge. Preventing costly errors by getting a fresh pair of eyes on your work, strategically using social media to build your business, making the most of internships, knowing your worth and asking for it, and learning to balance your design aesthetics with the business needs of your clients are all practical aims you can work towards now to improve your odds of success.