Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you’ve ever been in a room of design decision makers, you know how true that is. There are, however, some guidelines that designers must adhere to in order to create an effective piece of work. Listed below are a few of these guidelines, and like most things in life, they have exceptions to them. It all depends on what your end goal is as well as the message you’re trying to convey.
1) Double spacing after periods
Many were taught to put two spaces before starting a new sentence back in grade school. Unless you had majored in a field like journalism or design that taught you otherwise, that lesson probably stuck. Unfortunately, adding two spaces creates ugly white space that compromises the look of the paragraph. The origin of double spacing goes back to the creation of the typewriter and how it laid type, but the exact explanation is a bit unclear with all the misinformation out there. Just use a single space. It looks better.
2) Objects/Logos too close to the edge
Putting something too close to the edge doesn’t allow the eye to move freely. It creates tension and unease, which draws your eye to it. That’s a problem if you’re designing with a different focal point in mind. If you are placing an element in the corner, like in the examples below, leave equal space on both sides to keep things balanced.
3) Body type too largeAnother common mistake is setting the type too large for comfortable reading. Above is an example of a paragraph with the font size set at 10pt. It has a good size contrast between the headline and the body copy.The second example has the font size of the body copy set at 15pt. Type this size creates a “corny”, amateur quality that is more difficult to read. It also negatively affects the contrast from the original example. The closer they are in size, the more difficult it is to distinguish a visual hierarchy which works as a natural indicator of where to begin reading. I typically like to keep type between nine and 12pt, but it depends on the font you choose. I’ll go smaller for disclaimers and fine print. 7pt font is generally the lowest size you can go for optimal reading. Keep in mind your audience; older audiences may struggle seeing type too small.
4) Inadequate line length
The line length you use depends on how many columns there are and the font you use. A general rule of thumb is somewhere around 50-90 characters per line depending on who you talk to. Too long of a line is tiring for the reader, while too short of a line doesn’t allow them to get into a good rhythm while reading. In the example below, the body text is far too wide. It could easily be broken into two columns.
5) Failing to critique yourself
The first step is admitting you have a problem. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Well it applies
to design as well. Knowing what your weaknesses are is arguably more important than knowing your strengths. Working on styles or programs that you struggle with makes you a more well-rounded designer. You’ll have an easier time adapting to requests from clients that you may not have an immediate strategy for with the current techniques you excel at.
While it may not be a good idea to take a job that is too far outside your area of expertise, do yourself a favor and research as much as possible to make sure you are a versatile designer that won’t be typecast for having one style. Take critiques from those around you. Fresh eyes may see something you have been missing.
Having a recognizable motif is fine for your own personal work, but clients come with all types of desires. Challenge yourself to be able to suit them all!