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How to Turn Bad Design into Good Design

Graphic design
February 23, 2022
12 minutes

0%

Good graphic design holds power to turn a company into an established brand. Having a visually striking brand identity is becoming increasingly important, so a design fail is the last thing you want. Too little, too late? Here is how you turn bad design into good design.

We all want good design. As a company that is trying to impress its audience, but also as a graphic designer expanding their portfolio. But with the overload of graphic design, how can you tell if something is good or bad?

Bad design can have a substantial negative impact on your business. But finding yourself some top-notch design is easier said than done.

Whether you are a designer yourself or have your designs commissioned, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of good versus bad design. After reading this article, you’ll be able to spot the two, fix the bad, and learn to accept only the exceptional from now on.

What is good design?

Let’s not waste any time and ask the important questions: What is good design? If you don’t know what good design means, good luck finding some. So let’s start there.

You may argue that good design is subjective. But if it is up to Dieter Rams, it’s not. Dieter Rams is a German architect and designer with close to 60 years of experience in the design field. Numerous Braun products’ designs were thought-out and executed by him. But it’s his principles on good design that brought real fame to his name.

Rams gave the concept of good design definition by establishing the 10 principles of good design. With these ten principles, the design world received a tangible way to conclude what makes a good design.

Dieter Rams’ design principles

  1. Good design…
  2. is innovative
  3. makes a product useful
  4. is aesthetic
  5. makes a product understandable
  6. is unobtrusive
  7. is honest
  8. is long-lasting
  9. is thorough down to the last detail
  10. is environmentally friendly
  11. is as little design as possible

Of course, design existed long before Dieter Rams, so pinpointing what makes a good design lies a bit more nuanced than the ten principles. However, it’s a great base.

Another way to define what makes design good is by looking at the definition of design itself. According to the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), “Design mediates between people and decisions; whether subtle or overt, design promotes a point of view.”

There is some overlap between the definition and Rams’ principles. A functional design is a design that mediates between people and decisions. Promoting your point of view as a designer can be done according to the ten principles.

Here we have ourselves the foundation of good design, which we can use to quality check any design.

How to spot bad design

Yes, there is the blatant use of Comic Sans as a business logo that we can all agree on is a big design faux pas. But bad design is more than the obvious, in-your-face design fail.

By now, we know the features of good design as established by Dieter Rams. Things get a bit more complicated when it comes to bad design. Unfortunately, no list exists telling us precisely what bad design is.

We can take the ten principles of good design and cross-check, assuming that bad design doesn’t adhere to these principles.

What we can also do, is look at some common mistakes that are made in design. We’re not attempting to roast here, but this gives us some guidance when it comes to spotting bad design.

Common design mistakes

Sometimes, a design can stick to all the rules of the client brief but still feel off. Chances are a mistake slipped into the design, instantly transforming the whole end result for the worse. Let’s take a look at some of the most common design mistakes.

By now, we know the features of good design as established by Dieter Rams. Things get a bit more complicated when it comes to bad design. Unfortunately, no list exists telling us precisely what bad design is.

We can take the ten principles of good design and cross-check, assuming that bad design doesn’t adhere to these principles.

Placement

You can have many fantastic visual elements, but placing them one way or another can either make or break the design.

Placement-graphic.png

Kerning

A.k.a. the adjustment of spacing in between letters. Having letters smashed together can have disastrous design consequences.

Kerning-Grpahic.png

Colors

Color combinations can have a massive effect on your design, for better or for worse. Some combinations make text illegible, which is an obvious mistake. But it’s also important to bear in mind that different cultures have different associations with colors. Have a look at Color Psychology to learn more about this.

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User-unfriendly

Always put the user experience first. When a designer is too busy applying certain techniques and details from the client brief, chances are the actual users are overlooked. A user-unfriendly design results in frustration, and no one wants that.

UX-graphic.png

Too little white space

White space gives users the ability to process something, whether it’s an image or text. Using too little of it can make the design crowded and confusing.

White-space-graphic.png

Not on trend

We hear you, Dieter Rams; good design has to be timeless. But at the same time, it should have aspects of being on-trend. This will help a brand to appeal to new users, for example. A good designer should know about current trends and adapt designs to them.

Speaking of design trends: according to us, these are the Ultimate SaaS UI/UX trends of 2022.

trend-graphic.png

Wrong typography

Each typeface has its own character. Some pair exceptionally well, while others don’t. It’s important to pick fonts that match and not pick more than three (as a rule of thumb). Using all kinds of different fonts will lead to confusing design.

Wrong-Typography-graphic.png

Find the best fonts that will make your logo stand out

Download our guide on logo typography

Graphic designer red flags

Hiring a professional to tackle your design needs is an excellent step towards ensuring quality design. That doesn’t mean that a graphic designer, per definition, delivers good design, though.

With the accessibility of graphic design online and graphic designers flooding the market, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here are some red flags that you should look out for when hiring a graphic designer.

Stock photos and vectors

Simply throwing together a couple of stock photos and adding in some vectors is not the thoughtful design your brand deserves. On top of that, a misuse of stock photos could get you into legal trouble. Always ask your designer for sources.

Doesn’t stick to your brief

A good designer knows how to stick to the brief while coming up with a creative design around it. If that’s not the case, the designer’s skills and style do not match your request. It’s a clear sign of a designer that isn’t adaptable.

Doesn’t ask any questions

A designer that doesn’t ask any questions seems… questionable. This can be a telltale sign that the designer will throw something together that ticks off all the boxes in your brief and call it a day.

Bad communication

A good designer knows how to communicate about a project in a way that’s understandable for non-designers. Additionally, a good designer takes criticism and incorporates your feedback into the final result. If the communication is the opposite, we would advise you to go with a different designer.

Doesn’t keep your audience in mind

Your designer can be a millennial, but maybe your target audience consists of boomers. A good designer knows how to adapt their style into something that’s enticing for the audience, throwing their own likes and dislikes overboard.

Improve your design

What if the deed is already done, and you ended up with a bad design? We hate to break it to you, but improving the existing bad design is extremely difficult. In all honesty, it’s easier to start from scratch.

However, here are a few things you can do to fix bad design:

  • Delete, scrap, and declutter your design.
  • Use different fonts.
  • Switch to other colors.
  • Use a grid to evenly space out elements.
  • Replace low-quality imagery with high-quality imagery.

Additionally, there are a lot of resources you can use to become more proficient in graphic design. In this day and age, a simple YouTube how-to isn’t going to cut it anymore. Especially with the growing competition, it’s important to keep up with the ins and outs of design, both as the receiving party and the designer.

Are you the type of person that learns through listening? Have a look at the best design podcasts you need to follow in 2022.

If you prefer learning through reading, Look at an online magazine about design - for example, Abduzeedo, Adobe Create Magazine, or The Inspiration Grid. And don’t forget to check out our own ManyPixels blog, filled with graphic design tips.

How to avoid bad design

Is it worth it, though? You spent all that time fixing your bad design and brushing up on your design knowledge. Meanwhile, a professional designer could have whipped up a completely new design for you. You may think it’s too expensive, but we’ve got news for you.

See some of ManyPixels’ best design works

Get the ManyPixels Design Library 2022

Here at ManyPixels, we offer hassle-free, affordable, and unlimited design. With a few clicks, you have a team of professional graphic designers diving into your projects. We served thousands of happy customers, but if for any reason you’d like to call it quits, there is a 14-day money-back guarantee.

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Guest Writer: Simone Timmers

February 23, 2022

Simone is a Dutch writer, currently living in Malawi. Whenever not stringing words together, or on her yoga mat, she is preferably exploring any off the beaten track she can find.