4 Tips For A More Professional Design

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I'll start by saying I swear I'm not a "design snob!" Haha! That being said though, there are a few important things I tend to notice most frequently in other people's designs that will either give me better faith in their knowledge of design, ...or not.

A lack of attention to these 4 details in any given design will help me decide what caliber of designer I'm looking at. Are they self-taught with good instincts? Are they a trained or college educated designer? Are they a trained designer or a self-taught with bad design instincts? These can be important factors in deciding:

  • from a client's perspective, who to hire
  • from a designer's perspective, who to take advice from

Here's that list! It's super short! These are the top 4 things to check as you go along, or before you wrap up your design, because it will leave a better impression on other designer's and help create consistency in your designs.


KERNING

a comical example of terrible kerning

You've probably seen terrible examples on Buzzfeed or floating around Facebook, right?? What about the famous "Flickering Lights" box design, where the I is too close to the L, which (in that font) happens to look like a lowercase "u" and really presents an offensive problem at a glance...

The simple space between letters in a word can make or break how people read the text, so it is always in your best interest to check this before you finalize the design, whenever possible.

This should at least make the top 10 things to check before a design is finalized. I typically check after I setup a block of text while designing the in progress file, but I notice a lot of newbies don’t necessarily do this at all, even when they're done. I check it as I go, because I know that I can get wrapped up in a mental to-do list and may be too distracted with all the other details to remember that I haven’t kerned the text yet.


SPACE & ALIGNMENT

an example of bad circular text alignment

an example of bad circular text alignment

In this case, I don’t mean leading, though you should be checking that also. (For those of you not familiar with the term, leading is the space between lines of text).

Here I’m referring more to the spacing throughout your design. People tend to like symmetry, so keeping the spacing even will most likely make viewers (and other designers) happy!

Want an example of what I’m talking about? Look at this section's example, and examine the amount of empty space between the letters and the gray lines in this circular layout. The grey lines are not part of this example "design," (thought this kind of layout is done frequently & could be). They are primarily there, in this example, to show you how much out of alignment the text is.

It might be a small complaint, but I see it in newbie designs all the time. It’s a careless mistake, and one that's SUPER easy to fix, so please don't let this one slide!


SPELLCHECK

This one may be obvious, but I’m listing it anyway. If you’re a new designer, or new to the Adobe programs, you may not realize that Spellcheck is built into some of those programs. I LIVE in Adobe Illustrator, and finding out that Ai has a Spellcheck feature was really exciting! (it's the little things, am I right?)

One time I designed something for a local a school’s booster club during football season. I misspelled the client's football team name, just accidentally swapping 2 letters around! Typo!! The funny thing was (only after the fact, of course) no one caught the error until the printed product had already been delivered! Not even on the many proofs that were sent out to the customer! They were (thankfully) very gracious, as they also missed the error on all the proofs, and of course the issue was fixed!

SAVE YOURSELF the stress, hassle, and mess, and check your spelling before you finalize the design! BEFORE you outline the text (if you're converting open text to paths). I know it doesn’t work with words the computer doesn’t recognize (like the name "Katelyn," for example), or words that are spelled correctly, but used incorrectly in the sentence (like: their, they’re, and there).

Take a break, and come back to it with fresh eyes, or let someone else read over it too. Whatever you do, don’t set it up and never read over it again, because you don’t know what mistakes you may be missing!

Check out this section's example image to find Illustrator's Spellcheck function!

where to find the Spellcheck function in Adobe Illustrator


GRID ALIGNMENT

What is Grid Alignment? It’s basically the visually implied lines or guides created by elements in your design. You don’t draw them in, though you can use guides inside the program to help with alignment consistency as you design.

an example of good grid alignment within a design

The example on the right was one submission for a Grid Alignment assignment I did back in college. As you can see, the boxes that make up the text in "Our Planet" are lined up perfectly with each other, and the boxes are also lined up with the edges of the piece of furniture in the image.

These invisible grid lines help make the design look clean, purposeful, professional and finished. They can also help you decide where to place elements in your design!

I mentioned before, but people tend to like order and symmetry. Satisfy their need for that and "clean up" your designs!


Why are these things important? Again, for me, the first signs of a design done in a rush or a design done by someone with bad design instincts, is a clear lack of attention to small details like these.

What kinds of things are on your mental checklist? Feel like I missed one?

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Katelyn Dekle

Studio 1862, P.O. Box 244, Calvary, Ga, 39828

I'm a freelance graphic designer. I've been designing for 10 years, and still love it! My passion is helping small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs become successful by providing professional branding and website design services.

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