In our previous post, we discussed some of this year’s design trends. But how do you avoid 2014′s design mistakes?
Depending on which side of the design sphere you stand on, you may not know that 2014 was a big year for graphic design. As we indicated in the previous post, minimalism took center stage in everything from logos to websites, while stark black and white color schemes fell to the wayside. While graphic design hasn’t fallen back into the Lisa Frank pit, there were nonetheless a fair number of increasingly common pitfalls that rose up to take control of composition, color palettes and more last year—find out if you’re falling into any of them below.
Follies of Logos and Imagery
According to Business Insider, logos come in four variations:
- Letterforms, which consist of a single letter styled in such a way as to be instantly recognizable
- Wordmarks, which are word or letter characters that stand alone without illustrative decoration
- Pictoral, which are “traditionally” illustrative with recognizable and relevant imagery
- Abstract, which are illustrative but lack distinct recognizable image elements
While wordmarks and pictoral logos have always been popular, 2014 brought abstract logos back to the forefront. If Nike can do it, why can’t you? Well, there’s a simple answer to that: Airbnb. In July of 2014, Airbnb executed a massive rebranding effort with a more abstract logo image, while still maintaining their wordmark. However, the logo didn’t garner the reception they were hoping for, leaving many people debating what the image was supposed to represent and coming up with responses not meant to be related in polite company.
The biggest pitfall here was a lack of test audience. While there’s no doubt that the logo went through multiple iterations and a great deal of review, the type of review being done or the background of the reviewers in charge weren’t what the company needed to avoid looking like a new gynecology firm. The trick to avoid this is to test branding with a broad audience—including people without market experience. A marketer looks at a logo to see what it’s trying to say, but a consumer sees what it looks like at first glance. Getting a broad enough panel of consumers together can be as easy and inexpensive as bringing in friends of friends or former colleagues or classmates to review the design.
This is a common mistake in logo design, but with the right pair of eyes on the project it can be completely avoided. Make sure that your work goes through the right test audiences before you unveil it to the world.
Form and Malfunction in Web Design
There are thousands of ways to design a website, but the same errors continue to all but consume the industry. Whether you’re working with a template or starting from a blank HTML document, there’s one huge error that needs to be avoided at all costs: poor navigation.
Vincent Flanders’ critical site, Web Pages That Suck, brings up the same issue over and over throughout the 20 worst site designs of 2014, and that’s an inability to navigate. There are sites featuring menus that rotate around static figures and photos of real people, drifting endlessly around the heads of confused looking twenty-somethings. There are sites where the navigation is a series of grey squares on a white background, lacking any explanation of where each link leads. You can even find websites with navigation buried in super-busy multicolored icons made up of other icons.
All these designs are fun to look at, at least at first glance. They’re aesthetically pleasing, neat enough to look expensive and busy enough to look like a lot of thought went into their creation; the problem is that they fail to execute their primary function. Navigation is a graphical element, of course, but first and foremost it needs to be clear, user friendly and functional.
Like most major pitfalls of design, this one can be avoided with a little broader testing and a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve with each element. Just make sure that the navigation is easy to read at multiple resolutions with clear descriptions as to where each link directs the user, and you’ll be just fine. This is usually an easy, quick fix for even the most inexpensive web designer or the most novice do-it-yourself entrepreneur.
Failures in Mobile Web Design
Mobile web design is still considered a “new” field, but with mobile traffic clocking in at over 20 percent last year that’s going to have to change quickly. Creative Bloq reports a plethora of design follies still plaguing the mobile side of the web, including everything from full-page popups (often urging visitors to download an app) to miniscule active areas set so closely together that a single tap from anything other than a narrow stylus could result in opening every page on the site except the one you were trying to access.
In order to take proper care of your mobile visitors in your design, make sure that your spacing is acceptable and your active areas large enough for the average finger on the smallest mobile device. Design for the smallest resolution and the rest will fall into line. The best way to handle this on a minimal budget is usually by getting a plugin for your site than handles the base work for you, and then going to town with the actual design. These mobile site plugins generate a special mobile version of each page according to given specifications, with active areas pre-sized to work on even the smallest screen.
There were many other issues in 2014, but these are the few that have clung on even as graphic design barreled into the New Year with renewed vigor and a growing love of minimalism. To avoid the biggest issues, often hidden in plain sight, just be sure that you’ve properly tested your work and had it reviewed by a wide audience, along with designing with alternate audiences in mind. For small to mid-size businesses, this is where utilizing the services of a professional logo design group like Designhill, a crowdsourcing graphic platform, can really make a difference. The more eyes you have on a project, the better—within reason, of course. Don’t miss out on valuable marketing impact, customer engagement and more by letting easily avoided mistakes take on a life of their own.