If you are a graphic designer in today’s market, you’ve made your fair share of mistakes. Our jobs are becoming more demanding every day, as we are regularly required to multitask and handle multiple projects with very tight deadlines. Hopefully, though, as you progress and grow your skills as a graphic designer, you will learn how to correct or prevent most mistakes before they make it to print. Here’s my list of some common mistakes made by new graphic designers.

1. Not organizing your files

Before you can even think about any other potential mistakes you could make as a graphic designer, you NEED to have an organizational system in place for your projects and art files. Make those files as easy for you (and others, if you’re in an office environment) to find and edit. The first time a client from 3 years earlier comes back to you looking for a re-print or revision to be made on their old file, you will appreciate it. And believe me, if you’ve made a positive impression on your clients, they WILL come back.

2. Not backing up your files

This is self-explanatory. Although new versions of the Adobe Suite are pretty good at recovering files after a crash, that isn’t something you want to rely on if your computer crashes often. Losing a file because Adobe crashed is one thing–losing the entirety of your clients’ latest marketing campaign the night before deadline because your hard drive checked out…well, thats another matter altogether. Do yourself a favor: buy a subscription to an online backup service or an external hard drive like this one. [Hint: If you’ve got the extra money to spend, get a solid state drive (SSD) instead of a hard disk drive (HDD) because they are less prone to failure and tend to load faster.]

3. Not embedding or linking content in art files

If you’re a one-man-show, this probably won’t be an issue for you, but if you’re working in an office environment, or if you need to send a file to a 3rd party printer, this WILL be a problem.

Many of us learned about the File > Place option in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. This is a useful tool, as a linked (placed) file can be modified outside of the program you are currently working in and, once saved, that file will be updated within your program to reflect those modifications. Think of it like a “shortcut” to the file where it is stored on your machine, rather than having the file actually present and saved within your document.

The problem arises when someone else tries to open your document, or when that original source file has been moved. Adobe will be looking for that source file but it can’t find it, and so, you get a lovely little popup saying something along the lines of “This document contains links to source files that are missing.” At the very least, this will slow down production while the 3rd party searches for that source file. At worst, your project can’t go to print because an integral piece of artwork was missing, you miss your deadline, your client is very angry, and your reputation is scarred.

I will cover how to embed these files in another blog post, or you can always contact me and ask!

4. Not expanding/outlining text

This is along the same lines as embedding files–when you save a file without expanding or outlining the fonts used in that file, a computer that does not have the appropriate fonts will not display your artwork correctly. The user will either have to go on a wild goose chase trying to find and download and install all the fonts you used in that file, or they will send it back to you for adjustments.

To expand fonts in Illustrator, select the text, then choose Object > Expand or Object > Expand Appearance.

To outline fonts in InDesign, select the text, then choose Type > Create Outlines. You can also package your document so that fonts are included if your 3rd party will need to edit text themselves in the future.

To rasterize fonts in Photoshop, select the text layer from the layers panel, then right-click and choose Rasterize Type.

[Hint: Always retain an original copy of your file with editable text, or drag an extra copy of your text outside your artboard so you remember which fonts were used, and so you don’t have to type everything up again!]

5. Not using the correct color space

Do you need Web Safe, RGB, CMYK or Pantone colors in your file? Better find out, because they really are all different! When in doubt, use Pantone color swatches for print projects, since anyone with a Pantone color book can tell what color your file is meant to be without necessarily having to come back to you the designer for clarification, and can make adjustments with or without you.

6. Not checking for typos

Never let your eyes be the only ones to view a final design. The very last thing you need is a giant typo on your otherwise flawless design! Furthermore, another set of eyes means more chances to pick up on anything else that might be wrong with the design. Let’s face it–after you’ve stared at something for hours on end, you’re bound to miss something.

7. Not using the correct software

This is, in my opinion, the mother of all design woes.

Photoshop is best for raster art for photomanipulation, web graphics, animated GIFs, or anything small-scale and non-text heavy.

Illustrator is best for vector art for any designs that will need to be flexible and scaleable. That is, if you need a logo to fit on a 1in x 1in sticker, and that same logo to fill the side of that billboard on Route 7, Illustrator’s your best friend.

InDesign is your go-to for anything text-heavy like magazine spreads, newsletters, articles, etc. You can import both raster and vector art into InDesign, and while its interface might seem utterly terrifying the first time you open it up, you’ll soon come to appreciate the 1928471241 buttons because each one helps ensure your text appears perfect.


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