How to not suck at graphic design

Hopefully this will help any people dabbling in graphic design/blogging/putting stupid ridiculously horrible looking things up on their websites/online stores/social media whathaveyou.

1) Fonts.

I made up the following quick graphic for your use. Follow it religiously.


There are SO many websites offering THOUSANDS of free fonts that you can download and use. These people understand that it’s sometimes hard to find a font that suits your needs! DaFont, FontSpace, and many other pay-what-you-wish collectives have some seriously awesome stuff on there. But don’t go crazy. Because if you’re using any of the above, you may have acute “No-Font-Taste-Itis” and it’s incurable.

To be safe, here’s a few of my favorites: Helvetica (this should be obvious; if you have no eye for design you likely can use this and get away with it), Adobe Caslon Pro, Baskerville (any), Bebas Neue, Century Gothic/Schoolbook, Futura, Gill Sans, Lobster, Market Deco, Nilland, Quicksand, Rockwell, and Trebuchet. Most of these will come with your computer. More after the jump>>

2. Size.

You want to know what the most annoying thing in the world is? Not the sound Lloyd makes in Dumb & Dumber. It’s scrolling through your blog. With your big-ass pictures and your big-ass font and long-ass sentences. I WANTED TO GET TO YOUR RECIPE, HOW ABOUT DON’T UPLOAD 80 PICTURES BEFORE WE GET THERE. Oh, is that what a mixer looks like with cookie dough in it? Kill me.

Along this same line, fonts don’t need to be huge. If people are struggling to read something, they can zoom in. Don’t annoy the rest of the world with senior-citizen-friendly fonts and images and buttons.

3. Stop trying to be artistic and keep it simple.

Believe it or not, the job of graphic designers is to make things as simple and user-friendly as possible. If something looks complicated, or confuses your understanding, then it likely is not very good design. If you’re not educated on design, fonts, organization of information, designing graphics, or doing illustrations, I’m sorry but just leave it out. No instagram filter or photoshop action can change that.

Keeping it simple will save you time and annoy fewer people. There’s absolutely nothing more irritating than having the world say “I can’t believe these people get paid to do art/design/insert creative job here” and then turn around and see horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE attempts at doing what we get paid to do and expect to hear no backlash.

And while we’re on keeping it simple, there is nothing wrong with black and white. Black font on a white background is simple, and if what you’re saying is important it can prove itself.

4. Be selective.

Likely, we don’t need to see or hear everything to get the picture. If it’s a pamphlet, stop trying to squeeze a novel  into 6 tri-folded flaps. Do you really need that Microsoft clip art in there? If it’s a blog post, who wants to read a full chapter of a novel in one sitting? You can give a teaser and a photo, if you have an appropriate one, and maybe link to the download of a PDF so interested people can print it off or read it on a device. If you truly think all your information is important, even after paring it down a bit, give yourself more space than you need. Break it up. Don’t run to the margins. And for God’s sakes, use a serif font for blocks of text in print, and sans-serif for headlines.

5. Don’t be the cliché.

I know I just said to keep it simple, but at least incorporate a little differentiation when it comes to designing things. If I see one more website with the title in either ‘I’M A BIG DEAL HERE IT IS IN ALL CAPS CENTERED AT THE TOP’ or ‘Kitschy Cooking Wifey Stay at Home Blogger Sans-Serif Cutesy’ fonts, I’m going to throw myself off a cliff.

Stop putting your faces in little bubbles on the right and using the description as ‘hey I’m a woman just like you, read my blog.’ Stop using the same interface that makes navigating your blog impossible. Choose a picture that describes what you want people to remember your blog as. Don’t use vague photographs to describe something meaningful–choose a picture you took that actually means something to you.

Just avoid throwing bones to your audience because you know they’ll like it. Take everything you’ve seen on other blogs (unless they’ve followed these rules) and understand that they’re bad. Because the majority of bloggers are unexperienced with design and design on the internet, and design in general. The basics of blogging are extremely similar to the basics of any sort of design.

6. For the love of God, SPELL CHECK.

If you follow these rules, anything you make will not make other people vomit. It still may not be good design, but you will be well on your way.



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