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Do’s and Dont’s of Design

A good design has the power to affect and convey a message, theme or event. Designs can range from the simple, elegant and abstract right through to the thought provoking and even controversial!

Fig. 1.1. Simple and very clean use of a famous idiom.

Fig. 1.2. A clever play on words highlighting the importance of reading books

Fig. 1.3. Note in this design the logo is upside down to mimic a mountain (or mountainous region) highlighting the vehicles all-terrain ability


When coming up with an idea for a design, one of the most important things to remember is: “Who is the audience”? It’s also worth considering: “Where will this design be seen”? This insight can often lead to another important question: “What media will this be displayed on”? When we get the answers to these important questions, we can proceed to finding the best approach to create the design. Consider these Do’s and Dont’s of Design discussed below in this blog:

Fig. 1.4. Powerful, controversial and thought-provoking message for The History Channel: The caption reads “Unfortunately, sometimes we have to show repeats”


Think of your subject matter and your audience. A poster advertising a kids toy will look very different to a poster advertising a Horror Movie! Color, balance and theme play an important role. When designing a campaign for a luxury brand, the use of negative space can be just as crucial and when used correctly, can be extremely useful in getting the message across to the right audience. Good use of negative space allows the reader to focus directly on the product (or service) or brand name. A high street grocery store on the other hand will create a design with many visual elements and have very little or no negative space.
Fig. 2.1. A DeBeers ad. Simplistic in form and color, but strong in perception and theme.
Fig. 2.2. Another good use of imagery. Note how the background gradient is very simplistic, forcing the reader to focus on the foreground.
Fig. 2.3. A clever use of the company’s product mimicking a Wi-Fi signal.
Grocery Ad

Fig. 2.4. In stark contrast to the other images, grocery store ads will typically be crammed with products and information since they want to advertise their current discounts. Most people shop for groceries weekly – and most people will shop for diamonds maybe only once or twice in their lives.

Fig. 2.5. Google advertising their new Artificial Intelligence Spelling Auto-Correct. Clever, humorous and can be a daily occurrence for some people! The caption is the lower right side reads: Did You Mean “Battleship”?


The right font can “Seal-the-Deal”. Typography can sometimes be overlooked in a design. A great design uses a combination of visual elements and good use of typography. There are certain fonts that sometimes go with a particular theme. Script and elegant fonts, for example, will typically be used in announcements or invitations. Also remember that in most cases, your text should be visible and easy to read. In most cases, background color and text color should contrast each other. In some cases, however, the text and background can blend with each other and this can produce an entirely different effect. A good design will rarely show any more than 2 different font families.
Fig. 3.1. Good use of typography. Call to Action (Headline), sub-text and imagery are all very clear and well balanced. This design didn’t even need a background color.
Fig. 3.2a, 3.2b and 3.2c. How bad use of typography, imagery and color can destroy an ad design. One of the Golden Rules of Typography is never use Gothic style/Old English All-Caps.
Fig. 3.3. With this design, the actual brand logos reveal the typography and sends a clear message to the reader.


In some cases, a good image or illustration can make a design really stand out where just text alone cannot. Action shots are a great example. Certain imagery can also “imply” or “suggest” a certain message. Sometimes, even a partial image can work just as well. The cosmetic industry is a good example of this. Sometimes, a single large image is suitable. The image is the background and conveys the message. Take for example a poster or ad promoting The Grand Canyon. Used correctly, this style of design can be very appealing. Illustrations can sometimes be used to great effect. This was the distinctive style of the pop-art movement.
Messy ad
Fig. 4.1a. This ad could’ve been much better laid out. The image is not suitable since not many customers will relate to this door design, the text is hard to read and the coupons while visible, they still lack clear concise content.
Fig. 4.1b. This design is better spaced out, has a more suitable image and the coupons stand out.


Background color doesn’t always need to be white (or black). Gradients and blends can give a feel of “movement” and is less static. A background when used well can give a sense of fluidity to the design. Solids, gradients / blends and even images that fade into the background can all have a positive impact on the overall design.
Image Design concept
Fig. 5.1. This design has a great concept. The use of ALL CAPS is necessary here.
Fig. 5.2. This design uses Photoshop enhancements to maximum effect for this popular word board game

Fig. 6.1a, 6.1b, 6.1c and 6.1d. When good ads go bad – Nothing is as disheartening as spelling errors on an ad or design.


This area is sometimes the most overlooked. It cannot be stressed more, accuracy, checking your work and taking the extra time to “clean” any artwork is paramount to an outstanding design. So many good designs (and good designers) neglect this area… and to their peril! There is nothing more deflating and even embarrassing than to have a spelling error in your design, or a part of an image that just should not have been in the final design piece. Remember, it’s your reputation on the line (and the company that employs you). These tiny errors can have the biggest ramifications and consequences – time, energy, money, reputation are all at stake. So what are the best practices to ensure a successful design piece.

  • Proof read your work. Read it backwards, print it out
  • Have another set of eyes look at the project
  • Re-read the clients instructions
  • If there’s a lot of editorial text – copy and paste in another software application and “spell-check” again
  • Preflight artwork
  • Communicate with the vendor – make sure everyone is on the same page


1: The font for the logo is bland and lacks originality and style. There are many “Western” style fonts to choose from and this was an extremely poor choice, especially for the logo!
2: Bad use of geometry. This looks more like an envelope rather than food packaging. Also, the bright yellow is terribly distracting – a much better color(s) could have been chosen.
3: The secondary part of the logo lacks depth. There is no drop shadow (or even a shadow below the horses feet and wagon). It’s flat and unimaginative.
4: Why put this text in white? Even the choice of font is weak. Overall, the fonts used in this design lack any sense of correctness.
5: The sausage looks like a “smiley face” with brown teeth. No after-thought was ever put towards this.
6: The white outline is not consistent between the different text frames.
7: This may be one of the most important labels on this product – but it was given very little priority.

Fig. 7.1: When little effort and imagination is put towards a design, the results can be quite catastrophic!

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