10 Things That Make Designers Cringe!

April 26, 2015

Let me start out by saying that I love being a designer. I get to make awesome stuff and make money in the process. I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else in the world. That being said, there are still some things about being a designer that make me want to kill myself sometimes. Here are a few things that contribute to it.



  1. Grossly overused or novelty fonts.

Designers straight up HATE ugly fonts, yes YOU Comic Sans, yes YOU, Arial and yes YOU, Jokerman. However, sometimes an okay typeface draws the ire of designers because it’s being used in a space that’s a terrible idea. The most common perpetrator? Helvetica. It’s been at the centre of a debate that has divided the design world for decades. I personally don’t mind Helvetica, but the fact that it seems to show up everywhere is a bit off-putting.



  1. *Insert lowly dollar amount here* for a logo, website, business card, etc.

For me, these kinds of services bastardize what design is truly about. I don’t know how we got here, I just know that I hate it. I’m a firm believer in the saying ‘You get what you pay for’. If you’re serious about a design project, bring in a pro, otherwise through 5 dollars for a pre-build piece of garbage.



  1. Spec Work

The idea behind spec work is simple: you don’t fully believe in me as a designer, so you’ll just have me do a bunch of free work as a trial. Would you ask a doctor to fix a few broken bones just so you can judge their work and contrast it to other doctors out there? No, so why design being treated differently?



  1. Microsoft Office

The final deliverables are all completed. You’ve spent a ton of time in InDesign laying out an awesome letterhead or booklet, only to get an email along these lines: “Great, can you put this into a Word Document for me?” This is usually followed by me losing my faith in humanity.



  1. Making things “Pop”

Please, PLEASE, in the name of the lord, do not ask me to make things “Pop”. I can something bigger, add more color, or make it more noticeable. Hell, I’ll even put a drop shadow on it if you force my hand. Just don’t ask me to make it pop. I small part of me dies a little inside whenever I hear that.



  1. Working for ‘Exposure’

Similar to spec work, working for ‘exposure’ is the client saying “I have no money, but I still want you to work a ton of hours for me and get nothing in return.” Sorry, I can’t fill my car up with ‘good exposure’ nor can I keep electricity flowing through my house.



  1. Design by committee

I recently dealt with a client where they didn’t know their ass from a hole in the wall. One of them felt the design was going in the right direction and that we were on pace to meet the established deadline, the other client felt that the project was all wrong and that we had to start again. It may seem like a good idea to bring in multiple viewpoints at first, but what often happens is that communications break down, deadlines go to hell and the end result becoming a complete train wreck.



  1. Getting told to straight up copy someone else

Or as I affectionately call it, ‘Shiny Red Ball Syndrome’. As a designer, clients, and even my superiors have said things like, “we want our site to look just like this one” or even, “can you just copy that logo?” In essence, saying ‘Ooohh shiny red ball!”


The whole point to running a successful business is to stand out, not blend in. If you want your site or logo to look like someone else, well then the clients are going to go to someone else, instead of you, because you can’t differentiate yourself from them.


Also, you don’t fully know the context or the process behind the ‘Shiny Red Ball’ that you’re chasing. Yes it may look good, but it may also be completely inappropriate for your own project needs



  1. “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know when I see it”

This makes always make me scream internally and even externally a few times. This often the result of a project having absolutely no direction, which leads to inflated timelines, costs and debates between the designer and clients. If you’re serious about a project, you’ll have a decent direction for the project to go in.


10. Their previous work


Show me a website that I made 4 or 5 years and you’ll get a lot of cringing and maybe some tears. The fact is, I’m a lot better at this than I was 4 or 5 years ago, as well as having new design trends/technologies emerging while others have fallen off. Frankly, I’d be more worried if I looked at something that I did 4 or 5 years and not have a few changes on my mind.

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