November 30, 2022

Good Design Gone Bad

Have you ever seen a print advertisement or sign and wondered what were they thinking? As design experts, this happens to us almost every day. While we also see plenty of beautiful design work, we’ve found that behind many bad designs is a good idea that failed in the execution phase.

The culprit is usually a lack of restraint. Just like putting on too many accessories can overwhelm a great suit, too many edits and design features can ruin compelling content. Since asset management firms are often communicating complex ideas and numbers, it’s important that the design doesn’t make the information hard to process. 

Restraint in document design and creation can be incredibly difficult. To help, we’ve outlined three common misconceptions and how to keep a good design from going bad.

Misconception: The idea that the more you highlight something the more it will stand out.

When it comes to designs that help readers understand information while reinforcing the main messages you want to communicate there are two important rules to remember. Less is more and consistency is critical.

How good design can go bad:

Multiple graphic styles in one piece of content: Keep it consistent, do not mix styles such as illustrations and photography in the same piece of content.

Multiple effects on a slide: Just because you can add an effect doesn’t mean you should. Too many effects make it harder for people to process the information. There’s no need to use drop shadow, border, and beveling on one text box on a slide. Pick one or two across the entire presentation. Use them consistently based on the type of information you are sharing.

Overdone images: Too much of anything isn’t good and images are no exception. Overly designed graphics can become tacky quickly. Keep it simple and timeless, avoid anything artsy. Not sure if your image is overdone? Usually, if you have to ask there’s likely a problem. But if you aren’t sure try taking one or two elements away and seeing if it still communicates your message.

Misconception: Getting as much information as possible on a page/slide is essential.

Effectively communicating an idea or set of messages requires two things -- clarity of content/idea and repetition. Packing slides or documents with details and explanations make it challenging for readers to understand what’s important and process it.

How good design can go bad:

Too big and too small: Images or words that are too big are a distraction and too small are ignored. Your logo doesn’t need to be the focal point on every slide or page. It should be there to quietly reinforce your brand, not dominate what people remember when they think about your content. Likewise, anything smaller than 10 point font won’t be legible on a slide or 8 point in a document.

Lack of white space: Negative space or white space on a slide or document is essential in helping readers process the information. Don’t cram another text box on a slide, simply because you can squeeze it in. Adding another slide or page will be more effective for your audience and ensure a cleaner design.

Too much text: When you aren’t there to present or review a document with a client it can be easy to want to add everything possible to a document. Unfortunately, the more you add the more difficult it is to make an impact. Instead, focus on 3-5 key messages. Ensure they are communicated clearly and repeated across the document in text and through design. Delete everything else. It’s better to get a follow-up question than to not communicate what makes your firm unique.

Misconception: Good design is easy to do.

Effective and beautiful design is hard. It takes expertise, a creative eye, and careful thought. While understanding the basic principles of design can help ensure that you don’t take a design from good to bad by editing, it doesn’t mean you can develop one without assistance. That’s why we always recommend having a designer on the team. Whether it’s a full-time team or a creative services agency you engage on a project basis, having that expertise will help ensure your collateral is compelling, effective, and visually stunning.

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