Hang out in a classroom, take an online course or join in on any discussion with graphic designers and you’re certain to hear a myth or two emerge around the world of graphic design. The thing about design myths is that they sometimes have an element of truth to them, so it can be difficult to know what is fact and what is fiction.
There are approximately 266,300 graphic designers in the United States working in a variety of environments such as publishing houses, companies and from-home freelance. That’s a lot of different opinions and a lot of different people to spread rumors around.
When it comes to design myths, take them with a grain of salt. Always use your best judgment and problem-solving skills to make sure the advice is warranted. Here are 12 design myths you’ll likely recognize.
1. Graphic Design Is Easy
Myth: Graphic design is easy, right? Anyone can do it with a few simple tools. You’ve likely heard this one before when telling someone what you do for a living.
Truth: The truth is far more complicated. Yes, there are tools that allow designers to complete their work and to tweak it. However, there are many layers to good design, including a firm understanding of how positive and negative space work together, how to layer objects, how to present something in a way that the user will read in the right order and even which colors complement one another. Graphic design is far from “easy.”
2. The Customer Is Always Right
Myth: The customer is always right and the designer (or business owner) should always listen to that customer to please him.
Truth: There is an element of this myth that is correct — you must respect your customers. However, they aren’t always right. It is your job as a designer to figure out how to show them a different way is better and will be more effective for their goals.
3. Fixes Are Fast and Easy
Myth: Fixing anything in a design takes mere seconds, so designers shouldn’t complain when customers want change after change.
Truth: Changing one element in a design impacts every element of that design. The particular color the client just has to have in the letter “e” may create a situation where every other color in the design needs to be changed as well.
4. Designers Need to Fix Their Mistakes
Myth: If a website breaks or something isn’t the way the client wants it, then the designer should work endless hours to fix the problem until the client is completely satisfied.
Truth: It depends on the mistake. If the mistake is a functional one that is embedded in the design itself, then the designer should step up and fix the error, even if it requires more time. Seemingly all designers agree with this concept. However, clients can do things after the initial design which destroy a site and leave it a scrambled mess, such as installing a plugin or changing code without a full knowledge of coding. These changes should incur a fee since they are through no fault of the designer.
5. Designers Have Creative Control
Myth: Designers are creative types and have control over the look and feel of their designs. Truly brilliant designers will always produce amazing designs.
Truth: Designers often have to incorporate elements they feel are ugly or don’t match the overall aesthetic of the design. Clients or bosses tend to throw things at them at the last minute, too.
6. Match Competing Brands
Myth: Your design should match that of others in the same industry for a more uniform look. Try to match what the competition is doing.
Truth: It is better to stand out from the crowd. While there may be some standards you need to follow, such as creating a serious tone for serious matters, there is no reason your design should look like anyone else’s.
7. It’s Easy for Anyone to Start Freelancing
Myth: Graphic designers simply hang out a shingle and they’re in business.
Truth: Starting a graphic design freelance business is just as complicated as starting any other type of business. The failure rate for a new business in the first 10 years is about 75 percent. Not only does the new freelance designer have to find clients but they have to survive and pay bills in the meantime. It can take a while for cash to start flowing in.
8. Once You Know Design, You Know It
Myth: Once a designer is trained and finished school, they can go right to work without a need for further training.
Truth: Design is an ever-changing landscape of new trends, techniques and tools. The best designers never stop learning but continue to build on their skills over time.
9. You Don’t Need Drawing Skills
Myth: All design is done on a computer. You don’t need drawing or artistic skills to be a designer.
Truth: While some types of design don’t require the ability to draw, some types do. For example, if you plan to hand-letter a font for a logo, then you’ll need a bit of artistic skill. The elements that make designs truly unique require at least some offline effort.
10. Graphic Designers Make Good Money
Myth: Graphic designers are paid well for their time and make good money. Some are even rich.
Truth: The average graphic designer makes around $42,000 a year and that number includes those working for big corporations or with many years of experience in the field. Subtract taxes (plus additional self-employment tax for freelancers) and other expenses. Freelancers also have to invest back into the next project and pay advertising costs.
11. Comic Sans Is Death
Myth: You should never, ever, under any circumstances, use Comic Sans font. To do so shows you as a rank amateur.
Truth: While Comic Sans is arguably one of the most hated fonts on the planet, even it has a time and place. The font has an approachable personality that works well for some designs, but not many.
12. Designers Should Fill Every Square Inch of Space
Myth: I’m paying my designer to design something, so they should fill up every square inch of space and not leave so much white on the page.
Truth: A good balance of positive and negative space is the hallmark of a strong design. The best designers know when to use negative space to their advantage.
These 12 design myths are likely ones you’ve heard in your career as a graphic designer. Designers are sometimes misunderstood or go underappreciated. You have to become your own cheerleader and educate your clients and employers on how much work designing actually is. Only then can you bust these myths and shine a light on the truth of design work.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.