6 Newbie Graphic Designer Mistakes to Avoid

written by Georgia Schumacher 8 April 2015

Like any skilled profession, graphic design has a learning curve that can result in several common beginners’ mistakes. These gaffes may range from how you approach your design to the relationships you form with your clients. Here are 6 of the top major mistakes prevalent among young graphic designers, and how to avoid them.

6 Newbie Graphic Designer Mistakes to Avoid

1. Messy Design Elements

New graphic designers often go above and beyond to please new clients and showcase their talents. However, left unchecked, this eagerness can lead to overdesign and even a bit of chaos. So keep your focus on implementing a simple and clean design, unless your client specifies otherwise.

2. Failing to Sign a Contract

Unfortunately, graphic designers don’t always protect themselves with client contracts. Be aware that, without a contract, unscrupulous clients could short you or take your work without proper compensation. Although you may think that asking a client for a more formal agreement involving a contract might scare them away, it’s important to get one signed anyway.

3. Stock Image Overuse

As a web designer, it’s tempting to use simple stock photos. Unfortunately, the best stock photos are already being used across the web, which can detract from the originality of your web design. If possible, include your own images. Take them yourself, if feasible, or, if your budget allows, partner with a photographer you know and trust. Let your client know that you’re putting extra time and effort to deliver them personalized images, and they'll notice the difference.

4. Stale Designs

As a graphic designer, you may have a great sense of aesthetics, but it's also important to stay on top of the latest trends to make sure you offer something fresh. Creating a design that stands out from the competition can be one of the single best ways to keep clients happy.

5. Not Understanding a Client’s Needs

Always check and double-check that you fully understand your client’s needs before producing a design. Build a roadmap of your graphic or web design plan and make sure your client is on board. This will help you please the client the first time around and help you avoid costly redesigns.

6. Not Knowing Your Limits

You may want to take on a lot of work, but it’s important to set deadlines you can meet and tackle projects that are within your skill set. Over time, your knowledge of graphic design will grow and you’ll be more comfortable tackling more complex projects. Until then, know your limits.

Conclusion

Remember, everyone makes mistakes. It's an unavoidable and essential part of learning something new, but you can always learn from the mistakes of those who come before you! To really up your design game, consider earning a degree in the area of Graphic & Web Design. Explore our programs today!

Announcing the 8th Annual Graphic & Web Design Career Series

written by Georgia Schumacher 1 April 2015

The 2015 Graphic and Web Design Career Series is just around the corner! The Graphic and Web Design Department at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division is holding weekly webinars from April 9 to April 30, 2015, open to current students.

This annual event features top industry professionals and designers as guest speakers, who will discuss critical industry topics and creative inspiration in two hour sessions on Thursday evenings at 7pm ET. Attendees will gain valuable insights on career preparation and what to expect when working as a design professional. Register now via the Campus Common Events Calendar!

This year’s lineup includes:

Brent Stickels, Co-Founder and Partner of YYES
Dear Hiring Manager: And Other Job Search Fails

Landing your dream job isn’t too likely if you don’t know how to impress a hiring manager. Join Brent Stickels, co-founder and partner of YYES, a boutique design studio, as he discusses how to stand out from other applicants without choking. Learn how he got his first jobs, mistakes he made, and wins he earned to get where he is today.

David Taylor, Recruiting Manager with The Creative Group
Starting Your Career Adventure: Correcting the Course and Upgrading Your Gear

Sometimes it takes a bit of savvy searching to find the right career opportunity. As The Creative Group’s recruiting manager, David Taylor works with many motivated and inspired candidates, helping them to better market themselves and discover the right path to pursue their career adventures. Join us to learn common misconceptions about the job hunting process and a number of tips on how to better your resume, digital presence, portfolio, and interview techniques.

Bob Calvano, Vice President, Design: A+E Networks, New York
What the Heck Does a Design Career Look Like?

Join us as Bob discusses what he thought a career would look like and how the path traveled is nothing like he anticipated. See highlights of work from some of the various parts of his career journey, as well as his latest work at A+E Networks. Gather round for some inspiration and two cents of advice for starting out in the design profession, from the man who leads visual and user experience design for A+E’s portfolio of properties, including A&E, Lifetime, HISTORY, LMN, FYI, and HISTORY 2.

Wendy MacNaughton, Illustrator and Graphic Journalist
Illustration as a Career and Other Things I Never Thought I’d Give a Talk About

Wendy’s discussion will address her journey to becoming a professional illustrator and graphic journalist. She is a New York Times best-selling illustrator and graphic journalist based in San Francisco. Her work appears in publication like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Print Magazine. Wendy has authored a number of books, including Meanwhile in San Francisco, The City in Its On Words; Pen & Ink, Tattoos and The Stories Behind Them; and Lost Cat. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Art Center College of Design, and a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University. She is the 2015 artist in residence at the Zen Hospice Project.

There are only a limited number of spots available for each presentation, so register today using the Campus Common Events Calendar!

To request disability related accommodations for a virtual event please contact the event organizer in advance at jminnaugh@aii.edu.

Student Represents Phoenix, AZ, in Annual Photography Contest

written by Georgia Schumacher 27 February 2015

Lisa Hanard, a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division, was selected to represent her city of Phoenix, AZ, in the photography division of the 6th Annual RAWards, moving on to the national stage of the competition! More than 15,000 artists across the country participate in the indie arts award competition each year.

The RAWards has a total of 9 categories, including visual artist, fashion designer, musician, filmmaker, hairstylist, makeup artist, photographer, performer, and accessories of the year.

The final winner in each category will be announced on Monday, March 2, 2015. Congratulations and good luck Lisa!

Check out some of Lisa’s amazing photographs:

Lisa Hanard with her photos

Lisa Hanard photo

Lisa Hanard photo

Lisa Hanard photo

Lisa Hanard photo

See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/198 for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

3 Design Elements to Focus on in Testing

written by Georgia Schumacher 13 November 2014

Do your web design choices compel users to take further action or cause them to swiftly click away? Once you have great written content, your design must be carefully crafted. Sometimes, A/B testing will reveal the most effective design, while other times, asking directly for feedback offers a wealth of information. Here are just a few graphic design and web elements that should be tested.

1. CTA Position

The call-to-action, or CTA, tells the user what you want him to do next. Maybe you want him to sign up for a webinar, or perhaps the CTA will help a user navigate to a video. The CTA is usually a clickable button that should be placed near the top of the page. Users may scroll down to the bottom of the screen, but only if your content and design compel them to read that far. In many cases, placing the CTA at the top of the screen where the user can't miss it is the best choice. Remember that web users read in an F-shaped pattern. Testing CTA position lets you see where it is most likely to be clicked.

CTA buttons2. CTA Color

The color of your CTA button is another important element of any interactive design. Some colors will jump out from the page better than others, and, when your background is white, many options exist. The color of the CTA should stand out on your design -- but not like a sore thumb. Finding the right CTA color can be a fine line; it should typically be consistent with the overall design scheme, but the CTA may be ignored if it blends in with the background or neighboring design elements. The only way to know what CTA colors work best is testing!

3. Photo Selection

A powerful image may keep people on a web page or email screen and increase user engagement. Using images of real customers, versus stock photography, generally adds more value to the design. However, product photos may also be more appropriate in certain situations. The placement and size of the photo will also affect its impact. Users may ignore an image placed off to the side without a clear relationship to the text. Knowing which image will connect best with the end user may be a bit of a guessing game. Testing enables designers to determine which photos elicit the best response from users.

Testing Methods

TestingOne popular means of testing your web or interactive design is A/B testing. When utilizing this method, you will create two versions of your email, landing page, website, or other design to implement simultaneously. In most cases, each version is exactly the same, minus one difference--that could be copy, CTA color, CTA position, or any other element you are testing. Sometimes, you may need to test two entirely different designs, but when you begin changing multiple pieces on your design it becomes hard to know to which design elements you can attribute success. Whichever version produces the most interactions can be used moving forward--and you can always continue testing other elements over time. Remember, testing your web design stands to greatly increase the success of your efforts. Don't be afraid to learn by trial and error!

Learn more about web design best practices in our Web Design & Interactive Media Programs.

The Ideal Client: How and Why to Create Personas

written by Georgia Schumacher 9 October 2014

If you want to launch a career in a creative field such as web design, fashion design, or video game development, you should understand the vital role of personas. Personas, which should be used throughout the creative and development process, are in-depth profiles of potential clients. Those make-believe individuals will represent precisely the kinds of customers that you're trying to reach.

By creating personas, you help yourself and your colleagues to analyze andunderstand your customers, audience, or users. Once you’ve built personas, all of your decisions should rely on these imaginary people and what would—or would not—resonate with them or move them to action. Ask yourself about their wants, their needs, and their goals. Think about their prior knowledge and background and how that will influence the way they interact with what you create.

Be aware, however, that you should only rely on three or four personas for one project or campaign; have more than that and it starts to get confusing. Therefore, those personas you select must accurately represent your largest groups of potential customers. Of course, you won't be able to capture every potential user in those personas; the key is to cover as many as you can.

How to create a persona

To create effective personas, you'll first have to do some investigating. That is, you must learn about the backgrounds and needs of the people who are most likely to seek your services. This kind of inquiry is called market research.

Step 1: Market research

There are several ways in which to conduct market research. For starters, you can interview past and current customers over the phone or in person, and you can direct them to online surveys. To ensure that enough people complete such interrogations, you could offer them discounts in exchange for participating. You may also be able to conduct research about those who purchase products from your closest competitors. You could even contact trade associations, major industry publications, and even friends who are in the same business as you; ask them to send you some of the customer data that they've collected over time. Even if you don’t have customers yet, you can create personas based on information you find about your target customers or the people most likely to purchase your product or service.

Step 2: Find patterns

Once your market research is complete, it's time to turn those statistics into personas. To get started, identify recurring patterns in the customer information that you've gathered in order to settle on three or four archetypes. For example, if teachers and women between the ages of 50 and 60 are among the people who appear the most often, one of your personas could describe a female, 55-year-old high school teacher. 

Step 3: Templatize

Your next step is to create a template for your personas so that they'll have a uniform layout. It's wise to search the Internet for personas and to study as many as you can; borrow the elements that most appeal to you. Your final product should be clean, attractive, and easy to read; you’ll probably be sharing this document a lot! Each entry should also include a photo of the person's face: You can purchase the rights to stock photos, or include of friends and family members.

Step 4: Fill in the details

When it comes to the text of a persona, provide the person's first name next to the photo. Below the name, supply information in several categories. The first grouping should be a demographic outline, which might include:

- age
- ethnicity
- place of residence
- educational history
- marital status
- any other relevant factors

Other categories could be employment details, technical knowledge, and relevant interests. Finally, set up a section that describes what the person would need and expect from you and your business. Note that you should use short phrases and bullet points to present these facts, rather than complete sentences.

Step 5: Distribute your personas

Once, you’ve assembled personas, make sure to share them with other designers, your stakeholders, manager, and anyone else on the project team. Remember, your persona will help you focus on your audience and ensure that your design is functional and relevant for your customers—making you more likely to succeed!