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5 Useful Ways to Spot an Amateur Designer

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Your fav client reaches out about an exciting new project to revive their website. They pop you over an email saying “Hey! Here is our new logo design! Can you tweak it to work for our website? No big deal right? Here’s the file!.” You proceed with caution to open the attachment and low and behold – a low resolution, very pixelated, mutli-colour JPEG logo file. *Face Palm*. This is when you realize your working with an Amateur Designer.


It’s not always that simple to spot them. Sometimes you have to do a bit more searching to be sure that your victim is an actual rookie. Here are some easy (and not so easy) ways to spot the Amateur:

Font Stretching

The ABSOLUTE worst. You know that lovely elegant serif font that you are forever trying to identify with Whatthefont or Identifont, and absolutely nothing comes up in the search. Then it dawns on you that you’ve wasted so much time all to realize that it’s a font that has been mishandled and stretched.

Font stretching is a total rookie move for many reasons. There is really no good reason to stretch a font – especially when many typefaces now come with a number of options (condensed, extended, light, medium, heavy bold, extra bold). Secondly, if you ever have to go back in later to make adjustments or add more text, you will never get it to match the previous version. Serifs get stretched, the “thicks and thins” become distorted. It’s just not cute. So don’t do it.

Massive Shadows, Elaborate Gradients, Radient Glows, and Heavy Embossing

#Throwback to when you’re a freshman in design school and you touched Photoshop for the very first time. You may have discovered the “Effects” tool and embossed, shadowed and glowed the crap out of everything in your path. Long gone are those days. These “special effects” are really not necessary when it comes to logo designs in particular. It’s just not applicable in the long run when you want to use the logo in multiple uses (think websites, social media, print material – both colour and black and white, large scale, small scale). Ultimately a logo design should be simplistic and hold so much meaning and value, withstand scaling and multiple applications (no pressure). Remember – less is more 😉

They frequently participate in “Design Contests”

Only newbies do work for free in hopes of a “life changing moment or opportunity” for exposure. Spoiler alert: It’s not going to happen. Here is how capitalism works: We solve your design problems, make things, and deliver them to you. You then pay us for those services. It’s really that simple and it makes the world go round.

Font Overload

There isn’t a set of rules on how many fonts you should use in a design but generally the standard is 2-3 fonts. You can usually tell when there is an amateur designer when you see font overload.

The more fonts you use, the more cluttered and chaotic the design will look. Even though you might think it will stand out, most of the time the opposite is true. It may become popular and might like what you produce, but it will be frowned upon by the industry.

Formatting Incorrectly

A rookie designs a company logo in Photoshop. It might be 12000 pixels wide but it’s still incorrect. An amateur edits a photo for print that 72 DPI in RGB instead of the required 300 DPI CMYK. A newbie uses the layers panel to hide parts of reference – even though they can still be seen with 1 click of a mouse. Knowing what application the design will be used down the road and building it accordingly to those specifications is crucial for time management and your sanity.

These types of mistakes happen in the beginning of ones’ design career. It might be a good chuckle at the beginning but when one of these designs land on a professionals desk to “fix” it can be very frustrating.

Not Keeping up to date on Design Trends

A lot of new designers fall into the trap of getting stuck in design school – even a decade into their career. It’s important to continually be inspired by the design trends through checking out Behance, Dribble, or scrolling Instagram. Other creative industries such as fashion, textiles, ceramics and interior design could also be inspirational when it comes to keeping up with design trends. Don’t get stuck in your own bubble – get out there and explore the trends!

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