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  • Larissa Yu

The 5 Biggest Design Mistakes Small Businesses Make

"Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” – Paul Rand

It takes around seven seconds for someone to decide whether or not they want to engage with your brand. SEVEN seconds. It doesn't matter what product or service your business makes, those first few seconds are key to growing your business.

That's where engaging copywriting and clever design come in. Studies even show that design-led businesses outperform their peers and there is a clear link between design investment and increasing revenue and ROI.

So we decided to ask Larissa Yu, our favourite Sydney-based Creative Director and a true 'design unicorn’ (see below!), what she thinks are the most common mistakes small businesses make. She's worked on everything from national magazines and huge websites to all things digital, print, video, publishing, branding, marketing and social media (and everything in-between) so she knows a thing or two about good design.

MISTAKE #1: Not hiring an experienced designer  "Anybody can learn a program on Youtube or download an app, but design programs are just a creative tool, like a paintbrush or a camera. The magic and real skill is in HOW you use them. What formal design training such as uni, TAFE or private colleges teaches is a refined visual sense of how to apply key design principles using the right tools to successfully execute your vision. Things like spacial awareness, typography, design history, colour theory, brand identity and, most importantly, logo design that stands the test of time. Good design always solves a problem or fulfils a need; anything else (however beautiful) is just art."  

MISTAKE #2: Taking design advice from randoms  "The intern, your cousin, the UberEats guy, your barista, a bunch of strangers on social media – sure, you can ASK for feedback on your new logo and branding but during the design process the only opinions that should matter are those of the business owner, qualified senior stakeholders (if necessary) and the design professional you have hired. What about the customers/end users, you ask?  Well, any data insights you have about them should have already been shared with your designer at the start of the design process. If you’re not clear on your target audience/customer, your designer won’t be able to deliver what you need."

MISTAKE #3: Relying on Canva  "Unlike many design professionals, I’m not anti-Canva (controversial, I know!). Like all tools, I believe it has its place. The mistake a lot of people make is in attempting to use it as a substitute for Adobe or other pro-design programs. The best way to use Canva, is to ask a professional designer to create some simple Canva templates (along with foolproof guidelines on how to use them) that can be used easily by anybody in your business. Social media templates is where Canva really shines, and their presentation templates are more user-friendly than clunky traditional programs like PowerPoint and Keynote. Canva Pro is worth paying for as it allows you to upload your own brand colour palette, logos and fonts. However, under no circumstances should you use Canva to actually create your logo, which leads us to my next point...." MISTAKE #4: Creating a non-vector logo "Always create your logo in a professional vector design program, such as Adobe Illustrator or similar. Why? Artwork created in other programs such as Photoshop, Word or an app like Canva is made up of millions of tiny dots or pixels like a photo. When you scale this artwork larger, the pixels (which are a fixed size and resolution) stretch and degrade in quality, look blurry, soft and out of focus. These types of files will have endings like .psd, .jpg, .png. If you use Vector artwork, however, your design can be scaled to any size with no loss of quality or sharpness and no distortion – so we're talking as small as a logo on a pen, right up to billboard size or larger! Vector filenames will have endings like .ai, .eps and .svg."

MISTAKE #5: Not backing your designer "This is something I feel passionately about... Don’t make the common mistake of hiring a creative and then not valuing their opinion. You took the time to carefully select a design professional who aligns with your business vision and values and has the necessary skills and experience to deliver what you need. The bottom line is: if you don’t respect your designer’s visual sense, then you’ve probably hired the wrong person for that particular job."  So while this was only meant to be a Top 5, as any true designer knows... it pays to under-promise and over-deliver… so here’s Larissa's last bonus point: 

MISTAKE #6: Thinking all designers are the same "Not all designers are interchangeable with the same skillsets and experience. This means that design budgets should be flexible enough to accommodate the wide range of experience and skillsets you wish to hire, and this may differ wildly between candidates applying for the exact same role/project. These days, the generic term ‘designer’ can encompass junior designers, design graduates, mid-weight designers, finished artists, retouchers, e-comm designers, digital designers, graphic designers, website designers, content creators, video editors, packaging designers, desktop publishers, art directors, creative directors, design directors and many more combinations thereof. So it pays to spend time finding the right designer for the job/ project you need them on. And when you find that rare ‘design unicorn’ who has multiples of the above skillsets – pay them as well as you can afford to so they never want to leave!"  This is a blog featured on Remedy Content. We specialise in wellness, health and lifestyle content, copywriting, design and editing. If you have a word-y problem, we'd love to hear about it!


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