Design is at the heart of most of your marketing and advertising strategies, giving you the groundwork for the visual experiences your target demographics encounter. If you mismanage that design, you could end up compromising your results.

So what are the biggest marketing design mistakes that ruin campaigns? And how can you avoid them?

The Biggest Marketing Design Mistakes to Avoid

These are some of the biggest marketing design mistakes you should avoid:

1. Treating design as one, monolithic category.

In some ways, this article has already made this mistake; after all, we’re treating marketing design as one, monolithic category in this context. But when it comes to actual design, different channels, mediums, and audiences all require very different considerations. A design that works on a postcard isn’t necessarily going to work on social media, and the design that works for your website isn’t necessarily going to work on the menu as you print in a restaurant. You need to consider the context of every piece you design – and design every piece for its unique situation. Overly generic rules, like “red is always better than green” or “bigger is better” are useless because of this.

2. Not working with professionals.

Whether you hire individual, expert designers or just hire a competent marketing agency, it’s important to work with professionals. These days, it’s possible for amateurs to put together designs that look vaguely professional, especially if you use a combination of stock photos, basic editing software, and superficial design guides you found on the web. But professional designers often have years of education and even more years of experience guiding them to create much more beautiful, effective pieces. Good design isn’t cheap, so you need to be prepared to pay for that expert touch.

3. Ignoring tangible and intangible design factors.

Design can be analyzed in terms of its tangible and intangible factors. Tangible factors are things that your customers immediately see and respond to; for example, it might be an aesthetically appealing photo of a bright red sports car next to a tan cliffside. Intangible factors are things that your customers pull from the design more subtly, like getting a feeling of excitement from our previous example. You need to master both tangible and intangible factors to succeed.

4. Creating conflict between visuals and messages.

You can have a great image and a great message, but if those things contradict each other or create cognitive dissonance in your audience, you’re going to have a problem. Both your visuals and your messages need to be coordinated and rooted in the same core idea.

5. Designing for the wrong audience.

If you want your designs to be effective, you need to understand – and specifically target – your audience. Don’t create designs based on generic, universal standards, and don’t try to appeal to everyone at once. Instead, use market research and customer personas to better understand the mindsets of your customers so you can design things specifically for them.

6. Focusing too much on one element.

There are many aspects to consider in your designs, so focusing on one of them exclusively is always a bad idea. If you’re only interested in making your design beautiful, or if you’re only interested in making it surprising, you’re going to end up neglecting other factors like authoritativeness, representation of your brand values, or emotional impact.

7. Following all the rules, all the time.

Design and marketing rules are there to help you understand the fundamentals and guide you in creating effective materials. If you follow all the spoken and unspoken rules of design, all the time, your designs are going to end up boring, formulaic, and stale. If you want to distinguish your brand, pleasantly surprise your audience, and ultimately see better results, you need to strategically break the rules.

8. Failing to measure results (and learn from them).

If your company doesn’t spend time analyzing your marketing efforts and making new decisions based on those analyses, you’re setting yourself up for failure. After all, without marketing analytics, it’s impossible to know which of your designs work and which ones fall flat. This is arguably the biggest mistake of all, since it blinds you in understanding the effectiveness of your design efforts.

Toward Better Marketing Design

What does it take to have better design? Obviously, avoiding all the aforementioned mistakes is a great place to start. But beyond that, you need to challenge yourself. Don’t just mimic a competitor. Don’t just do what you’ve always done. Instead, strive to follow a path of continuous improvement, learning and absorbing new design styles and experimenting with new approaches. It’s not hard to design something that works adequately, but you’ll need to invest in your strategy if you want to design something truly amazing.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.