6 Graphic Design Rules You Should Not Break

Someone designing on an iPad

Last updated on May 16th, 2023 at 03:56 pm

There are rules for almost everything in life, and in the world of art, rules are often overlooked, pushed, or even broken altogether. When it comes to breaking the rules in art, it is usually welcomed. Breaking the rules can lead to great works of art and inspire new trends for your fellow artists. That being said, there are some rules that should not be broken. Here are 6 graphic design rules you should not break.

Books about fonts and graphic design stacked on top of a table

1. Keep your designs legible

Your audience’s ability to read your design is crucial to its success. If your audience can’t make sense of your design, they won’t be able to understand your message and most likely won’t spend much time trying to if it’s too difficult. When you are choosing a font for your design, keep your target audience in mind. If you are targeting an audience made up of people over 55, consider going with a sans-serif font in a larger size for ease of reading. This can improve your audience’s experience consuming your content and provide a positive experience for them. 

Laptop next to printed flyers and business cards

2. Maintain consistency throughout your designs

When you are designing a set of branded materials, you must maintain consistency across all design elements. This way, your target audience can clearly recognize that the flyer or business card they are holding is an extension of the same brand they see on the website. Consistency with design and branding on your marketing materials will help ensure that your brand is not mistaken for another. A few things that can help maintain consistency are establishing a color palette (no more than 5 colors) and sticking with a set of fonts (no more than 3, or stick with one font family.) If you can create a set of branded materials that look like they all belong to a series without recreating the same thing over and over, you will have succeeded.

Desk with a computer, keyboard, laptop, and sketches

3. Make sure your graphics and text are scalable

It is important to make sure that when you are scaling graphics and text, you maintain the same proportions. In other words, don’t stretch your images as it will look unprofessional and ruin your whole design. If you find that the size of the image you are using does not work, you can simply edit it to adjust the size to something that does work. Bad design will draw the eye and distract your audience from your message. Some graphic design rules are imperative to the success of your design.  

Donuts with different colored icing and sprinkles with a blue and pink background

4. Avoid color discord

Color discord is created when you use colors widely separated on the color wheel. These color combinations are visually unpleasant and rather than draw your audience in, they will turn them away. Color combinations such as green and red can create a vibration effect (where one color is hard to focus on and almost appears to vibrate.) The design elements in the different colors fight for your audience’s attention and can be visually jarring. There are several ways to come up with color combinations that will enhance your design by using the color wheel. For example, complementary colors are opposite of one another on the color wheel, but the high contrast of the colors will create a design that pops. Analogous colors, colors that are next to each other, create designs that are pleasing to the eye as the colors are similar to one another. 

Pro tip: due to the high contrast, complementary colors are not ideal for text as it can be hard to read.

Document align left icon

5. Maintain alignment

If you are not careful with where you place each element in your design, you could end up with a design that looks unorganized and messy. Unorganized and messy designs look unprofessional and don’t reflect well on your brand. It is very simple to set up guides in your design software to help you properly align objects in relation to one another and the margins. Start off by picking a line on the page, either vertical or horizontal, and begin aligning your text and graphics with it. That will be easier than trying to randomly place your elements throughout your design. If you are struggling with how to align your design elements, consider left aligning or using columns. As you play around with different ways of aligning things, it will get easier.

Notebook with written lettering on a black table with flowers

6. Limit yourself to three fonts

This is an important graphic design rule to follow. If you are incorporating text in your designs, you should not use more than three different fonts. Using too many fonts is frankly ugly and chaotic. This can create a design that looks unstructured and unprofessional, which is most likely an inaccurate reflection of your brand. Referencing graphic design rules number one, you always want your designs to be legible. Choosing easy to read fonts and limiting the different types of fonts you use in one design will help make your design easier to digest. It may be easier to find a single font family and stick with that for consistency and to ensure that your fonts complement each other when it comes to character width and so on.

Printing with Printivity

If you are designing for print, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that your printed product will accurately reflect your design. Make sure you design in the CMYK color profile so that the colors that print match the colors you were designing with. Once you are ready to print, you can save your file as a PDF, embed all of your fonts, and flatten your PDF. Doing all of these things will make for a smooth printing process as your file will be ready to go as soon as you send it off.

Need a designer ASAP? Printivity offers in-house graphic design services to help you bring your designs to life then sent to our printers. Fill out our quick form with details of your project, and we’ll get started!

When you are ready to order, or if you have any questions about the process, contact our expert customer service department at 1-877-649-5463.


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