10 Things Designers Freaking Hate With a Passion

By on May 2, 2016 in Design Trends
10 Things Designers Freaking Hate With a Passion

Being a designer is awesome. We get to make cool stuff in Photoshop and get paid for it. I think it's pretty high on the list of cool ways to make a living. That being said, there are some things that tend to really bug us. And by that I mean they drive us insane and we tend to freak out a little when they come up. Here are ten such annoyances that I think will hit home with you.

1. Cliché, Overused Fonts

Everyone knows that designers hate ugly fonts, I'm looking at you Comic Sans and Papyrus. But sometimes, a perfectly good font is ruined because the whole dang world simply can't stop using it on everything. When a font crosses that line from novel to cliché, you'll know by the veins that pop out of designer's foreheads when they see it.

Lobster Is The New Comic Sans

For me, a perfect example of this phenomenon is Lobster. I didn't mind it one bit at first, but these days it's everywhere I look. Restaurants, grocery stores, iPhone apps, universities, pre-schools, public restrooms, hospices, prison cells; you name it, Lobster has been there.

I went searching on the web to see if others felt the same way I do, and found a lovely website called "Lobster Is the New Comic Sans," which is every bit as awesome as its name implies. Here are a few samples they've pulled from the real world.



How About Helvetica?

Ahh, Helvetica. This is where designers disagree. Helvetica is the center of a fierce debate that has torn apart friendships, families, maybe even governments. I personally think a font has to be quirky, unique, and so easy to spot a child could do it, to cross that ugly cliché boundary. Helvetica is such a simple and mild-mannered sans-serif, I don't mind it at all. That is until Gap tries to use it as their logo. No thanks.


2. $5 Logo Designs

We now live in a world where you can get a "professionally-designed logo" for $5. How did this happen? Where did we go wrong? I blame you, Internet.


Honestly, I'm never one to jump on the "this is ruining the industry" bandwagon. I don't think $5 logos ruin the industry, I just think you get what you pay for. If you have a real project with a serious budget, hire a seasoned designer. Otherwise, drop $5 on an auto-traced special.

3. Spec Work

The concept behind spec work is simple: you don't know if I'm a good enough designer to do what you want done, so you'll just have me do a bunch of free work as a test. How great is that for everyone involved?

It's like if you asked your dentist to fix a few cavities for free, just so you can judge her work against that of some other dentists you have lined up. Hey, you don't want to waste your money, if she's any good, she won't mind proving it. You know, this scam is pretty awesome now that I think about it. I'm going to go try it at restaurants, barber shops, and IKEA.

All that being said, some designers can take their loathing of spec work a bit too far...


Cartoon by one of my favorite illustrators, Brad Colbow

4. Working In Microsoft Word

The project is all set to go. You have a good grasp of the creative direction the clients wants to go, you're feeling excited and full of ideas. The world is a good place. Then you get the email that every designer dreads.

"Oh hey, yeah, I forgot to mention. We're going to need all this done in a Microsoft Word Document. Thanks!"

Now, your reaction may vary, but mine usually goes something like this:


5. Making Things "Pop"

Listen, I'm a reasonable person. I can scale something up, make it more colorful, or more prominent. Heck, I'll even put a drop shadow on it if you really force the issue. Just don't ask me to make it pop. Seriously, if you have any respect for the design industry, you'll never ask someone to make it pop again.

Awesome shirt design by UI Stencils

6. Working For "Exposure"

When you say, "we don't have a budget per se, but it'll be great exposure," all a designer hears is, "I don't have any money and expect you to starve your children while you devote your working hours to following my every whim without me providing a cent in return." Sorry, "exposure" don't pay the rent.

Comic via Cyanide and Happiness

7. Design By Committee

I had a client once tell me that his mom didn't really get my design, his neighbor thought I needed to use a different font, and a girl from this class he was taking thought we needed different photos. That really happened.

It's tempting to think that bringing in a lot of diverse viewpoints and opinions will always make a design better. The unfortunately reality is that when you try to please everyone, you most often end up with a jumbled, disparate mess of ideas.


8. Being Told To Copy Someone Else's Work

As a writer, no client has ever asked me to commit plagiarism. No one says, "can you just write what this guy wrote?" As a designer though, clients are always saying things like, "we want our site to look just like this one" or even, "can you just grab the photos from their site?"


9. Working For Friends and Family

If you're friends with, or related to, a professional designer, and you need some design work done, do everyone a favor and simply ask for a referral. Because here's how it's going to play out: You'll have high hopes for the project, but then you won't like what they make and you'll ask them to make "a few changes." They'll get offended because you don't respect their time, you'll get offended because they want to charge you for revisions, and in the end you'll decide you're not really on speaking terms anymore unless it's a major holiday and external pressures force you to be in the same room.


10. Their Own Work

This one is sad but true. Show any designer something they made a few years ago and you're guaranteed to see some cringing and hear some excuses.


What Drives You Nuts?

Now it's your turn to vent. Leave a comment below and let us know what drives you crazy as a designer. Share the pain.

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  1. reneinareverie

    Totally agree about the Lobster one. I loved that font when it first came out and apparently, so did everyone else. Now it sticks out like a sore thumb in any design.

  2. AmyInaStudio

    I started laughing when I read the title, and was totally cracking up by the end. Thank you, I needed this today.

  3. WayneD8

    Zapf Chancery was itself not a bad font, but (as with Comic Sans as the only "casual" font) it suffered the fate of horrendous overuse because it was the only "script-y" font in the basic installed set. It was literally bludgeoned to death, mercilessly slammed into places where it had no reason to be, and that misuse earned it the hatred of so many designers back in the day.

    Going back even further . . . back to the '70s . . . there is one name that still makes me shudder:


  4. AmyInaStudio

    @Wayne Davis, I think you are right that overuse was the problem with that one. I have huge respect for Herman Zapf, who I think is still around and well into his nineties.

  5. jkoromi

    I always set a timeline for projects. Every once in a while the client waits til the absolute last minute to give feedback, then complains that the project is overdue. Had enough of these that I've started adding due dates for client feedback with the stipulation that every extra day they take extends the due date by the same amount of time.

    This occurs so often that it's not a part of my contracts and I take time to outline and explain in meetings before any signatures or deposits are in place.

    Second to that is when you actually deliver a contract and hear back, "Why do I have to sign this? Don't you trust me?"

  6. swissette

    @Sonny Baccam Seriously, just two days ago I got asked to change the font I used to Bebas Neue 'a free font I can find over at 'x' website' . I screamed internally.

    I never had the opportunity to use Lobster for any of my projects, and then as soon as I saw it popping up everywhere I got sad and removed it from my library, haha. Lobster Two isn't so bad though.

  7. dusty.road.design

    I've run my own business for 8 years, and these two are the most HATEFUL!!! 1: when a client tells me they don't really know what they want, and they will "know it when they SEE it" that's just great instruction. And number 2: Badly Kerned text!!! There's nothing worse than seeing a beautiful Title or headline crying out in desperation because someone didn't kern a couple letters.

  8. 6472121

    "I can't understand the concept from just a sketch, can you make a wireframe?", "Can you add more color to this wireframe?", "Can you make a rough mockup with a lot of detail?", "Can you just design it in html and css?".

  9. lisablake

    This is SO great. Love and can totally relate to every single one.
    Currently, my issue is my kids' school asking for pro bono work. "It's just a little flyer..." "Just a small logo for the school carnival..." "A quick little newsletter for the PTA..." And if I even hint at requesting compensation, they are quick to remind me that this is a school, they have a small budget, and "it would be a great way for you to contribute..." Guilt trip ahead, pack your bags.

  10. ChrisAdams

    You know what I hate with a passion? The first line of this article. 'Being a designer is awesome. We get to make cool stuff in Photoshop and get paid for it.' I hate when people think that a designer is just someone who knows how to use a computer program. Why not say 'Being a designer is awesome. We get to help our clients communicate their big ideas to the world in a creative way'

  11. lkiddbarry

    Actually had a client tell me they wanted to stick with every element we had in a banner the other day, just that they'd like me to "make it pop." Helpful.


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