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Designer Pet Peeves

Kevin Whipps April 12, 2024 · 8 min read
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I have been called many things in my life, but the one that I hear the most consistently has to be “grumpy.” Yes, I am a generally nice guy most of the time, but there are times when I get disgruntled, and it takes a lot to get me back into a gruntled state. And usually the trigger is one of my (many) pet peeves. There are lots of them, and if you’ve read my work before, you could probably guess a few before you even check out this piece. But bear with me for a moment here while I get these out.

Stretched Fonts

Let me come out and say it: I have stretched a font once or twice. It was for a client, the money was good, and who did I hurt? It was a victimless crime. So yes, I am guilty of stretching fonts every now and then, but it doesn’t stop me from hating other people who do it. Because when I come in to try to fix their mess, I end up running their design through every font checker I can find and they all come up blank. Then I post it up to my friends on Facebook or Twitter saying, “Hey guys, can you help me out? I’m dumb and can’t figure out what font this is.” And then they confirm that I’m an idiot because it’s obviously Helvetica, but stretched twice as wide as normal. And then I run my head into a wall because I’m angry at the system. Point is, I hate people that stretch fonts, even if that means hating myself a little bit.

Software Crashes

I use Adobe CC in my day-to-day work, but I wonder sometimes if it’s worth the effort because man is it frustrating. Back when they made the last big update, I couldn’t copy and paste between documents. It is quite literally one of the things I do on a regular basis, and every time I hit command-c, the software would crash harder than me without my regular IV of Red Bull. Now obviously I back up my stuff, but there’s only so much I can handle, you know? And since I’m not quite as much of a command-S junkie as I probably should be, there’s always the chance of something going south on me at the worst possible time. Software crashes suck, is the point here, and I wish I could abolish them to the Negative Zone.

Messy Layers

Oh man, this is the WORST. A while back, I was designing a T-shirt for a buddy of mine and this event he was having back in November. He was promoting some local shops on the back, and I needed to collect all of their logos. To get one of them, I had to physically drive down to their office to walk them through how to email me the file, just to find out that it was a PSD and not a vector like I needed. But whatever, I could figure that part out, right? Well I did, obviously, because I’m a G.D. professional, but that Photoshop doc was a wreck. There were 30 different layers containing various effects, none of which were visible, leaving me to comb through them to figure out what I needed (Turns out I did need one of the hidden layers, so I’m glad I didn’t just do Delete Hidden on the lot). And in those layers was just … junk: reference images and aborted ideas that went nowhere. Here’s a lesson to rookie designers: don’t create a layer, hide it because you’re not using it, and then keep it in the file.

Combining Opposing Effects

Confused? Just wait, and you’ll get it. Take text and put a radiant glow and an inner glow on it. Or put an outer bevel with an inner bevel. See where I’m going here? Yes, there are moments when having opposing effects work, but it has to be done tastefully. More often than not, they’re done to such extremes that it’s like the design is screaming at me. “I HAVE A GLOW. DO YOU NOTICE MY GLOW? I THINK I’M GLOWING.” It turns me into a cursing parrot, repeating the same thing as I yell at my monitor saying the same things over and over again.

Spelling Mistakes

Being that I’m the odd duck that’s both a writer and a designer (with a splash of copy editor in there just for flavor), spelling means a lot to me, as does grammar. And I am clearly not perfect, but I still do my best to ensure that the copy I work on is clean and free of errors. But when I see designers that don’t care about the copy, I want to push them off a cliff. Too much? Maybe. But I’d say not enough. Just yesterday I was sent a PDF to edit for a buddy, and it was a disaster. Your/you’re was confused not once, but twice. Several words were missing vowels, and it got so bad that I started to wonder if English was his second language (He’s from New York City, so in a way, yes). Point is, I don’t care if you get the copy from a client or you created it yourself, take the time to ensure that it’s clean and as free of errors as possible before you start designing. Ultimately it’s just going to save you time anyway, so just get it right from the get-go.

Lame Fonts

Every day I eat the same thing at lunch: a turkey and bacon sandwich, washed down with a water and maybe an after-lunch Red Bull. (I know, I’m a healthy guy, what can I say.) But the other day I had to go out to the store to get some more turkey, and when I get to the deli counter I see this big banner proclaiming a new product. Oh, and the text on that banner? Mistral. Freaking Mistral. Now I write about fonts all the time, and I completely understand that sometimes fonts that we hate are popular for legit reasons. But c’mon – Mistral? It’s times like that when I want to just run over to the banner, rip it up and then design something new on the spot for them to use. Then I’d throw my computer on their counter, point at the screen and scream, “LOOK! ISN’T THIS BETTER? IT WOULD HAVE TO BE, BECAUSE THROWING A DEAD POSSUM AT A BABY WOULD BE BETTER THAN THIS!”

Clients

Oh yeah, I saved the best for last. Or worst? Who cares, let’s just get into it. The other day I had a client come to me with a design that they did themselves using Microsoft Word. OK, I felt their pain, so I offer them some options for a redo. The original was in Cooper Black, so obviously they needed to do something that didn’t invoke the spirit of Garfield every time they sold a sticker. I work up a few good options, all using some classy font choices that fit the spirit of the brand. There’s not a ton of time into the concept or anything, but the end result was a series of five clean wordmarks with their single symbol worked in. Job done. Yeah, they hated all of them. As it turns out, they loved Cooper Black, so I had to work that into a vector file so they were happy. And, to add insult to injury, I then had to produce product with that font, which wasn’t a lot of fun. This comes down to one of the common tropes out there with designers, and I fall right into it: you know better than the client, even though it’s their brand and they’re the ones that have to live with your design. Oooh – one more. I had a client want me to do an illustration of a vehicle that was as accurate as possible. I end up doing some Illustrator magic, I get the thing done and it’s perfect – you could line up the photo he wanted with my illustration and it was spot on. He gets the design and says, “It’s too narrow. Make it wider.” I’m shocked, so I explain that mine is as close to a tracing as you can get, so it’s obviously exactly what he wanted, and he comes back with, “Nope, you’re wrong. It’s too narrow.” So I stretch the design and he’s good with it, then turns it into a T-shirt. A few weeks later he hands one to me and says, “Pretty cool, right?” No. Not right. It’s so wrong that it could never be right, and I never want to see that shirt again.

Irritated Much?

Yes, I get it, designers are a quirky bunch that have little buttons that others can easily push. But we’re creatives, so naturally we put our emotions out on our sleeves for all the world to see. Is it good to do that? Probably not, but at least there are safe spaces like this one where we can all complain about it, right?


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Kevin Whipps

Hi! My name is Kevin Whipps, and I'm a writer and editor based in Phoenix, Arizona. When I'm not working taking pictures of old cars and trucks, I'm either writing articles for Creative Market or hawking stickers at Whipps Sticker Co.

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