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10 Murphy's Laws All Designers Live By

Kevin Whipps April 12, 2024 · 9 min read

We’ve all heard of Murphy’s Law, right? Well for the two of you that haven’t, let me give you a quick background. Where does the phrase itself come from and who is Murphy? Depends on who you ask, but one of the generally accepted attributions goes to Edward Murphy, who was involved with testing on how humans would survive huge g-forces, like what you’d have in combat flights. Long story short, the sensors were wired incorrectly, and Murphy apparently blamed it on his assistant, saying, “If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will.” Today, Murphy’s Law is commonly known as: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Or, as I’ve used as a mantra for the past decade or so, anything that can go wrong, will. How does this apply to designers? Well for starters, how doesn’t it apply to us? There are a bazillion different ways that designers fall into this category when they least expect it. So for me to narrow this down to just 10 is not only easy, but ridiculously so.

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1. Your computer Will Crash at the Worst Possible Time

office space computer crash

I do the bulk of my work on this mid-2013 MacBook Air, and it’s seen some things. Recently I replaced the logic board via AppleCare because it was crashing on a fairly regular basis, but it’s not acting a whole ton better now. Fact is, I just need to break down and buy a new laptop, but until I do, there’s always the chance of it crashing harder than Brangelina’s marriage. brad pitt crying (What? Too soon?) But here’s the thing: no matter how often I hit command-s to save my work, inevitably I’ll forget when I’m at a critical juncture in my work, leaving me open to all sorts of failures. It happened just the other day, in fact. I was almost done with a file when I was called away from my desk for a minute. My screensaver kicked in, locking the computer, and it crashed on wake. I swear I almost turned the damned laptop into a frisbee, but I decided instead that to destroy it Office Space style was a lot better idea. It’s on my to-do list.

2. There Will Be Typos on that Critical Document

Without tooting my own horn too much, I’m a trained copy editor, which means that I dun write good. But most designers I know loathe writing, mostly because they always misspell something or mess up their grammar. One buddy of mine has a pretty solid excuse: English is his second language. But still, his spelling issues got so bad that the company he works for hired an assistant for him just to make sure no more errors got through. It was (and still is) bad. So how will Murphy’s Law rear its ugly head for you? Well of course, you’ll be designing this doc that’s absolutely critical for your company/business/client, and, of course, some typo will slip through – “The” is “teh” or something similar – and it will have gone live or to print before you discover the mistake. Of course it will, because that’s how that jerk Murphy works.

3. Your Clients will Hate Your Favorite Design and Love Your Least Favorite


I don’t know about you, but I always give my clients options when it comes to designs, because if I don’t, they’ll pick all of their options from DaFont and end up running with Lobster. It’s always Lobster. lobster Point is, I usually give them three options to choose from. Naturally I have my favorite, but I try to make sure I hit a few markers: one I think is perfect, one that I think the client will think is perfect, and the third that hits somewhere in between the two. Inevitably, they’ll hate my perfect one, and hate the one I thought was perfect for them, and pick the compromise. Oh, and of course they’ll still have edits, because Murphy doesn’t work any other way.

4. Somebody’s Already Done That Design

its been done

Look, I totally believe the whole “Everything is a remix” thing, but sometimes it comes up behind you without any warning, right before a big deadline. You’re like, “Everything is perfect. There could be no better. I. Am. Awesome.” i think our work here is done And then some guy – usually that tool Bob from accounting – says, “Hey, that looks familiar. Did you just copy that?” No, Bob, I spent four hours slaving away on that piece of crap, and you just reminded me that it’s the same logo that my favorite wrap shop uses so I wasted that time, so why don’t you get back to your hobbit hole where you like to do the maths. Jerk.

5. You Will Get Creatively Stuck When A Huge Deadline Is Looming


I am a firm believer that writer’s block is a load of bull honkey, because real writers write if they want to make money. But what I do believe in is creative block – or, as I like to call it – procrastinator’s syndrome – where I’ve put things off for so long that I can’t figure out which direction I want to go. And next thing I know … panic So yeah, it always happens to me when I’ve got a ton of stuff on my plate. Like right now, for example, I have articles to write, stickers to design, a haircut in two hours, kids to pick up at school, and I’m hammering this out right now, hoping that the Red Bull coursing through my system will kick in like: turbo nitrous boost Am I creatively blocked right now? Well I hope it doesn’t happen, but if Murphy has his way, it will. It’s inevitable.

6. The File Is Never In The Format You Need

youre stupid

My business involves a lot of work in Illustrator, so obviously I run into lots of scenarios where I need a logo of some kind. I’ll say to the client, “I can take your logo in an Adobe Illustrator or EPS file, or .ai and .eps.” Now they always say that they’ve got my back, and they totally understand what I need. They’ve got me. They understand me. They love me in a way that’s totally unrealistic considering I’m married and they chew with their mouths open, which is one of my pet peeves, so it’s just never going to happen. What do they send over? A JPEG. Or a bitmap. Or a GIF. A damned GIF! Now I harp on this a lot, but there’s a reason for this: I want the behavior to stop! If it doesn’t, I may just start wildly punching in the general direction of people, hoping that I hit someone who sent me a JPEG logo in the process.

7. You will miss that one pixel/vector

you too close

This happens to me all the time, so I know it happens to you. You’re zoomed in super close so that you can make that mask fit perfectly, or ensure that those vectors are crossing exactly where you want. You’re drunk on zoom, and in some blur of hyper focus, you forget just one pixel or line, and when you don’t notice it’s missing until you’ve shipped the final product off for approval. That’s right, there’s one stupid dot in the middle of your otherwise perfect design, because Murphy is a dill hole, and this is his specialty. ARGH!

8. There Will Always Be Edits When Your Schedule Is Already Packed

no time

You’ve edited the file, all of your work is done. You’ve collected your check, you have everything archived, and your flight is booked for that vacation to Spain that you’ve been planning out since the last time the Cubs won the world series, and right as you’ve got one hand on the door knob to leave the office, Murphy rears his ugly head and your phone rings. It’s the client. They have just “one teensy, tiny edit.” But it’s not just one, it’s 12, and it requires more work than you have time for, and you spend the next few hours debating if you could go back to college and get that Women’s Studies major you were working on before, because anything has got to be better than this.

9. That Image You Want For The Design Will Always Be Just Slightly Out Of Focus


This one gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it. I’ve done a very small amount of print design work in my career, but I have quite a few friends in the industry, and we all share the same pain. Working in print (or any medium, really), imagery is king, and you always want to be sure that the focus on the picture you want is sharp as a tack. And often you’re given quite a few shots to choose from, and many are just slightly different than the one before. So after digging through a bunch of shots, you finally find the one you want, and, of course, it’s just slightly out of focus, making you want to jump out of a window in frustration.

10. You Will Never Find The Font You Want When You Need It


It’s late, I’ve got tons of work on my plate, and I’m searching for this one font. I remember downloading it a week or so ago (picking it up from the freebies section), but maybe it was a month back? I’m not totally positive, so I go digging through my folders to find it with no luck. Then it’s into my font manager, and I still can’t find it. Is this my life or what?

Murphy Strikes Back

I don’t care who created the concept, Murphy’s Law is a real thing, and something that smacks me in the back of the head every day, just as it probably does to you. Is it fair? Nope. But it’s in the cards we’ve all been dealt, so we might as well deal with it. Or at least we’re forced to, because if we don’t, we know it’s all going to get messed up anyways. Get bent, Murphy.

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About the Author
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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