July 28, 2009 | Design Basics
Small business owners and entrepreneurs have many options for skipping the high-priced graphic designer and going the DIY route. Instead of hiring a high-quality web designer, just buy a template. Instead of working with a professional graphic designer, design your own business card. But when you work this way, you are limited by your skills and also the unknowns that you haven’t even considered.
Just the other day I had a client ask me to review something they had designed in-house. This is a good client, who I do a lot of work for, but sometimes they have a presentation, or whatever, and do things themselves. They asked me to review their work before sending the item out.
Ignorance is bliss
What surprised me most were the inconsistencies that seems glaring to me, but were unnoticed by them.
For example, the majority of the layout was set in a sans serif face. But there was one area that switched to a serif face like Times. It really made the piece lack cohesiveness, and there was no good reason for the font change.
I mentioned it, and the client agreed. She said she could tell something was off, but couldn’t figure out what it was.
As someone who works with fonts and typesetting day in and day out, it’s perplexing and almost amusing that someone wouldn’t spot that. But I realize that I have an education and experience in design. When a business owner decides to take things into their own hands, they usually lack both. Most entrepreneurs are not willing to go to design school, but they can build experience and start to recognize better design solutions.
But ultimately there are the “unknown unknowns” (a phrase made famous by Donald Rumsfeld) about design. If someone like my client, cannot quickly see the difference between a serif and sans serif face it is unlikely to bother them that they don’t match.
This is one the dangers of do it yourself design; the fact that you don’t even know what you don’t know.