7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (that you need to avoid) - Easil

7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (that you need to avoid)

Are you committing the 7 Deadly Design Sins? You might be committing more than one of these design mistakes and not realising it. In this post we share what the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins are (that you need to avoid!)

If you’re like just about every business online and off these days, you’ve thought about or tried to do DIY Design. There are so many tools out there to help us with DIY Graphic Design, so it must be easy, right?

Wrong. Deadly Wrong.  Because the tools don’t necessarily stop us from committing the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins.

The problem is that most people don’t even realise that there are 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins. So in this post, our Easil designers came together to decide on what the big 7 sins are, and wrap them up into a format that makes sense to our non-designer community members.

The good news is that once you know what they are, you’ll be able to spot them and know how to avoid them. And lucky for you, using a tool like Easil helps a lot.

So let’s take a look at the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins. What are they exactly?

What are the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins?

Just like the traditional 7 Deadly Sins, our 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins are based around the deadly sins of Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.  We’ve changed the order a little but all 7 are covered in our variations:

  1. Font Envy
  2. Spacing Greed
  3. Sizing Sloth
  4. Color Gluttony
  5. Filter Lust
  6. Drop Shadow Wrath
  7. Proofreading Pride

We’ll break these down a little more so you can get some context… but first, here’s an infographic overview to how you can stop committing the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins.

7 Deadly DIY Design Sins Infographic - 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (and how to avoid them!)

Let’s take a closer look at how you can avoid committing the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins:

How to Avoid the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins

#1  Font Envy – Choose Your Fonts Wisely

It’s so easy for us to be drawn into the dark side when it comes to fonts. In true Envy style, we can end up wanting what someone else possesses. If we apply this concept to fonts, then chasing trends or grabbing the fonts that you see on someone else’s website doesn’t always work.

And we’re advised to steer clear of Envy-like behaviour by putting the needs of others before our need to supersede them. So if we apply this to fonts, it’s simple:

Think about your audience or ideal customer and choose fonts that are legible and helpful for them.

When you keep this in mind, you’ll avoid diving into the Fiery Pit of Bad Fonts (ok, so there’s actually not a Fiery Pit of Bad Fonts, but it sounds nasty, right?). 

Tips for avoiding Font Envy and choosing your fonts wisely: 

1. Choose your fonts carefully. Choose them to match (a) the mood of your content (b) the legibility for your audience and (c) the personality of your brand.

2. Stick to a maximum of three fonts per design. You should also ensure they compliment each other.  Read out more about font pairing here.

Font Envy - 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (that you need to avoid!).

3. Find inspiration in other places. But don’t just copy the first font combination you see (remember… Envy!). For example, if you were looking for font combinations that work well in hospitality designs, you could search for those types of designs in our Easil templates to gain inspiration.  It may be that you find a body font or a heading font or even two that work together. Play with them in some designs to see if they are a good fit.

4. Use a font that’s appropriate for the message you are trying to convey. For example, you wouldn’t use Comic Sans on a serious corporate document. In fact, you might want to avoid using Comic Sans at all {grin} when it comes to DIY Design Sins.

5. Know the difference between Serif and San Serif fonts. Then use them accordingly. Serif fonts are quite classic or formal and often described as “elegant”. Sans Serif fonts, without the decorative strokes, are described as friendly, modern, simple, stylish and minimal.

Read our post here where we break it all down and follow these tips:

  • Common Serif typefaces are Times New Roman, Georgia, Palatino and Garamond, and in contrast, common Sans Serif typefaces include Arial, Helvetica and Tahoma.
  • In general, stick to a simple Serif or Sans Serif font for body copy.  Serif fonts are easy to read at small body copy sizes, and Sans Serif fonts really stand out in large titles. There are many exceptions to this, of course, but this basic rule will get you started.
  • Don’t use a display font for body copy – it’s a big no-no.  Display fonts are those which are usually more elaborate and detailed and are made specifically for being used in small features and headings. This means that they can be very hard to read in body copy, especially in large blocks of text at smaller sizes.

And remember that each font has its own unique personality. Fonts can be just as important as imagery when it comes to telling your story visually.  You might need to play around with a few combinations before choosing something that works best for your brand. 

#2 Spacing Greed – Don’t Cramp Your Own Style

One of the biggest Deadly DIY Design Sins we see committed is Spacing Greed. It’s Greed… reinvented around the spacing of your design.

When you get too greedy and want to cram too much “stuff” into your design, you end up cramping your own style!

Tips for avoiding Spacing Greed:

1. Don’t fill all the spaces. You don’t have to literally fill up your design space with all the text and images you can find!  Leave space to breathe and avoid tight, cramped elements on your design canvas.

2. Look at your design with fresh eyes. Step back and take another look, or give it to someone else, and ask them to read it. If your spacing is too tight, there could be letters that have inadvertently joined. This is referred to as Keming. Beware of Keming. It cramps your design style.

3. Use extra spacing between letters of your design. This can add to the design style. This gives more breathing room and a light airy look with lots of negative space (think high fashion). Contrast this to tighter spacing between letters to fit more information onto a page (think bargain basement retail).  Both have their uses, but whatever you do with spacing, always remember that legibility is no.1.

4. Don’t increase the spacing between script fonts.  As a general rule, they tend to be designed so that each letter connects to the next.  If you increase the spacing too much, the letters won’t join up nicely anymore and it will just look wrong.

5. Don’t bash your borders.  Last but not least, avoid cramming your text up against borders or design elements. Let them breathe!

Spacing Greed - 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (and how to avoid them!)

Spacing is a crucial part of your design. If you’re worried about slipping back into ‘Spacing Greed’ then ebb on the side of caution and add extra space, every time.  

#3 Sizing Sloth – Don’t Be Lazy with Sizing

When it comes to the size of your designs, it can be easy to slip into becoming a sloth and getting lazy with it. One size definitely doesn’t fit all. Here’s a few tips so that you don’t become a Sizing Sloth:

Tips to avoid becoming a Sizing Sloth:

1. Consider Visual Hierarchy. There’s an order to every design and it’s all about how big things are.  Remember this: If everything is big… nothing is big, so think about how you can create a visual hierarchy with different sized items.  Ensure that the Bigger items of higher importance are actually the BIGGEST in your design. For example, in a “Sale” image, the biggest text in your design might say: SALE 50% off. Then you would follow it with mid-size items, like “Starts Monday 15 May” and then you add your small items like “Terms and Conditions Apply” etc.

Note: the size of elements within a design is important too. It’s not just text that has a visual hierarchy.

Sizing Sloth - 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (and how to avoid them!)

2. Know the ideal size ratios. Get to know these for the platform you are posting to. For example if you are posting to Pinterest, the ideal size is 600 x 900 but on Facebook you’re better off going with square or landscape.  Can’t remember the sizes? Don’t worry, nobody expects you to be that vigilant. The easy way is to use design tools like Easil that will give you the size dimensions ready-to-go in template format. All you have to do is pick the platform you want to post on and then choose a design template in that size.

3.  Don’t make your images too small. Make sure the pixel dimension of the image matches the size you are trying to fill.  For example, if you are posting Instagram, use the full recommended 1080 x 1080px (pixels). If you drop it back to 400px wide, instagram will stretch it to fill the space and you’ll see some loss in quality or pixellation.  It’s a common mistake and doesn’t look professional.  If you ever want to check the resolution of an image for screens, view it at 100% to check the image quality.

4.  Don’t get lazy with the File Format. Use JPG or PNG files for any digital/screen projects or web applications.  But be aware that PDFs are often best for print. They’re especially useful if you want to attach a brochure or multi-page document to your website.

Pro Tip:  It can be handy to get to know the “output size” for different projects – whether it’s the screen resolution for a digital screen (ie 721dpi or dots per inch) or the best resolution for print (ie 300dpi print resolution).  Or even the best size to print an A4 document (it’s 210mm x 297mm, in case you were wondering). The short cut is to use a tool like Easil that includes a lot of the measurements ready to go in templates.  You don’t have to be a designer or a printer. And you don’t need to remember everything. If in doubt, always go for the highest resolution. Just don’t get lazy with it and commit DIY Design sins.

#4 Color Gluttony – Don’t Overindulge on Colors

Just like with Greed, it’s important that you don’t add more colors to your plate than you can handle. Colors have meaning, so it’s imperative that you get to know your audience and what you are trying to convey… then pick colors wisely for your designs. 

Tips for avoiding Color Gluttony: 

1. Be aware of cultural and societal meaning. Red for example, is a symbol of luck and prosperity in some cultures, while in others can be a symbol of danger and warning.  

2. Don’t use colors with low contrast for text. If there is not enough contrast between your background and your text, it will not be readable.  This is especially important for signage as the text needs to be readable at a quick glance.

Color Gluttony - 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (and how to avoid them!)

3. Use a color palette. Then pick one contrasting color for elements that you would like to stand out.

4. Use complementary colors.  This works well to highlight the accent colour in your designUse this for buttons and anything you would like to draw someone’s attention to.

Hot Tip: There are lots of color palettes available online such as this one.  And if you are using images in your design,  Easil’s color picker tool is very handy. It will generate colors that tone with your image.

#5  Filter Lust – Go Easy on the Filters

To filter or #nofilter, that is the question. The era of Instagram has made us filter-happy. We add filters to images and videos to make them appear better. Think about it though… maybe it doesn’t always make it look better after all!

Maybe the hashtag #nofilter has become popular for a reason.. sometimes less is more! So, let’s take a look at how to avoid Filter Lust: 

Tips for avoiding Filter Lust: 

1. Be Subtle. If you’re using photos from your phone that you have taken yourself, use a subtle filter to make your images look more polished. If in doubt, dial back the filter.

2. Check if you actually need filters. Be wary of adding filters if your images have been supplied by a professional photographer. It’s most likely that they have already been professionally color-corrected for your use.

3. Use filters with intention. Filters are great when you have a reason for adding them. Maybe you would like to make your image black and white, or you need to add a vintage or sepia tone to your design for a retro project. Don’t just use filters for the sake of it, make sure you have a reason for doing it.

Remember next time you create visuals – ask yourself, does this need a filter? Or should you go naked with #nofilter?

Filter Lust - 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (and how to avoid them!)

#6 Drop Shadow Wrath – Don’t Use Angry Drop Shadows 

One of the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins we often see is the use of drop shadows on images when there really isn’t a good reason to do so. It’s angry drop shadows or “Drop Shadow Wrath”.

Tips for avoiding Drop Shadow Wrath:

1. Use Drop Shadows sparingly. Only use a drop shadow on images when you have a solid reason for adding one.  One example might be that your design needs to mimic multiple polaroid pictures on a table top. Or maybe you need some extra separation between your foreground and background.  

2. Use a Template. Find a template where the image already has a drop shadow and use that to start your design. Then you can see how a designer has added a drop shadow without ruining the design. 

3. Use Drop Shadows on Text instead. Text effects are a little easier to do if you’re using Easil for your DIY Graphic Design. We have some awesome text effect features in Easil, and we explain how to use them effectively on our blog here and here.

It’s funny when you think that drop shadows actually became popular around the rise of Clip Art. And now they fall into the same category as Clip Art… when not used carefully:  


Use them sparingly and only with good reason.

Drop Shadow Wrath - 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (and how to avoid them!)

#7 Proofreading Pride – Don’t be Too Proud to Proofread

When it comes to Deadly DIY Design Sins, this might be the deadliest of all. You’ve done all the work, you’ve designed something amazing and then you get to the point of publishing and you’re too proud to proofread it.

Ugh Pride… nobody is that perfect. We all make mistakes and we need to proofread our work before publishing and printing.

And then proof read it again… especially if it is a graphic with text or an infographic with many sections.

And then again (if you can get someone elses’s eyes on it, even better).  

Don’t fall prey to Proofreading Pride and think “she’ll be right, mate”. You need to check it to make sure all the hard work pays off.  There’s nothing worse than publishing a design with a mistake on it. Or your new book! Just ask Roxy Jacenko.

Proofreading Pride - 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (and how to avoid them!)

Oh yes, you can expect mistkaes if you don’t proof-read. You’ve been warned.

Wrapping up the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins

Now that you’ve learned about each of the 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins, you’ll know which to avoid in order to create pro-quality designs without a designer.

And you’ll also avoid falling into the Fiery Pit of Bad Fonts and other sinful traps! 

Over to You

Have you committed any of these 7 Deadly DIY Design Sins? Send us a DM and confess your Sins…

7 Deadly DIY Design Sins (and how to avoid them!)

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