My Design Pet Peeves


Do you hate the word moist?

How about the sound of nails against a chalkboard?

We all have things that cause a visceral reaction of disgust within us. Some are universal, but others are specific to individuals. These specific gut reactions we call pet peeves.

I personally have a few design pet peeves.

I put off writing this post for a while, because I didn't want to write something that was basically me complaining about how someone else designs.

But I continue to see these design decisions that frustrate me, and if I want the common person to have a better eye for design, someone has to say something.

So if you have committed any of my design pet peeves - don't be discouraged or ashamed. We're all learning, and we can't learn without being told when we make mistakes.


5. Spaced out Script Fonts

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This is a simple rule of typography I see broken often. Most script fonts are designed to have the letters connect, like in cursive handwriting. But if you add extra tracking (the space between letters) you break those connections and leave them hanging.

I love extra tracking as a typographic style (you can see a little in my section headers) but it doesn't belong in script fonts. 


4. Busy Logos

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Considering I started my design career mostly doing visual brand management, few things make my designer heart hurt like busy logos.

A logo full of details, textures and colors may have made you smile when you originally saw it, but after months of trying to use it in different sizes and applications, you're going to be ready to pull your hair out.

Busy logos need to learn the addage, "there's no 'i' in team" and learn to play well with others.


3. Overly Stylized Fonts

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Similar to the logo, overly fun or ornate fonts may look cool on when you're browsing through font downloads, but most of the time the application of them falls flat.

Either they don't mesh well with your other design elements, or they feel dated within six months. Or they make you look like you're trying too hard or compensating for something.


2. Cluttered Layout

As readers, we enjoy skimming, and looking for the information that is pertinent to us. Layouts without clear headers or ample white space separating sections is hard to skim and slows down reading.

Not only that, but a cluttered layout can lead to confusion of the content and misinformation. Your layout should feel helpful, not challenging.


1. Not Valuing Design

Finally, my top pet peeve is simply not valuing design.

Often, it's because people simplify it down to making things look nice, not knowing the strategy that lies behind design decisions.

Or, possibly, it's because the effects of effective design can't be measured easily. It's similar to people thinking science is the only trustworthy source of knowledge, because it can simplify complex concepts into data, whereas the knowledge that comes from, for example, reading great literature, is harder to pin down.

In both instances, people devalue design simply because they don't understand it. And that's easy for anyone to do about something they don't understand. It takes humility to refrain from having an opinion on something you don't know much about.

(But stop telling me you "don't really care about design" or that it's not relevant to you. I can almost guarantee that's not true, and also, it's rude to say that to a designer.)

Stop, please!

I don't think you should stop committing my design pet peeves just to make me more comfortable in the world. Each of these pet peeves prevents you from experiencing the benefits and pleasures of good design.

You (and I) deserve good design.



I'm a brand designer who helps business owners who are tired of their marketing efforts just pulling "okay" results. I help them stand out and be remembered online by designing them a Noteworthy Visual Brand that attract their ideal clients - effortlessly.