Are you making the biggest design mistake that most people make?
I get it – graphic design can be frustrating.
You have this idea in your head of the graphic you want, but the more you work at it, the less satisfied you are with the outcome. The colors aren’t working, the font is wrong, the tools are weird, and you only have 6 minutes left until your kids get home from school and your work time ends.
So you finish up as quickly as you can, and throw up a graphic you’re not proud of to go along with that blog post you worked so hard on.
Later, a nagging little thought begins to worm its way through your mind. Nobody else seems to struggle with this. Their graphics are beautiful. They know how to work the design program. Their designs make Pinterest jealous.
And it hits you. Maybe the design program isn’t the problem.
Maybe it’s you.
What if you’re not as creative as you thought? What if you never get better? Maybe design isn’t the only thing you can’t learn.
Just maybe, you’re not cut out for this whole blogging thing.
Can you relate?
Well, you’re not the only one who’s gotten lost down this soul-sucking spiral of second-guessing and self-torture.
It’s a well-worn path. And it’s time to leave.
Are you ready for the biggest design mistake beginners make?
But first, let’s get two things settled:
- You are creative.
- You expect too much of yourself.
The problem comes when you don’t believe #1, and you don’t account for #2.
SPOILER ALERT: That’s the biggest design mistake.
How do I know you’re creative?
You’re reading this right now because you’re looking for design advice – for your blog, your online business, or both.
That’s how I know.
It takes creativity to believe that you can take YOUR idea, YOUR passion, YOUR talents, and make something out of them. That vision of what you can accomplish and the people you can help is born out of creativity.
It doesn’t matter if your area is DIY design or baking or finance – it’s your dream, and dreams are inherently creative.
How do I know you expect too much of yourself?
I’m smiling as I write this. Let’s see – you have a dream and a passion, and you know the difference you can make in people’s lives if only you had a platform to share your knowledge!
Add to that – you’d love to make some income doing what you love, but passion isn’t enough. You have to look good online – hence, the frustration with graphic design.
So, safe to say you put pressure on yourself – a lot of it.
If you’re ready to move past that, I can help.
I’ll point you to some design tutorials that will help you nail the basics, but honestly, mindset is the bigger deal here.
It’s time for some tough love, my beautiful friend.
Let’s fix the biggest design mistake you’re making.
Here’s why you’re frustrated:
Biggest Design Mistake #1 – You don’t give yourself time to learn
I’ll be honest – there are times I don’t like learning new things. I want to be good NOW, so I go back to what I’m already good at. And then I get dissatisfied that I don’t know more. It’s a vicious cycle. See also: dieting.
Try this – if you’re starting at the beginning, it’s ok to be a beginner.
If you’re teaching someone how to cook or change a tire, you don’t expect them to be perfect with one try. You give them grace.
Hey! It’s time to give yourself grace.
There are worse things than a blog post with a sub-par graphic and you’re going to get better.
Biggest Design Mistake #2 – You view bad designs as a failure
I’ve contributed my share of bad design to the world. Cringe-worthy stuff so terrible that I’d just like to pat younger me on the head and say, “Oh, sweetie.” And try really hard not to chuckle.
But here’s the thing – I had to start somewhere, and I did get better – but only because I kept at it. If I tried a project that was too difficult, I’d scale back and learn some more basics. I still do this today, because I’m still learning.
Some of your designs will turn out great, and some exist for the sole reason of making you laugh.
Every bad design is a stone on the path of learning.
Wow, that’s a bad quote.
Mistakes mean you’re learning – make more mistakes!
Ooh – and a huge by-product of mistakes is that sometimes, they’re an unexpected surprise. You can use the wrong tool or filter, and end up loving the result. Make more mistakes!
Biggest Design Mistake #3 – You consider design to be just a task to check off
It’s possible that design isn’t your thing. Maybe you give fashion advice, or quick dinner recipes. Maybe you offer financial services, or coach budding entrepreneurs.
Good graphics are vital to all of that because, hello – the internet is visual. But graphic design isn’t your area, and you can’t devote all of your time to it.
I understand. It’s tempting to treat Make a blog post graphic as just another item on your to-do list, along with Share post on Twitter, and Finish laundry.
You just want to learn the design basics quickly so you can knock out a few graphics and move on. Check.
Here’s where that goes wrong:
Design takes time to learn. And I’m not just talking about how to use the gradient tool. It takes time to develop your “eye” for design. To know which fonts pair well, and to realize that your color choice is among your worst decisions of the week.
Give yourself grace (see #1).
Design is creative – and creativity can’t be forced. You know this. It’s pretty basic. Yet, you’re so busy just trying to get your next post published and move on to other projects that you’re not thinking straight.
Let yourself play. Design can be the fun part.
Tools to help today:
Ok, how’s your thinking now? Are you starting to relax just a bit? I hope so, because you’re going to need a clear head to implement some long-term fixes for the frustration.
Tool #1 – Take time to play
Think of design as a muscle. You have to develop your eye & your skill. If the product existed to infuse design know-how into your skull in 30 seconds, I’d make it. Might be a tad painful, though.
Instead, I’ve got a few projects for you to try. They are simple and you will end up with a graphic you actually like.
Important – don’t race through these projects. They won’t take long, I promise. But what you learn during the process is even more important than the final result.
You’re learning to exercise your creativity.
How does this help you? You’ll become more creative in every project you do.
- Writing blog posts & newsletters
- Making opt-ins & freebies for your audience
- Engaging on social media
- Creating content for EVERYTHING
- Planning / dreaming – reaching your goals
Design pays dividends, my friend. Give it a bit of your time.
HOW TO PLAY
- First, learn some basics. Do a few tutorials, finish some graphics. Get a win.
- Then, schedule time to play. Take an evening, or open your laptop while the kids are watching a movie. This is no pressure time. Practice the skills you learned in the tutorials.
Tool #2 – Give yourself permission to grow
TRUTH: The most important thing on your blog is your content.
I have to say that upfront, even though it hurts my designer heart.
You can pay to have professional blog graphics, but if the content of your post doesn’t captivate, you’ll lose your audience.
Now, it’s also true that if you have the wittiest blog post known to internet-kind, but your graphics cause eyes to bleed, people won’t click over to check out your post.
But between design and content, focus on content first.
And then work on your design. Because that combo of great content AND eye-catching design? Unstoppable.
HOW TO GROW
- If right now your graphics are TERRIBLE, it’s ok. Follow THIS tutorial to make blog post graphics and make your next blog graphic better.
- When you have some time, go back and clean up an old graphic for a popular post.
Tool #3 – Use the right tools
The design program you use matters. Like, a lot.
Please. I ask with all sincerity and goodness of heart. To save you anguish upon harrowing anguish…
Don’t design in the paint program that came on your computer. Or Word, or PowerPoint. I will hunt you down if you design in Microsoft Publisher.
I truly don’t hate all these programs. Well, maybe Publisher. But they’re not design programs. If you’re making a simple opt-in, Word is a great option.
But when it comes to design, they are an exercise in futility.
If you are just getting started – as in, putting text on a photo is your win for the month, use an online program like Canva or PicMonkey. They can help you get comfortable. But honestly, if you’re going to put in the time, I think you can do better.
My favorite? Photoshop.
If the idea of Photoshop, with its panels and tools and tricksy ways scares you, I have one bit of advice:
Get over it.
Tough love, remember?
Here’s why I think your days will be eternally blessed by learning Photoshop:
- The basics are simple. Remember that tutorial to make blog post graphics I told you about earlier? If you can do that one beginner-level project, you know what you need to for now.
- It will grow with you. Start with blog post graphics, then do a Facebook cover image. Instagram quotes. Ebook covers. Opt-ins. Moodboards. Etsy shop graphics. You need it, you can make it.
- Your designs match YOUR brand. You’re not using only pre-made templates that hundreds of other people are also using.
- The knowledge transfers. Get comfortable in Photoshop, and you’ll have a headstart if you want to learn InDesign or Illustrator. The shortcuts, concepts, tools – SO MUCH transfers from one program to the next. After all, they’re all Adobe.
My final tip
Consider each graphic to be practice.
It’s possible to make a graphic you’re proud to use, and still know that you can do better. With each graphic, you will get faster, better, and (shocker) you just might begin to enjoy it.
You may have picked up on this, but this isn’t just about design.
Every blog post you write is practice. Every product you create, every newsletter you send. You learn, you innovate, you improve.
Give yourself grace.
Give yourself time.
Enjoy the journey.