Maybe you took an art class in college. You might have learned about the rule of thirds in photography class. But neither of these things makes you an expert in design.

Today we’re going to look at a few examples that prove some people shouldn’t do their own design work.

1. Just Needed to Buy a Compass

Some people are genuinely directionally-challenged. And that’s ok as long as you don’t elect to walk into the woods alone.

But no matter what your abilities are, you should always work from an actual template when mimicking real-world objects. Take this compass pillow design for example. The designer could have simply bought a compass or asked to borrow one.

If I just go east, I won’t drop off the cliiiiiiiiiiif….splat.

Really, if they’d hired a company like Logic Design & Consultancy Ltd or even just sent an e-mail to their Uncle Bill who toured ‘Nam, they could have avoided this debacle.

2. No Safety, Smoking First

The Coast Guard has a budget of over $11 billion. And yet, it seems they don’t have the money to hire a designer.

I think I’ll take a smoke break next to this highly explosive tank of napalm.

I’m not sure I want to be rescued by this organization any time soon…

3. Wait, What Do They Sell?

Humns cn gnerly extrplate frm exsting dta. But you don’t want to rely on that too heavily.

While it’s cute to throw in other objects or creatures as letters, you need to be careful. Take this pet store for example.

I’m extrapolating something smelly from this sign.

There is so much wrong with this sign without having to point out the obvious. First, combining the “L” and the “S” with a seated cat profile might seem clever at the time, but nobody is going to see the “S.” “Animal and Us?” Are we in a Muppet movie?

And why is there a random bird between “A” and “N.” If you want people to see the animals as letters, you need to set precedent. So, maybe replace the “A” with the bird or delete the bird?

Spacing is also important. The sign would not read “Animal Anus” if they had simply put more spacing between the “And” and “Us.”

Alright, next!

3. Backgrounds Matter Maybe?

In the days of MySpace it might have been acceptable to place your logo on top of something obscuring. But web design has come a long ways.

And yet, in small towns across the country, idiots still try to do design.

I once lived in Roswell, New Mexico and their website literally looked like this:

Ow! My retinas!

Fortunately we hardly see sites like that anymore. But in the analog meatspace, we still see horrid design mishaps.

Take a look at this small school.

Yeah, something something something.

Your background is important. If you choose a thin font and place lines in your background, you’re going to end up with something indecipherable like this school sign.

Also, avoid flowery fonts for the exact same reason. Unless you’re a heavy metal band. For some reason nobody cares what they’re called cause nobody can understand their lyrics anyway.

4. How Much No?

Redundancies are only good when it comes to designing rocket systems or most any kind of engineering project. But in design, unless you’re being ironic or comedic, redundancy is a big “No.” And this sign is full of “No.”

So, lots of noise, right?

It’s like when people say PIN number. PIN stands for personal identification number. So, when you say PIN number, you’re saying personal identification number number.

So, similarly, if you’re going to use a “No” sign, you only want the thing you’re prohibiting in the middle of the sign.

5. Let’s Cook With Fly & Insect Killer

Your customers rely on codification to distinguish between products. If your products all look exactly the same but do different things, you’re going to confuse people.

This is good stirfry….gag, flop, die.

This company took a note from some 80’s satire film about corporate branding. They wanted to be so consistent with their branding, they didn’t think to distinguish between insect spray and cooking oil. These are things people blindly grab to use. And I assure you this company will get sued some day.

Personal example: I’m deathly allergic to peanuts. And I’ve always wanted to try real Jiff peanut butter. But I’ve never been able to.

Then Jiff came out with an almond butter that my wife swears almost tastes like the peanut butter. But guess what? Jiff made the mistake of using the exact same logo for almond butter as they use for peanut butter.

At a glance, there is no way to distinguish which is which unless you specifically read the label. And nobody is going to see a Jiff label and think almond butter.

This was upsetting because they discontinued the line. I got to try it once. All because of a marketing design blunder.

By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.