How To Spot A Bad Graphics Design [+13 Bad Design Examples]

Bad Graphics Design

Graphic design is an exciting visual art form that harnesses images, typography, and various design elements to convey ideas and messages. At its core, graphic design’s primary mission is to communicate information, narrate stories, and elicit emotions through captivating and aesthetically pleasing visuals.

Beyond the visually striking visuals; graphic design is about building a bridge between the product and the customer, a connection that aims to boost sales and enhance service popularity. Yet, these endeavors can easily crumble with a poorly curated design that overlooks essential elements.

In this blog, we will take you through the world of bad designs, help you learn how to identify poor graphic designs and recognize bad graphic designers. We will illustrate these concepts with 13 real-world examples, providing you with valuable insights into the art of graphic design.

What is a Bad Graphic Design?

A bad graphic design refers to visual content that doesn’t effectively communicate its intended message, fails to engage the audience, and lacks aesthetic appeal. It’s characterized by poor use of design elements like typography, color, imagery, and layout, leading to a disconnect between the design and the viewer. Bad graphic designs may look unprofessional, cluttered, or confusing, making it challenging to convey information or evoke the desired emotions.

What Makes a Bad Graphic Design?

Several factors contribute to what makes a bad graphic design:

1. Poor Typography Choices

Typography is a vital aspect of design. Bad typography includes selecting inappropriate fonts, using fonts that are too small or illegible, improper spacing between characters, and excessive use of decorative fonts. These factors can hinder the message’s readability and overall aesthetics.

2. Clashing Color Schemes

Color plays a crucial role in design, and bad graphic design often involves color clashes. This includes using colors that don’t harmonize well, overwhelming the design with too many colors, or neglecting the psychological impact of color choices.

3. Ineffective Imagery

The use of low-quality or irrelevant images can severely impact a design’s quality. Pixelated or distorted graphics, graphics that don’t relate to the content, and images that are poorly placed within the layout can all contribute to a bad design.

4. Lack of Balance

Visual balance is essential in design. A bad graphic design may lack balance, making it appear haphazard and disorganized. Elements within the design should be well-proportioned and distributed to create a harmonious visual.

5. Misalignment

Proper alignment is another key design principle that’s often overlooked in bad designs. Misaligned elements can lead to visual chaos and disarray, making it difficult for the viewer to discern the intended message.

6. Complex Layouts

Overly complex layouts can overwhelm the viewer and lead to confusion. Simplicity and a clear structural hierarchy are often more effective in communicating the message.

7. Excessive Text

Using too much text or selecting fonts that are unclear and hard to read can overwhelm viewers. Effective designs aim for a balance between text and visuals to maintain the viewer’s interest.

8. Inconsistent Branding

For businesses, maintaining consistent branding is vital. Bad designs often neglect to adhere to branding guidelines, resulting in incoherent use of logos and other branding elements, which can damage a company’s image.

9. Ignoring the Target Audience

A crucial aspect of good design is tailoring it to the target audience. Bad designs may fail to consider the preferences, expectations, and needs of the intended audience, resulting in a design that doesn’t resonate with viewers.

10. Lack of Clarity

Ultimately, a design is considered bad if it fails to convey its message clearly and effectively. If viewers can’t understand the design’s purpose or the message it’s trying to communicate, it falls short of the mark.

These elements collectively contribute to what makes a design bad, as opposed to one that is compelling, effective, and visually pleasing.

How Do You Identify An Unprofessional Graphic Designer

A professional designer’s job is to create a visually appealing design that effectively conveys the message. However, some of them lack these excellent design skills. Identifying an unprofessional graphic designer is crucial to avoid subpar design work and ensure your visual communication aligns with your goals. Here are some key indicators to help you recognize a bad designer, irrespective of their working conditions be it a full-time or freelance designer:

1. Lack of Portfolio

A professional designer typically maintains a well-structured portfolio showcasing a variety of projects. An unprofessional designer might have an incomplete, outdated, or disorganized portfolio. A comprehensive portfolio demonstrates expertise and experience.

2. Inadequate Communication

Effective communication is essential in design collaboration. An unprofessional designer may struggle to articulate ideas clearly. This can result in misunderstandings, missed objectives, and unmet expectations.

3. Ignores Client Input

Unprofessional designers may disregard your input or ideas, insisting on their concepts without considering your brand’s vision or goals. A good designer values your feedback and collaborates to achieve the best results.

4. Inadequate Software Skills

Proficiency in design software is fundamental for a professional designer. An unprofessional designer might lack essential software skills, leading to poor-quality design work.

5. Lack of Originality

Bad designers may resort to copying or closely imitating existing designs since they most have just a little understanding of the brand design and why it’s crucial. This lack of originality can harm your brand’s uniqueness and creativity. A professional designer creates original, tailor-made solutions.

6. Misses Deadlines

Consistently failing to meet project deadlines is a clear sign of an unprofessional designer. This reflects poor time management, a lack of commitment, and unreliability. Most successful graphic designers understand the essence of time and strictly adhere to agreed-upon timelines.

7. Unprofessional Behavior

Professionalism extends to behavior and interpersonal skills. An unprofessional designer may exhibit rude, dismissive, or uncooperative behavior, which can disrupt the working relationship and project success.

8. Disregards Consistency

Consistency in design, especially for branding, is crucial. Unprofessional designers may create designs that lack coherence and consistency, which dilutes your brand’s identity and recognition.

9. Lack of Understanding

Professional designers possess a strong foundation in design principles, typography, color theory, and layout. An unprofessional designer may lack these fundamental design skills, leading to subpar results.

10. No Contracts or Agreements

Professional designers commonly use contracts or formal agreements to outline project details, terms, responsibilities, and payment structures. The absence of such documents can lead to disputes and complications.

11. No Revisions

Revisions and feedback are standard practice in design projects. Professional designers are open to revisions, considering them a natural part of the creative process. Unprofessional designers may resist making changes or charge extra for revisions.

12. Inadequate Problem-Solving

Design often involves creative problem-solving. Unprofessional designers may struggle to overcome design challenges, find creative solutions, or adapt to unexpected obstacles.

13. Poor Response to Critique

A professional designer values constructive criticism and uses it to enhance the project. In contrast, an unprofessional designer may react negatively to feedback, hampering the project’s progress and improvement.

14. Overpromising

Making unrealistic claims or guarantees can indicate an unprofessional designer. Professionals are honest about a project’s potential, deliverables, and limitations. They manage expectations realistically.

15. Inconsistent Pricing

Unprofessional designers may provide vague or fluctuating pricing, making it challenging to establish a clear budget for your design projects. Professional designers offer transparent and consistent pricing structures, ensuring no surprises.

By recognizing these indicators, you can navigate the process of selecting a graphic designer more effectively and ensure your projects are entrusted to capable, reliable professionals.

How Do You Spot Bad Graphic Design

Identifying bad graphic design isn’t about subjective opinions; it’s about recognizing elements that hinder effective communication. Here are ten telltale signs to help you spot bad graphic design:

1. Cluttered Layout

When a design is cluttered, it overwhelms the viewer. Multiple images, text, or design elements crammed into a small space can make it challenging to focus and comprehend the message. Effective designs often follow a clean and organized layout and white space, making it easy for the viewer to navigate.

2. Poor Hierarchy

In a bad design, it’s unclear what should be the viewer’s primary focus. A hierarchy helps guide the viewer’s eye, indicating where to start and how to proceed. A lack of hierarchy can lead to confusion and hinder effective communication.

3. Illegible Text

When text is too small, too densely packed, or presented in a challenging typeface, it becomes difficult to read. A good graphic design ensures that the text is legible and supports the overall message. The text should be clear and easily comprehensible.

4. Mismatched Colors

Colors evoke emotions and set the tone for a design. When colors clash or are used haphazardly, it can be visually jarring and unpleasant. Effective designs employ color schemes that are harmonious and align with the brand or message’s intent.

5. Low-Quality Images

High-quality visuals are essential for professional design. Pixelated, blurry, or stretched images diminish the overall quality of the design. Using crisp, well-composed, and appropriately sized images is crucial for creating a positive impression.

6. Lack of Consistency

Consistency is key in design. Elements like fonts, colors, and styles should be cohesive throughout a project. When inconsistencies arise, they can disrupt the viewer’s experience and make the design feel disjointed.

7. Overly Trendy Designs

Following design trends can be valuable, but excessively relying on trends can lead to designs that quickly become outdated. It’s important to strike a balance between contemporary elements and timeless design principles.

8. Overly Complex Icons

Icons should convey ideas quickly and clearly. Overly intricate or complex icons can confuse users and detract from the design’s effectiveness. Simplifying icons while retaining their essence is a hallmark of good design.

9. Ineffective Use of Space

White or empty space is as vital as filled space in the design. Neglecting to use space effectively can lead to crowded, chaotic designs. Proper spacing allows content to breathe, enhances readability, and improves the overall visual appeal.

10. Neglecting User Experience

In the digital age, user experience (UX) is paramount. An unresponsive or poorly optimized design can alienate users. Ensuring that designs are user-friendly, load quickly, and adapt to various devices enhances the overall experience.

Recognizing these design mistakes from the ons enables viewers to appreciate the value of well-executed design and encourages designers to refine their skills.

13 Bad Graphic Design Examples

Here are 13 epic design fails that demonstrate how even well-intentioned designs can sometimes go hilariously wrong:

1. London 2012 Olympics Logo

London 2012 Olympics Logo

The London 2012 Olympics logo design, meant to symbolize the dynamic spirit of the games, was met with mixed reactions. Some praised its modernity, while many found it confusing and abstract. Its jagged shapes and bright colors left people scratching their heads, and the lack of a clear connection to London or the Olympics made it a subject of controversy. It showed that even a prestigious event like the Olympics isn’t immune to design criticism.

2. Gap’s Logo Redesign

Gap's Logo Redesign

Gap’s Logo Redesign in 2010 is a notorious design blunder. The clothing retailer unveiled a new logo to replace its iconic blue box, but the design, a plain black Helvetica font, lacked creativity and was met with public outrage.

The negative response was swift and strong, forcing Gap to revert to its classic design within a week. This incident highlights the importance of preserving brand identity and the potential consequences of a poorly thought-out logo change.

3. Arlington Pediatric Center

Arlington Pediatric Center

The Arlington Pediatric Center’s logo is an example of poor design execution. While its intention was to represent children playing, the design ended up resembling something far less appropriate. The unfortunate resemblance led to public backlash and embarrassment for the pediatric center.

This case serves as a reminder of the need for careful consideration in graphic design, particularly when dealing with sensitive subject matter, as the unintended consequences can be damaging to a brand’s reputation.

4. Office of Government Commerce (UK)

Office of Government Commerce (UK)

The Office of Government Commerce in the UK faced a significant design blunder when they revealed their new logo design. While the intention was to symbolize teamwork and collaboration, the design was quickly recognized for its resemblance to a rather inappropriate image.

This graphic design failure serves as a lesson in the importance of thorough evaluation and testing, as an unfortunate choice of design can result in public ridicule and harm the reputation of an organization. It highlights the need for caution when crafting visual identities, especially for government agencies.

5. Bureau of Health Promotion (Taiwan)

Bureau of Health Promotion (Taiwan)

The Bureau of Health Promotion in Taiwan faced an unfortunate design misstep when unveiling its new logo design. The intended message was to promote a healthy lifestyle, but the final design was quickly associated with something rather unhealthy: a cigarette.

The design error not only caused embarrassment but also conveyed an unintentionally negative message, demonstrating the importance of careful scrutiny and market testing in the world of graphic design. This example underscores the need for meticulous attention to detail and symbolism to prevent unwanted associations that can harm an organization’s reputation.

6. Tropicana Packaging (2009)

Tropicana Packaging (2009)

In 2009, Tropicana, a well-known fruit juice brand, decided to give its packaging a modern makeover. However, their redesign didn’t go as planned. The new packaging removed the iconic orange with a straw and replaced it with a generic image of a glass of orange juice. Customers were left confused and didn’t recognize the brand they loved.

The negative response from the market forced Tropicana to revert to its classic packaging, highlighting the importance of preserving brand recognition and not underestimating the power of familiar design elements. This incident serves as a cautionary tale about the risks of changing a brand’s visual identity too drastically.

7. Coca-Cola’s White Can (2011)

Coca-Cola's White Can (2011)

In 2011, Coca-Cola introduced a limited-edition white can as part of a holiday campaign to support polar bear conservation. While the intentions were noble, the design turned out to be a significant misstep. Consumers were so accustomed to the traditional red Coca-Cola can that they found the white can confusing, often mistaking it for a Diet Coke or a different product.

The backlash was so strong that Coca-Cola quickly reverted to its classic red cans. This example emphasizes the importance of maintaining brand consistency, especially when even a small deviation can cause consumer confusion and negatively impact brand recognition.

8. Where Magazine Cover Design

Where Magazine Cover Design

Another notorious design blunder can be found in the cover design of “Where,” a Tourist Guide magazine. This unfortunate mistake occurred in two different editions: the new Fall 2012 Orange County issue and the January 2012 Milan Issue.

Magazine Cover Design

The cover designer accidentally obscured the first ‘E’ in the title lettering with the model’s head, resulting in the unintentional reading of “Whore” instead of “Where.” This layout error has drawn considerable ridicule, and the fact that it involved women on the front cover only added to the unfortunate irony.

9. Starbucks Holiday Cups (2015)

Starbucks Holiday Cups (2015)

In 2015, Starbucks unveiled its annual holiday cup design with the intention of creating a more minimalist and inclusive look. However, the simple red ombre design sparked controversy and public backlash. Some customers felt that Starbucks was waging a “war on Christmas” by removing traditional holiday imagery like snowflakes and ornaments.

The public reaction to the cups exemplifies how the design choices of a well-known brand can be dissected and criticized on a grand scale. Starbucks learned that even the most subtle design changes can become highly charged, emphasizing the importance of thoughtful and intentional design decisions, particularly for a brand as widely recognized and beloved as Starbucks.

10. Uber’s 2016 Rebranding

Uber's 2016 Rebranding

Uber’s 2016 rebranding was met with mixed reviews. The company, known for its sleek, black and white U-shaped logo, introduced a new look characterized by geometric shapes, gradients, and a custom typeface. Some argued that the rebranding was too complex and deviated from the established brand identity. The abrupt change left many users disoriented, highlighting the importance of maintaining consistency in branding.

Uber’s rebranding serves as a lesson in the potential risks of drastic design changes, especially for well-established brands. While a fresh look can be beneficial, it should align with the brand’s core identity and be introduced gradually to ensure a smoother transition and maintain customer loyalty.

11. Kellogg’s Corn Pops Box (2007)

Kellogg's Corn Pops Box (2007)

Kellogg’s Corn Pops box in 2007 featured an illustration of various cereal characters. However, a controversy arose when it was pointed out that one of the characters depicted darker in color was working as a janitor, which was seen as racially insensitive. The design was promptly revised

12. Gap Kids Ad (2016)

Gap Kids Ad (2016)

In 2016, Gap Kids faced a significant backlash over an advertisement featuring four young girls, one white and three black, modeling a new collection of clothing. The ad was intended to promote diversity and inclusivity but was widely criticized for its racial undertones. Many viewers felt that the white girl was portrayed as the dominant figure, resting her arm on the head of one of the black girls, evoking a sense of subservience.

Gap Kids promptly removed the ad, acknowledging that it was an oversight and unintentionally conveyed an offensive message. This example demonstrates the critical importance of cultural sensitivity in design and the need to thoroughly review ad campaigns for potential misinterpretations. It highlights the significance of diverse perspectives and inclusivity in advertising to avoid unintended controversies and harm to brand reputation.

13. H&M’s Racially Insensitive Hoodie (2018)

H&M's Racially Insensitive Hoodie (2018)

In 2018, H&M faced significant backlash for an advertisement featuring a young black boy wearing a hoodie with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” The racially insensitive ad was widely criticized for its derogatory and offensive connotations, as it perpetuated harmful stereotypes. It revealed a significant oversight in the brand’s review and approval process, demonstrating the importance of cultural sensitivity in advertising.

The incident led to public outrage, protests, and calls for greater diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry. In response to the controversy, H&M apologized, removed the ad, and pledged to be more mindful of cultural and racial sensitivity in their future campaigns. This incident serves as a powerful reminder of the consequences of overlooking cultural and racial context in marketing.

These examples emphasize the need for careful consideration in graphic design to avoid missteps that can harm a company’s reputation, confuse customers, or lead to controversies. Effective design is not only aesthetically pleasing but also aligned with a brand’s values and audience expectations.

5 Tips For Creating Excellent Graphic Design

Creating excellent graphic design involves a combination of creativity, skill, and a deep understanding of design principles. Here are five design tips to help you achieve exceptional results in your graphic design projects:

1. Understand the Purpose

To create effective graphic design, you must first grasp the purpose behind it. A key aspect is message clarity; your design should communicate its intended message clearly and concisely. Additionally, understanding your target audience is vital. Consider their demographics, preferences, and needs. Tailoring your design to resonate with your audience ensures that it will have the desired impact and engage the right people. Keep in mind that a bad design focuses on visual weight and ignores every aspect of audience preference effectively conveying the key message.

2. Keep It Simple

Simplicity is often the hallmark of great design. Visual hierarchy plays a pivotal role in this. It involves organizing your design elements so that viewers’ eyes are naturally drawn to the most important aspects. White space, the often-neglected hero of design, helps declutter your composition, making it easier to navigate and highlighting the critical elements. Above all, maintain a minimalist design to foster elegance, clarity, and a user-friendly experience across multiple projects.

3. Typography Matters

Typography is an art form in itself, and selecting the right fonts is crucial. The font you choose should align with the project’s purpose and the message you wish to convey. Additionally, maintaining consistency in font sizes and spacing helps create a clear hierarchy in your design. This hierarchy ensures that titles, subtitles, and body text each serve their distinct roles, making your content more digestible.

4. Color Palette

Colors evoke emotions and can significantly impact your design’s effectiveness. For instance, red can convey excitement and passion, while blue often signifies trust and reliability. Understanding the psychological effects of colors allows you to choose a color scheme or palette that resonates with your target audience and aligns with the emotions you aim to evoke. Furthermore, maintaining adequate contrast between text and background is crucial for readability and accessibility.

5. Consistency

Consistency ties your design together. If your design is part of a broader brand identity, it’s essential to adhere to the brand’s guidelines regarding fonts, colors, and logo usage. Consistency also applies to alignment and spacing. Maintaining a uniform approach throughout your design not only enhances its professionalism but also ensures that the viewer’s experience is cohesive and well-structured.

Remember, these tips work together to create harmonious and effective graphic design. By understanding your purpose, keeping it simple, being mindful of typography, selecting the right color palette, and ensuring consistency, you can craft designs that not only look great but also convey their intended message to your audience.

Bottom Line

In the world of graphic design, understanding what makes a bad design can be just as important as recognizing what makes a good one. Bad designs teach us about the significance of clarity, simplicity, and knowing your target audience. They serve as a reminder that design isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about effective communication.

By learning from the mistakes of bad designs, we can ensure that our own creations are impactful, memorable, and well-received. So, keep these lessons in mind as you embark on your graphic design journey, and let the missteps of others guide you toward excellence.


December 28, 2023
10 min read
9 reads

Impress your customers with cutting-edge graphics!
By signing up, you agree to All Time Design's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank you for subscribe!

Ready to create more
designs for lesser costs?

Start your 14-day free trial
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.