Someone you know designed something but eventually needs your assistance, and there's usually a simple answer or solution. (Let's not get into the fact that they should have hired a professional to begin with.) Or maybe you are that person who needs to learn about a few nuggets of wisdom that we designers would love to shout to the world.
I've been asked to fix a pixelated image (because it was pulled from Google). I've been asked to simply re-save something because the printer needs another file format ("WTF is .EPS?"). If I had a dollar for every time I've cringed at one of these mistakes...
Some Golden Rules for Non-Professional Designers
You cannot pull a logo/image/design from Google and use it in your project. I won't go into the details of copyright laws, but basically someone else created that logo/image/design and you either need their permission to use it or you need to pay them for the rights to use it.
If you're just looking for a photo, there are plenty of free stock image websites. Unsplash and Public Domain Archive are two of my favorites. You're generally safe if the fine print says you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free (including commercial purposes, not just personal).
You cannot download any random font and use it in a design. There are copyright licenses for fonts too because each one started out as a sketch that someone drew with their bare hands. High quality fonts usually require you to buy a license, but there are some great free ones you can download and use for commercial purposes. Google Fonts is my go-to and Font Squirrel is another good resource.
Never stretch out images or fonts. It's just wrong. In most programs, holding the shift key while dragging the corner of the text or image box will keep things proportional while you're resizing.
Not all file formats are created equal. There are different types for different purposes. Here's a brief summary of the most common:
- .EPS is generally used for printing vector (not pixel) shapes like logos and illustrations. Great for print, not for web.
- .TIF (aka .TIFF) is generally used for an image that will be printed. It's very high quality even when flattened, but it has a large file size. Great for print, not for web.
- .PDF began as a way to share and print documents, but is now popular for printing images too. It's high quality and doesn't lose image information. Good for web, good for print.
- .JPG (aka .JPEG) is generally used for photos either online or in print. But it compresses the images to reduce the file size causing a lose of image information and a lower quality. Good for web, okay for print.
- .GIF is used for web graphics, like animations. It doesn't display a lot of colors, but does support transparency (ex. if you don't want the background on your logo). Good for web, not for print.
- .PNG is also used for web graphics. It's similar to .GIF but displays more colors and has better transparency settings. However, it doesn't support animations. Great for web, not for print.
Everyone makes mistakes, even me back in the day. Now that I've been through the ringer I want to share these tips so I never have to see another stretched out, pixelated logo again. PSA: There are some design crimes that should never be committed.