Is Bad Design Killing Your Credibility?

340199748_b08f2c753cRemember lunches in elementary school? Some questionably-edible amorphous green goo that you swore just threatened you with a twitch.  Didn’t look too appetizing and you lost your appetite.  No matter your product, design acts like a messenger.  And just like that lunchtime goo, your consumers prejudge the impact of your product even before they taste it.

You’re the lunch lady now.  You have control over what you dish out.  You may have the most nutritional meal on the market, but if it looks like something in the back of the refrigerator that’s about to mutate and spawn life, it’s not going to sell.  So what does good design do for you?

First Impressions are E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Web users judge your site in the first 50 milliseconds.  It’s a gut reaction and it sticks.   Same with your business card. Is your card an ally or an enemy?  Having a great design proves that you’ve put some thought into your image which translates to your products.  Especially when there are other companies to choose from.   Don’t seem like you’re giving 110%?  You’re cut, your customer has moved on.  First impressions can give a bad taste which can linger with a consumer.

Giving 110% is sometimes easier said than done.  Sometimes though it takes a nudge of inspiration in the right direction.  Perhaps a business card doesn’t have to be a card at all.  It could be printed on a rock.  Maybe a brochure can fold out like the centerfold of Playboy magazine.  Just remember the core purpose of you medium.  Business cards still need to convey contact information and be portable and English reader are use to left to right.  It’s about asking “What if?” to stretch creativity and in turn, stand out.

Hot Tip: Rethink the word “card” in your business card.  Need some inspiration?  Smashing Magazine will give you some great ideas:


Design is Competency.

If a customer can’t figure out how to checkout on your website, you are essentially forfeiting the money that was yours.  If they can’t find your phone number on your brochure, you are playing hide and seek with your leads.  Design should take out as many road blocks.  Less mess between your consumer and product is essential for creating efficient business systems, not to mention you look like you know what you’re doing.

Hot Tip: Icons are a great way to quickly convey “click here” or “buy now” without cluttering your design.  Choosing a brightly colored shopping cart icon is a great way to tell users where to go when they are ready to buy, for example.  Need some free web icons?  Check out Icofree.


Bad Design Hurts, Good Design is Expected.

If you walked into a restaurant for the first time and a roach crawled across the bar, would you eat there?  Imagine what’s away from diner’s eyes.  Even though you never saw the kitchen, you’ve seen enough and would assume the worst.  Bad design is the roach in your restaurant.  If you’re brochure looks as if it was done with glue-on macaroni, your consumers are going to assume you put just as much effort in the rest of your business.  Good design builds trust that you can deliver your promises.

Hot Tip: This is about not shorting yourself on building a solid concept.  Dedicate time to be inspired.  Set apart a few minute each day to just flip through magazines and websites that get you excited about what you do.  There are tons of website out there that showcase beautiful artwork in almost every industry.  One of my favorites is Creattica.


Design builds rapport between your consumer and business.  It’s the difference between serving on a silver platter or paper plate.  You’re product may taste all the same as your competition, but your consumer will trust that you go the extra step to deliver, and they may go one extra step to do business with you.


This post was written by special guest writer Chuck Nelson.

Chuck W. Nelson is freelance graphic designer, web developer and entrepreneur.  Find him at  Also follow Chuck on Twitter: @ChuckWNelson.