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Everyone makes mistakes. Often, these can be laughed off and everyone's the wiser. But some mistakes are more serious than others, especially the ones that lose business or damage a brand.

This post goes over some bad design examples that are more funny than serious, but still highlight some pitfalls to avoid.

The great thing about mistakes is that they can be redeemed when we learn from them. And laugh at them.

Related: 7 branding mistakes your company should avoid

1. Urinal for two, please

bad design
Source: Ryan Kaverman

I mean, I guess if it were really an emergency...

Even then, probably not. This design flop essentially renders both toilets useless. Efficiency was clearly top-of-mind when this little wonder was spawned, but efficiency came at the price of user experience. Cool ideas and cost-cutting measures are great, but not if they get in the way of the customer. Or force customers to get in the way of each other.

2. Worst Scrabble game ever

bad design
Source: Jeff Wysaski

I see what they were going for here, but they didn't quite stick the landing. The end result is a bad design that makes the copy illegible and repels rather than attracts.

Copy and design need to work together. If one goes wrong, it can throw everything off.

3. Just quit... school?

bad design
Source: Jeff Wysaski

This bus leaves misinformed youngsters in its wake. What started out as a well-intentioned advertisement was knocked off course by a failure to account for the environment surrounding the ad. I guess it's kind of like putting paper flyers on outdoor telephone pole in Seattle—things get soggy.

This same lesson could be adapted to finding the right tone or the right channel for your audience. If a piece of content clashes with its environment, something meant to be taken seriously will wind up a joke.

Please note: We value education at Lucidpress and do not endorse quitting school.

4. When design tanks

Why isn't there a standard side for the gas tank? If you're driving an unfamiliar car, you might get into a situation like this:


Source: Steve Benjamins

If similar theories applied to, say, which side of the road you should drive on, you'd be dodging head-on collisions every time you crossed over into a new town. Keeping things consistent is a good principle for car designs, traffic laws, and definitely for brands.

5. The "gotcha!" Miss Universe card

bad design
Source: John Havel

Poor Steve Harvey. This is a situation where bad design ruined two people's day. Both Steve and Miss Colombia were publicly embarrassed because the layout of the reveal card was confusing. The font and the positioning of the text should have made things easier, not harder.

6. UR fired!

bad design
Source: Jeff Wysaski

Okay, hopefully no one was fired because of this, but there was no doubt a lack of editing on this project. It's hard to say if it was a spelling or a design error. I'm leaning toward design, but I suppose that after spending a lot of time with Tony the Tiger, someone could have thought it was spelled "Eurrope."

In any case, some collaboration could have prevented this from happening. If multiple eyes passed over this flyer, someone would have probably seen the mistake.

7. Fish & design slips

bad design
Source: Jeff Wysaski

"Congratulations! The best fish & chips in... Oh. Huh." At a glance, this is a sleek, well-designed advertisement. It looks professional and attractive. But bad design can strike anywhere, anytime. The biggest slip-up here is in the copy editing, but that aside, it seems like they tried to go with a loose, informal vibe without fully committing to it.

Then again, maybe they just wanted the statement "Simply the best fish & chips" to stand alone without any qualifiers. That makes me think of the signs along desert highways in California announcing that the next exit has "the best jerky in the universe." Not sure if these kinds of statements are vetted by any sort of panel.

8. "It's a trap!"

bad design
Source: Imgur

This seems like a pretty good fire escape design, right? Sturdy construction, a nice safety tunnel around the descent ladder, etc. But then it drops you off in a cage with razor wire around it, and things go downhill from there. Hopefully this is some sort of a maintenance ladder and not a fire escape.

Maybe the meter reader stands under the tunnel ladder after he reads the meter and gets sucked up to his meter reader mobile on the roof? It could happen.

9. Have I made myself clear?

bad design
Source: Imgur

After studying this sign, I couldn't tell you what the tenants will be fined for. It's sort of like a game. You get a few words or phrases: "bathroom," "damage the lock," "close the door," and "please." See what you can come up with. This might be a benevolent effort on the part of maintenance to distract students from the pain of finals.

Words are important, but font and layout also contribute to the meaning. So, unless you're trying to make a game, make sure they match.

10. "Holy crap, I kicked right through this thing!"

bad design
Source: Imgur

Oh boy. There's a lot you could say about this ad. It does seem to be self aware, at least, so that's good. Whether or not that makes it right is up for debate. But if you turn your attention to the right foot of the model, you'll see that he has turned the back of the chair into a stirrup.

It's fun to imagine the events that led to this. I see it going something like this:

Model: Look, I really want to make this work, but my foot just doesn't bend that way.

Photoshoot director: I guess we'll just have to green screen it... No, wait a minute. I've got it. (grabs a pair of scissors) Yeah, we'll just punch a little hole right there. What's your shoe size? 10? Great, this oughta do it.

11. Students love pizza, right?

With all this finger pointing, it's time for us to take a hard look at ourselves. Take this poster we used at a recruiting event for example:

bad design

The event was at a university, and we figured since students love free food, it would be a great idea to blow up the "FREE PIZZA" portion of the poster. Wrong. As you can see, it looks terrible and diminishes our brand.

Luckily, this poster never made it to the university campus. Jared, one of our engineers, made it as a joke to demonstrate the new template locking feature in Lucidpress.

With template locking, the team designer can create a template, then lock down the parts that shouldn't be changed (like the "FREE PIZZA" text) to make sure they stay in the right position and don't get blown up to 10 times their proper size. Template locking brings non-designers into the creative process without sacrificing quality and brand consistency.

See how Lucidpress's cloud-based brand management software can protect your brand from bad design.

Brand management software

Author Bio

Jarom McDonald works as a content specialist on Lucidpress's marketing team. Outside of work, Jarom loves watching movies, occasionally watching birds, eating pizza, and driving a Prius (a vehicle he will defend passionately). Follow him on Twitter: @jarom2011.