5 Don’ts in Visual Communication and How to Avoid Them

It's easy to make mistakes when creating visual content if you ignore the don'ts in visual communication. But it's equally easy to get it right when you know these critical mistakes and have our tips on how to avoid them.

As stock photo experts, visual communication is our language: we know it all about saying it with images and carefully selecting each design element to get the message across in the intended way. Today, we lend our knowledge and experience to help your designs.

So let's learn about the most critical visual communication pitfalls and how to avoid them, and create engaging graphics that speak directly to your audience's needs!

The 5 No-No’s in Visual Communication

When crafting visuals, it's important to remember certain no-nos to ensure an effective and professional design. 

cluttered graffiti image don'ts in visual communication
Copyright: .marqs / photocase.com

Don’t: Clutter your Design

Clutter is one of the biggest mistakes made when creating visuals. Too much information can make an image overwhelming and difficult to interpret, resulting in viewers' confusion or lack of engagement. A crowded visual doesn’t refer only to text, photo composition, and graphic elements; an excess of color can also lead to clutter. 


  • Choose images with the necessary negative space and a balanced composition. 
  • Keep your text short and concise while ensuring all elements have a purpose within the overall design. 
  • Limit yourself to no more than two fonts that go well together.
  • Stick with two or three colors for your palette and use them sparingly throughout the design for maximum impact without sacrificing clarity.
blurry photo don'ts in visual communication
Copyright: Azazello Photography / photocase.com

Don’t: Use Poor Quality Images

Poor image quality is another issue often seen in visual communications designs. The value of an image can be affected by two different problems: 

Low Resolution Images:

Low-resolution images are a major issue in visual communication. When an image is of poor technical quality, it can be difficult to make out its details; it might appear pixelated on larger screens, making them look blurry and thus difficult to comprehend the intended message. 

Plus, a poor-resolution picture is perceived as cheap and unprofessional, and that impacts your brand’s reputation. 


  • Use high-resolution images with enough pixels per inch (PPI) for the size of your project so that the image looks sharp and clear. 

Pro Tip: Use royalty-free stock photos from our list of best stock photo agencies. They all have super high-res images of professional quality, suitable for commercial use and at very affordable prices. You can always visit our Offers section for special coupon codes and discounts, and even get high quality stock photos for free using our list of stock photo free trials!

Bonus Pro Tip: If you already have the ideal image for your visual, but it’s not big enough for your needs, take advantage of an image upscaler to improve its resolution without losing detail!

Unclear Images:

Unclear images can also lead to poor image quality in visual communication. If the subject in your photo isn’t easily recognized, the image’s meaning will be lost to onlookers. If the way in which the image connects with your brand or your intended message isn’t apparent, viewers likely won’t take the time to figure it out. 


  • Select pictures that strongly convey your message or relate to it unmistakably. In our Buyers Guide, you’ll find advice to successfully pick stock images for all relevant uses and topics. 
  • Make sure any text included with an image is legible and easily readable by viewers so they don't miss out on key information about your product or service.
illegible text don'ts in visual communication
Copyright: zettberlin / photocase.com

Don’t: Place Text Wrongly

Incorrect text placement is a frequent faux pas in visual communication designs and one that can throw your whole creative effort away. There are two main issues with text placement that you need to avoid at all costs: 

Wrong Alignment of Text and Images:

When text and images are not positioned appropriately, like when they are misaligned or overlapping, it creates an unprofessional look that could confuse viewers and detract from the overall message you’re trying to convey. For example, if your design includes an image with a caption underneath it, but the caption is placed too far away from the image itself, readers may not realize there’s any connection between them.


  • Double-check that text and images are placed correctly relative to each other on your page or website layout before you hit the publish button.

Poor Contrast Between Text and Background

Poor contrast between text and background colors can render your message illegible – for example, black font on a dark blue backdrop. Insufficient contrast makes it difficult for viewers to discern the text, possibly leading them astray or causing them to miss essential data.


  • Pick colors that are easy on the eyes and create enough contrast to make your words stand out, especially regarding text and background. Check our complete guide to color to select a good pairing of contrasting colors. 
message failed don'ts in visual communication
Copyright: Roman Zurbrügg / photocase.com

Don’t: Ignore Audience Needs

Ignoring audience needs is one of the worst sins committed when creating visuals – after all, what's the point if nobody understands what you're trying to say? There are different ways in which you can go wrong about this: 

Not Considering the Target Audience's Preferences:

When crafting visuals for any purpose, it is important to consider who will be viewing them and tailor your design accordingly. If your approach is too generic, no one will feel interpellated. And if it has the wrong voice/tone/style, it will not be welcomed by your target audience. 


  • Take into account your target age group’s tastes and any relevant cultural nuances, and research to pick the design style, voice, and tone so that they find your visuals appealing and engaging.

Not Understanding the Message You Want To Convey:

Knowing what message you want people to get from your visuals is just as important as considering their preferences. Without having a clear idea of the message to be conveyed, crafting visuals that effectively impart what you want viewers to understand or experience can prove challenging or even futile. 


  • Write down key points or ideas beforehand so that they can guide you while making decisions on how best to represent these in a visual form.
unprofessional worker don'ts in visual communication
Copyright: molenira / photocase.com

Don’t: Forget to be Professional

Finally, professionalism should never be overlooked when crafting visuals. Using inappropriate language or tone of voice could offend potential customers and quickly detract from the credibility and quality of your visuals. Plus, failing to follow industry guidelines or standards might give off an amateurish vibe that won't inspire viewers' confidence either way. 


  • Use appropriate language that reflects the level of sophistication you wish to portray in your visuals. Avoid slang words, colloquialisms, and jargon as much as possible when communicating through visuals. 
  • Consider how each element contributes towards conveying your message accurately.
  • Make sure you are following design guidelines or standards when creating graphics for print or digital mediums.

FAQs in Relation to Don'ts in Visual Communication

What are the problems with visual communication?

Visual communication can be difficult to tackle if you don’t put the necessary care. Inadequate visuals can cause misunderstanding, misstatement of facts, or ambiguity in a message. Crafting visuals that efficiently convey your intended message in a way that is well-received by your target audience is an art in itself. 

What are the most important rules of effective visuals?

1. Choose visuals that are relevant to your message and audience.
2. Ensure visuals have a purpose and contribute to the overall goal of your content or project.
3. Ensure visuals are of excellent quality, aesthetically pleasing, and easily understandable with a single glance.
4. Utilize color theory principles for maximum impact when choosing colors in graphics or photos used in visual design projects.
5. Use text sparingly with visuals but ensure it is legible if present so viewers can easily understand what they’re seeing without needing extra context clues from other elements on the page or screen where the image appears 6. Ensure visuals are properly sized and optimized for the platform or device they will be viewed on.
7. Be mindful of copyright regulations when incorporating visuals, such as images, illustrations, videos and other visual components in your work.

8. Use contrast and hierarchy to guide the viewer’s eye through the visual elements of your project in a meaningful way.

Do Visual Communication Right with our Tips

Visual communication should be approached with caution to ensure that the message is effectively conveyed and not hindered by poor image quality, incorrect text placement or a lack of professionalism, among other mistakes that can create a negative impression on viewers and fail to meet their needs.

It is important to take into consideration these factors before you put out any visuals so as not to leave an unprofessional or confusing mark in the minds of your audience.

With our list of tips and tricks to avoid the most sinful don'ts in visual communication, you'll have it much easy to get your message across.

Happy designing!

Header image copyright: Andreas Berheide / photocase.com

Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in StockPhotoSecrets.com and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

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