The Most Overused Design Elements

Mydee Lasquite

Written by:
Mydee Lasquite


When looking for some visual inspiration, we often resort to the web or graphic design books to find the most appropriate visual elements to create amazing marketing material, ad campaigns, visual promotions, or to contribute to the project design we must complete.

This post will highlight some of the most commonly used elements in the world of design and show you how to limit their use so that your visual projects and design are sure to stand out.

Most Common Design Techniques


The following are the top most used design elements that are easy to manipulate and widely available among online creation tools.


Rays of Lights or Sun Rays are most commonly used in the background or a forefront design technique. Visit or try any design tool today and you will find each has their own version of sun rays in colorful tones. Each effect varying from thin rays to bulky imposing lines.

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Everything is Green. As we have consciously adopted the pledge to make the world a better place for the next generation, designers have found a way to embed the concept of environmental friendliness in every design. In design projects alone, this has become a great and disturbing trend. In simplest terms, designers have found a way to oversell becoming environmentally friendly.


Silhouettes are perfect in showcasing various stories. Using this design is difficult, but it has become a top favorite among lower-level designers in the hopes of telling an important part of a story without a verbal narrative.


Flowing lines or Flourishes were introduced to inspire the feminine side of design. Free-flowing lines, intended to communicate  emotional connection, have been  implemented so much in the last decade that they have defeated the purpose of their usage. Instead, they result in  silly and overly romantic designs.


Scribble Art or what is known today as Doodle. This creative technique  allows the designer to simply paint, write, or draw what comes to mind. Since its effectiveness has been undermined by excessive and improper use, only use this technique if you are certain it will awe your audience.

Most Overused Shapes and Symbols in Design Projects


Signs, icons and symbols in visual design are implemented solely for the purpose of evoking emotions or extracting and sharing ideas from a visual item. The world of information has made it possible for every piece of symbol to be overused.

HEARTS. Yes, they are some of the most overused signs, symbols and icons in graphic design.  One reason is that they are symbolically used to represent emotional sincerity, positive moral implication, and spiritual affection.

SKULLS. This symbol was popularized in the 70s. Today, it has survived most trends in design changes as it still remains a very useful symbol for depicting musical affiliation or some kind of ideology, belief, or movement.

CRESTS OR HERALDRY. In the early days, crests were used to distinguish enemy combatants. They have now been immortalized by online video game designers.

LIGHT BULBS. This overrated symbol has been greatly used in any media –print and digital- to symbolize creativity and innovation.

WINGS. This symbol has become a design staple for educational institutions or any organization whose mission statement is based on giving hope, offering enlightenment, spiritual guidance, political protection and  inspiration.

SILHOUETTED SKYLINES. This symbol is used to represent locations in visual stories. However, it has become so widely used that it is now just an ordinary icon.

Top 5 Fonts Used by Designers in 2014


Every designer should keep up with current design trends. Typography today in any visual creation is very important. The right font can make your message more visible, while the wrong font even with a great message attached to it can derail the direction of any stated message in a visual design project. Be it an infographic or a visual post for your social media campaigns, using the right font is essential.

The most popular fonts in 2014 were::


BRANDON GROTESQUE. A familiar typeface in the early 1920s, this font has been used by an increasing number of websites in the last year. The primary reason for the switch is that this geometric sans serif font creates visual hierarchy. This particular website has maximized the full potential of this typeface font.

You can access this font if you are using the Adobe Creative Cloud.


FUTURA. This geometric sans serif typeface is another favorite because of its timelessness. This font is a known favorite of film directors Wes Andersen and Stanley Kubrick. It has also been used in the film posters of movies such as Gravity, American Beauty, Interstellar.

Here are some sites using Futura. This classic and revolutionary design however is not the most readable font. Take a look at this font family here.


HELVETICA. In 2008, this font was rated as the most heavily used font both for professional and non-professional designers. It’s not always best for every occasion, though, and should only be used to deliver a particular message.

To date, this sans serif typeface, which was created solely to have a more neutral font for signage, is still rocking the fonts world.


AVENIR.  Used by designer Adrian Futiger in what he considers to be his best design ever, Avenir is the official font used by the city of Amsterdam in its corporate branding identity.

Avenir, like Futura, is timeless and is predicted to get the most attention in the coming years and will definitely be one of the many fonts that dominate future project designs. Look at how these sites use this font.

Most Overused Stock Images  

We are all guilty of using these images. Below are some of the most commonly used stock images.

Group of Business Professionals. We have all seen these images of overly enthusiastic employees who are meeting with their peers and the friendly senior business man who you see shaking hands in meetings or taking the time to orient new members of the corporation.

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The “IT” Girl. Have you seen this face before?  Ariane is an overexposed model who has appeared in infomercials for Google AdWords, TeamViewer, and Weight Watchers.

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The “IT “Boy.  Time magazine featured Jesper Bruun as the most downloaded man in 2012. His has appeared in razor commercials, as a sweet and charming call center agent, a music lover, and a scuba diving instructor –  the “jack of all trades” of the stock photography world.

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The Busiest Call Center Agent. This is Anne Sofie. If you do a quick search for call center image,  her face will surely come up. Here are more of her images all over the web. Aside from being the face of every customer service page on the Internet, she sometimes  appears with our third contender, Jesper.


The Busy World of Technology. At some point you may have downloaded this image, especially if you were searching for a way to communicate the power of the Internet.

This image has been used to show how the rapidly changing world of technology and the Internet have facilitated global communication and . how we learn new things..

The internet is full of suggestions and viable tools to use, but for professional designers aspiring to move up the corporate ladder, relying heavily on what is common, easy, and cheap is not a smart move.

For non-professionals, using these common and overused design elements in your first attempt to put together visual projects is acceptable, since they can provide some guidance as to how to deliver your message, but the most alarming fact is that these elements have been so widely used that they have become ineffective in impacting audiences.

To ensure that your visuals stand out, you should avoid common and overused elements and, instead, start filling your image banks with creative and fresh elements that can be used in the long term.


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    About the Author

    Mydee is a content strategist at Visme’s Visual Learning Center. After years of writing for various companies to promote brands and products, her passion for content and love for offering valuable information landed her at Visme to help individuals and businesses make informed decisions and improve their communication and presentation skills.

    3 responses to “The Most Overused Design Elements”

    1. Jeff says:

      I also noticed these overused elements! Awesome cause you compiled them up into one article. The background image, the icons, the IT girl, the fonts (you can also add Roboto font). Well, they are being overused for they have become the favorites among designers, and I’m definitely one of ’em.

    2. […] Also, steer clear of cliches and overused design elements like the ones found here. […]

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