When I show a first draft of a project to a client, I brace myself for their response. “I like it,” they begin. “But can we…”

Here’s why the answer is always a big, fat “No.”

“But can we center it?” (the rule of thirds)

I guess I can center it. But as a professional designer, I probably shouldn’t. Centering it will make it look like your high school prom invitation. I know this to be true because my parents recently dumped all my childhood boxes on my doorstep so I had the pleasure of seeing mine. It wasn’t pretty. Neither was the “under the sea” theme we thought was so cool and the fish-shaped place cards. But everyone makes mistakes.

Imagine you take your project and divide it into nine boxes, Hollywood Squares style. The rule of thirds means that the focus of your composition should lie on the inner cross-lines of on any two of those boxes, thus creating the focus on a third of the surface’s area. This will naturally produce a result that is more pleasing to look at, every single time.

“But can we fill that white space in with something?” (the rule of open space)

No, we can’t — or I won’t — fill in all the open space. Have you ever been to a flea market? Just look at your project after you force me to fill in all the white space, and then you won’t need to.

Whoever said “less is more” wasn’t kidding. Imagine a postcard filled with photos, logos, and a few paragraphs. Could I create something with all of those elements and make it look good? Sure. But now imagine a postcard with a single word on it. Or one lone image. The reader doesn’t have to invest much time and effort looking at that. If you can get your message across with fewer words and images, do it. Your project will be much more attractive, interesting and clean-looking if it’s not completely covered with stuff.

“But can we make the logo bigger?” (the rule of get over yourself)

Can we make your ego any bigger? Unless I’ve screwed up to begin with and you’re unable to see the logo or read the name of the company without a magnifying glass, there is probably no reason to enlarge your brand.

Remember, it’s about them, not you. Sure it’s your brochure or postcard or website, but a giant logo isn’t what’s going to attract your audience. Make the part that is reeling them in bigger, and then they’ll have no trouble figuring out what company is giving them the cool stuff or important information.

“But can we make everything bigger?” (the rule of emphasis)

Sure we can. We can also spell everything backwards, but that won’t be a good idea either. If everything is emphasized, nothing is emphasized.

Glance at this blog post. Notice what’s emphasized? The header of each section. If I made all the text that comes under each header the same size, your eye wouldn’t know what to go to first. Think in terms of a hierarchy. What’s most important? That is what should be biggest (or emphasized some other way besides size).

“But can we make everything in our logo colors?” (the rule of contrast)

Sorry, this one is a no, too. Unless you are printing something in one or two colors (which is sometimes done as a money-saving technique, though there are so many affordable printers now that you can almost always print in 4-color without breaking the bank), why would you want to limit yourself to the palette of your logo?

Use other colors that complement your logo colors. These could be similar colors but in varying shades, or, better yet, these could be contrasting colors that you can use for emphasis.