Will it look good when it’s printed? Learn from graphic design experts and commercial printers what to consider when creating marketing materials like brochures, catalogs, posters, business cards, flyers and more that you design and then print.
From our experience: The availability of graphic design software technology has created a kind of free-for-all in the design world. Beginning with desktop publishing back in the 1980s, many professional designers think there’s been a real decline in the quality of design now that more and more businesses are trying to do it themselves. While this may have been true back then, we’ve come a long way. By using a professionally designed template, or using your own design eye, you CAN create marketing materials that you will be proud of.
Tips on designing printed marketing materials
Always keep your goal in mind. When designing marketing materials, it’s easy to get distracted and caught up in the design itself. It’s important to never lose site of the purpose of the piece, and the action you want to result from it.
Select a focal point and build around it. This might be an image, a headline, or a graphic. The intent is to create stopping power so that the person reading it stops and pays attention.
- Think of how you would put furniture in a living room. You’d start by figuring out where to put the piano and couch and what the focal point of the room will be (the fireplace and painting over that for example). The same principle applies to design.
- Your design options often will become clear once you place photographs and graphics, especially if they go with text.
- If you only have one photo, play it BIG. Eye-Trac research shows most readers enter a page by looking at photos. So with a solitary photo, be sure it’s big enough to catch the reader’s attention. Photos can be smaller if you have more of them.
- There are many great options to purchase “stock” photography. This is like purchasing a wedding dress “off the rack.” Photographers have compiled images that can be licensed and used for marketing purposes. Take advantage of these great assets.
Prioritize what information is most important to get across. Placement on the page is a nonverbal cue that tells readers what’s most important. In general, place the most important content at the top and continue in descending order according to its importance. The higher on the page, the more important it is.
- People will look at headlines, photos, captions, subheads and any illustrations or graphics. They should be able to get the key information by just reading (scanning).
If you’re using a template, stick to it. Professionally designed templates are a great resource, but they can quickly become less-than-professional if you change them around. Resist the urge to express your own design abilities (unless you truly have them) by changing fonts, colors, or layout. The templates were created as they were for a reason. Take advantage of that and make it easy on yourself.
Vary the sizes and shapes of the photos and graphics to add variety and visual appeal to the page. Photos that have similar shapes and sizes are dull, giving the reader little reason to sample them. If they are nearly the same, none stands out. Avoid square photographs.
Use a mixture of vertical and horizontal elements to add variety and to move the reader’s eyes around the page. Have the type completely cross the page at least once. Don’t leave a vertical gutter that runs all the way down the page because it will visually divide the page. Avoid stacking or “pancaking” stories on top of one other. None of them will stand out.
Honor the hierarchy of type. Generally, headlines should decrease in size as you go down the page because the stories are less important. Take a look at your local newspaper and you’ll see how they do this. Use three-line headlines above two-line headlines; larger font headlines above smaller font subheads.
Make sure the writing is great. Come to the point quickly and succinctly, but add your own voice so it still feels personal. Use words your customers use. Keep it simple and use language they will understand and relate to. Avoid jargon.
Know when it’s time to hire a professional designer. You may come to a point where you are frustrated and unhappy with your end results. Don’t be afraid to admit that it may be time to hire a designer. They are professionals, after all, and may help you get to your end objective much more quickly and cost-effectively (especially if you factor in the cost of your time). How to select and hire a graphic designer
Keep your typefaces consistent. There is nothing more distracting in a printed piece than using too many fonts. This will distract the reader and make your piece look clearly homemade. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than two typefaces in your piece: one for the headlines and subheads, the second for the body copy.
Anatomy of a Printed Piece
Whether you’re creating an ad, a newsletter, a brochure, or a flyer, your marketing materials should include the following elements.
- Headline. Usually found at the top of the page, these are the large words that first attract the eye.
- Subhead. Nearly as large as the headline, the subhead provides additional detail about the headline’s topic.
- Body copy. The main text of the article, or ad. Generally in a smaller size type. This is like what you see in the body of a newspaper or magazine article. Generally body copy is the same size throughout the piece.
- Visuals. Illustrations, images, or photographs that provide reinforcement of the key message. In the case of a print advertisement, the visual may be the main focus. In the case of a newsletter, a smaller image may simply support the content of one article.
- Captions. Any photo or illustration should have an accompanying caption that explains the visual.
- Logo. The company’s logo and accompanying slogan should be consistently used on all marketing communications materials.