What Should Designers Consider When Designing for Print Media?

Despite our increasing obsession with doing everything online, you still can’t beat the marketing potential of that finely-crafted business card which makes its way into the hands of a potential new customer, or that trendy new magnet they’re about to put on their fridge that lists taxi numbers and glows in the dark.

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From flyers, brochures, and catalogues to billboards and magazines, print media remains a powerful medium that is especially effective when used alongside its online counterpart, together forming a formidable marketing tactic.

But what constitutes a good design which will capture attention and inform at the same time? There are a few basic principles which will produce excellent results when adhered to. Here they are:

 Identify the Demographic and the Medium

Of course, understanding which sections of the population you are going to target will have been done during brand identity creation, but this can be further enhanced by gearing the focus towards specific groups of people at specific times of the year or year-round. Determining whether or not to make a flyer festive, for example, is one way to stay in the competition during the holiday season as well as appeal to the consumer’s seasonal needs and desires. The message can universal, but language, typography and palette all contribute to making your medium of choice either joyful, exciting, not-to-be-missed, or all of the above.

There are various ways to inspire a response – a magazine cover featuring a well-loved mascot exudes a sense of home and comfort, a reassuring reminder that this is not only a reputable company, but one which has a place in the personal, domestic sphere: home. Short, pithy statements will hammer the point home for billboards and flyers, supplying a limited but carefully selected amount of information.

In Tune with the Techniques

Thankfully in light of the endless possibilities one can explore during design, the print process is fairly flexible in terms of what it can do for both consumer and company. Whether a soft matte or classy gloss finish, an extensively detailed design splashed out in multitudes of colour or minimalist use of negative space and typography, printers can handle just about everything although naturally, businesses will want to be cost-effective and this is where the current trend of simple and straightforward is flourishing.

The format of the product may look good on-screen, but will the resolution and colour depth transfer when being put onto paper? Can the printed version achieve the same kind of striking effect as a flashing banner? And most importantly, will it fit into the format designated (for example, will the print bleed onto other pages) and be economical as well as ecological? Print previews and test prints on low quality are the best ways to find this out, as well as keeping the medium in mind during the beginning stages of the design process where the special limitations dictate what and how you optimise the information.

These are all aspects of the design which must be kept in mind. Sustainability along with buyer impact is key, given the emphasis which is now placed on businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. Indicating that a brochure is printed on 100% recycled material is an effective marketing tactic in itself, demonstrating a commitment to using environmentally-conscious practices.

The Personal Touch

Ultimately, the design has to be durable – meaning that it needs to be easily read on a small-scale (business card) but can be adapted to fill a bigger space (catalogue, billboard etc.) It needs to be produced on materials which are not only sustainable but will withstand the wrath of the seasons (depending on how you will use these goods) or it can afford to be delicate when stacked neatly inside the foyer of a store building. Like word of mouth, it could be passed on; on a large scale, its distribution could be one of the heralding moments of the holiday season which people look forward to.

Print media also carries that additional advantage which online media is yet to achieve – a truly tactile, personal appeal. There is something especially reassuring about a product which can rest in your hands and which is informative (containing just the right balance of info is where print media continues to trump navigating through several webpages, and is also internalised and processed in the brain more effectively) and it isn’t necessarily old-fashioned, but a great way for a company to demonstrate its design power. Subconsciously, a classy magazine will suggest that the products as showcased are high calibre too. And at the end of the day, it’s something which can be returned to again and again at the reader’s convenience, until they decide to make that trip to the store.

Article written by Jonny Rowntree, a freelance writer based in the North of England working with Elanders UK, the worldwide litho printing partner.

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