Thursday, June 19, 2014

Creating Effective Printed Materials - Tip 3

Following the same blog theme – we will now look effective visual content for company documents, reports, manuals or promotional literature.


The real message here is that you could have a real competitive advantage if you are able to break down the service or product visually. 

Images of your product do much more to communicate than lots of words – as long as they are relevant.

Always try to appeal to the visual (emotional) as well as the written (logical) senses.

When Direct2Print started operation in 2003 we tried to visually convey the concept as the “Direct2Print Cycle” order process on our promotional materials and on the web site.

What’s Your Budget? - Internal or External Communication?

The previous two postings related to the importance of a headline and the copy and how it should be applied across both internal and external printed communications.  We are now at a point where budgets play a key part in decision making for the visual options for all printed materials. 

Budgetary constraints are more common with internal literature, like training manuals or forms than the more “glamorous” external communications like brochures, newsletters, annual reports or leaflets.

And yet, research consistently shows that effectiveness of all forms of printed communications is considerably improved with the use of colour, charts, photographs, and histograms.
Whatever your project – visual images and the use of colour can assist in the effectiveness of your communication.

PowerPoint slides are particularly colour intensive and yet the same slides lack the same clarity and impact when printed in mono. 

Because printing from PowerPoint is so toner thirsty – online document printing was given a big boost because it reduced the printed page cost and the speed of printing sets of presentations for both internal and external communications.

The Impact of Colour Choice

Colour within documents can often be the difference between success and failure.  Whether used for a sales proposal, a tender or simply to convey a message.  Colour improves clarity and retention of the information. 

Research by Xerox concluded that colour improves impact and recall by up to 80% for all types of printed materials.  Training materials in colour can accelerate learning and improve recall by up to 78%.  In direct mail alone it has been shown to improve response rates by up to 23%. Even in the area of financial communications, colour has been shown to contribute towards the faster payment of invoices.

One thing to avoid is the overuse of colour in a document because it will lose all interest value.  Another point is to remember who is likely to be reading the material. Restaurant menus are difficult to read in low lighting and remember that 8% of us have some form of colour blindness – most commonly red and green together.

Colours need to work well together.  There are no good or bad colours.  Hue determines the basic colour.  Saturation refers to the amount of grey in the colour. Luminosity refers to the whiteness or intensity of the colour. 

Blue has been the most popular colour in the logo design and business printing we have supplied over the last 30 years. 

Blue has the qualities of appearing as business-like, strong, trustworthy and authoritative and yet at the same time can also appear as cold, depressing and gloomy.   Yet, when combined with a second colour, like yellow or red, it can work well because it adds some warmth to the design. 

Every colour can have a negative or positive effect depending on the context and how they evoke responses. The table below acts a simple guide to some of the other primary colours.

COLOUR                                  POSITIVE                                 NEGATIVE
Clean, Innocent, Pure
Cold, Empty, Sterile
Strong, Brave, Passionate
Dangerous, Aggressive, Domineering
Happy, Friendly, Optimistic
Cowardly, Annoying, Brash
Warm, Earthy, Mature
Dirty, Sad, Cheap
Natural, Tranquil, Relaxing
Jealous, Inexperienced, Greedy

I remember when I entered the printing industry in 1992.  Branding played a big part of the decision-making process. First impressions are often based upon the impact of colour.

In my case, the choice was between the orange of Prontaprint or the blue and red of Kall-Kwik.  The orange appealed more at the time. 

Yet, within a few years it was decided that this was not an effective “digital” colour and at great expense a decision was made to re-brand in red and blue.  Whilst at the same time two of the most successful early digital brands Orange and Easyjet launched with a very effective “digital” orange corporate branding.

So it is never clear cut. Colours are capable of much variation – some combinations work and some just don’t – for whatever reason!

As a compromise I currently use orange in my Direct2Print document and digital printing website ( and blue and red in my Direct2Print Business Centre Retail ( and blue and light blue in my offset litho print Direct2PrintOnline ( websites!

The Impact of Photographs

Some say a photograph can be worth a thousand words. But some pictures don’t say one word – never mind a thousand!

Does your customer really need to see your flashy new office or an expensive piece of machinery to make an informed decision?  Does the photo add anything to the message?
Your audience is only interested in relevant content. If you want them to visit your office and look over your machinery in the factory - then fine!  But always think about the purpose of the photograph before including it within the design.

With modern cameras and software even novices can be really creative with special effects, for example, the use of zoom for exploded views of a product. 

When we are supplied with photographs for printing we are sometimes surprised that the quality can be so poor. 

Common errors include:
  • ·    Very poor resolution – usually RGB screen resolution of 72dpi rather than CMYK print resolution of 300dpi.
  • ·     Very little contrast or colour saturation – supplied without any cropping or enhancement software editing.
  • ·         Often a lack of interest – even showing people who are actually using the product, enjoying themselves would add to the image you are trying to project!
  • ·         Trying to include lots of tiny images rather than fewer, better quality and larger photos.  This is particularly important for a “cover” photograph on a brochure.

For some services or products there may be no alternative than to turn to the services of a professional photographer.  For example, we printed a brochure of a building product that was used the protect the inner wall surface of chimneys – to get a meaningful photograph the professional was required and needed to supply special climbing equipment and lighting to get the right sort of images we needed.

If you can’t provide your own quality photographs or afford a professional then there is a wealth of available image stock libraries for virtually anything you would ever require at a very reasonable cost and free of any copyright. 

Using low quality, pixelated images downloaded from a web site or from a camera phone may not always reflect the type of image you are wishing to project.

We will cover photography for printing in a later Blog Article.

The Impact of Charts, Maps and Histograms

I worked briefly for one of the world’s leading (and most expensive) strategic management consultancies on a Pan-European project for one of the world’s largest companies. English is the business language but no text reports were allowed. 

Every printed presentation had to be converted into a visual format in the form of a flow chart, bar chart, histogram or pie chart.  Lots of words would have just ended up in the top drawers of the senior executives, who were all busy people.

Colourful diagrams all tend to point the reader in the right direction and aid memory.  One of the best pieces of design is the London Underground map.  It bears little resemblance to a true map but it is symmetrical and memorable.  It was designed over 50 years ago and it is still easier to understand and follow than most other public transport maps from around the world!


There is an old adage that says we make decisions emotionally and then try to justify them with logic. 

Considerable research has been made to determine the relative importance of emotional or logical factors in our comprehension and decision making. 

There is no doubt that emotional senses are influenced by appearance, colour and photography.

Like good copy – your visual presentation should have a logical flow and re-enforce the message.

Never judge a book by its cover?  Maybe not, but it influences whether you pick it off the shelf to give it a chance.

Chris Jepson Google+

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