Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Creating Effective Printed Materials - Tip 4


Creativity and skill are now needed to put everything together for your final document or printed item.

For those without experience, this can be a frustrating, daunting and time-consuming final part of the project. 

You could spend many hours completing a task that a trained graphic designer can complete within a few minutes.

Up until now the required skills have been more related to copywriting and photography – with an ability to create visuals of charts and graphs. 

Now it is the role of the designer to put everything together for maximum visual impact. 

Too many printed materials lack the professional layout finish at this stage and devalue everything else that has gone before in the preparation.

As any decorator will tell you – preparation is vital but if you do not hang the wallpaper correctly the results can be a visual disaster!


Having created the headlines, the copy and the visual images – now all you need to do is to put them all together in the most effective way possible. 

An age-old tip is to start with a blank piece of paper and sketch the layout style that is in your head before you get too far with the computer formatting at this stage.

When creating the layout it is usually recommended to always try and keep to a symmetrical design.  Formatting needs to assume that the pattern of reading is from left to right and from top to bottom. 

Making the balance between text and visual content to about one third/two thirds is also a good “rule of thumb” guideline for any designer. 

If your concept does not meet this ratio it is probably best to review it at this comparatively early part of the design process.

The ability to create white space is very important in all aspects of design – without it everything tends to look cluttered. 

So by allowing for as much “quiet area” as possible within your design concept will increase the effectiveness of your communication.


The picture below shows what 66,000 brochures looks like... ...before they are recycled. 

This was not one of our jobs I hasten to add - but a colleague in London had to scrap these corporate brochures because of a single error on one of the digits of the telephone number.

On another corporate brochure this month where “print-ready” artwork was supplied by the client, we picked out an average of 15 spelling and grammatical errors on each page before we even needed to print a proof copy.

When presented with a print-ready proof the reader’s eyes tend to glaze over looking at the overall appearance rather than the detail.

On occasions we have provided five or more printed proofs for the client to make changes and alterations to text or content.  This adds to the cost and results in delays to the deadlines.

It is therefore always recommended that serious proofing is done BEFORE all the content is entered into the layout template you have created.

And remember; do not rely on automated spell – checkers – many of the best “howlers” are not picked up because the word exists but in a totally different context.


You are now ready to begin the digital formatting of the document.

Create the layout grid in your software based upon the style and shape of your visual concept.

If you have a lot of text it is often better to use the column layout.  Decide whether you will be using one, two or three columns for the layout?

The next step is to import and position any photographs or other visuals across or within these columns of the page structure.

Consider using any borders for images or whether they are best to “blend” into the text.

Importing the text on a word flow allows a rough gauge on the total amount of content and work around this accordingly – according to whether you have too little or too much content.

Decide upon text wrap options, justification, line spacing and leading and begin to do the hard work involved in adapting the content to the best layout.

For example, to fill space it may be easier to expand the margins, increase the size of headlines or increase the point size of the first line of each paragraph.

Or be more creative with layout – for example, important points can be pulled out and highlighted in boxes, page numbering can be made more prominent, and headings can be designed using all the effects of colours and style.

Attention should be paid to minor grammatical and typographical mistakes at this stage.  Typically “widows” or “orphans” – these are words that have become detached from the main body of the relevant text.

Is there plenty of “white space”?   Remember this doesn’t have to be white; it just has to be blank so that it draws the eye to the text and makes everything easier to read and comprehend.

Ghosted photographic images in the background can also be effectively used as “white space” but try and avoid problems with particular colour combinations mentioned in the previous blogs. 

Make sure text flows easily and logically.   Is it visually clear and legible?

Ideally dark text on a white background but always dark text on light backgrounds or reversed out text on dark colour backgrounds.

Sub-Editing & QR Codes

At this stage you often realise there is just too much information and you have to be even more ruthless to reduce the amount of copy and sentence length.

Make sure the photographs or illustrations are adjacent to the relevant text and ensure there is consistency throughout the document.

Then be ruthless in the sub-editing of the copy and then if all else fails, reduce the size of the text and visual images to try and keep to the original design concept.

If there is just too much information then consider a re-design or perhaps the use of using QR Codes. 
QR Codes are a great way of integrating digital and printed media.  They work well where space is at a premium, for example on business cards or where it is expensive, such as in an advertisement. 

With a QR reader downloaded onto a mobile device – a simple scan can take the customer to a wealth of detail and information.  Direct2Print offer a free QR Code generating service for all orders for the design of printed stationery.

Consider using QR Codes in all aspects of your communications – for example, on the sides of your vans – so your customers can easily link into the digital communications of your business.

In some applications it is easy to see the benefits.  For example, estate Agents will no doubt continue to rely on their local newspapers as a cost effective advertising medium.  Now a QR code next to each advertised property can be scanned by a mobile device and provides an array of photographs and information that would cover many pages of printed materials.

But every business should be able to apply this channel.  Apparently, QR Codes have even now even found an application on gravestones!

Practical Issues

Practical issues often only usually come to light at this final stage of the design process.

The practical issues often relate to the usage planned. 

Are the margins of sufficient size to allow for binding or hole punching or drilling?  Does the paper need to be gloss or matt? Does the user need to be able to write or take notes on this paper?  If the document is to be folded or bound do the pages need to lie flat? 

Would tear-proof paper or lamination be a worthwhile extra investment for quality or practical application – if it is being used in a factory or kitchen environment where it would soon become grubby and damaged? 
If it is a comb or wire bound document would it be better to put acetates on the front and back for extra protection?

Having satisfied all of these points it is time for the final proof “sign off”

Print-Ready Proof

Depending on the project it is best to print out a proof as near as possible to the finished printed item.  With digital or document printing this is relatively easy because “what you see is what you get”. 

However, there may be some minor variations depending on the calibration of the printing press or even the climatic conditions – but generally, the purpose of this proof is to make sure the final product meets the original objective in terms of appearance, quality and feel.

Increasingly more printed products can now be produced as a single item.  For example, we can now produce a single A4 landscape brochure on our new KM6000 colour press which would not have been possible before.

When sending the printing for full colour process printing there may be colour variations with the digital print, but this is the too big a subject for this article.

At Direct2Print we offer a FREE TRIAL for when the content and appearance is critical. 
This option was popular in the past. These days most clients are just happy to get the job printed and delivered as soon as possible!

Hopefully, everyone will be happy with the final proof – otherwise changes at this stage can be quite time-consuming and expensive.

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