What Every Marketer Should Know About Print Design

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by Vladimir Gendelman 

 

Print marketing works best when designers and marketers can easily work together. So it helps when both know at least the basics of each other’s craft.

Here are print design essentials that all marketers should keep in mind.

Logos should be versatile

Your logo is your brand’s most important visual identifier, so it’s important to have a logo that’s attractive, eye-catching, both Web- and print-friendly, and representative of your brand’s identity. But many marketers don’t realize that versatility is crucial in logo design, and that certain print projects may call for your logo to be flexible in certain ways.

For example, you can’t have a logo that relies entirely on color, since you’ll often be forced to print in black and white. Logos also need to be scalable; since print comes in many sizes, your logo can’t have a lot of extraneous details that won’t translate well when shrunken down onto a business card.

That’s not to say that you can’t have highly creative logos with colors and textures. But when you strip away all the excess from your logo, you should still have a clear visual identity that customers can recognize.

Preserve your brand colors

When you print full-color media, what you see is actually a combination of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) inks. But the colors you see on your computer monitor are different; they are composed of red, green, and blue (RGB) light. These different color systems mean that your final printed product may have some discrepancies from the digital version.

You may not notice the difference in some cases—color photographs look fairly accurate using CMYK—but the difference will be noticeable in your brand’s trademark colors. The best way to ensure color consistency is to rely on PMS spot printing, which uses a premixed universal ink color mixing system.

Simply match your brand color to the corresponding PMS color, and you’ll always have the perfect tone for your branded marketing materials, no matter whom you print with. Spot printing can even be applied to projects that use CMYK inks, so you can have full-color designs while still maintaining color accuracy when it counts.

Subtext matters

Design delivers two messages, one directly and the other through subtext. Good design uses that subtext as a way to reinforce the direct message, whereas bad design is often oblivious to its subtext, and so damages the message.

Color is a prime example of subtext in design, because it can elicit various emotions from the audience.

In the West, red is the color of action and passion, but it can also inspire a feeling of hunger, which is why you often see it used in marketing for fast food restaurants. Meanwhile, blue is the color of professionalism, security, and trust, because it produces a calming effect in people; that’s why it’s frequently used for technology companies.

Stay aware of any negative subtext you might accidentally be projecting. For example, certain fonts, such as Comic Sans and Courier, have a bad reputation for being lazy and unprofessional. Even if those fonts match your brand’s identity or your design aesthetic, using them might send a negative message to your audience.

Print design affects all senses

The biggest difference between digital and print marketing is that print designs go on to become real, physical objects, whereas digital media stay on the screen. Your audience can touch (and perhaps even smell) your print design—and the more senses you affect, the more impact your design will have.

Adding texture to your design is as easy as picking a paper stock that feels high-quality, but you can take it a step further by using a textured stock or textured coatings in your finished product. For more interaction, consider using embossing so that the audience can actually feel the design itself. In addition, certain printers might offer scented varnishes that engage your recipient’s olfactory sense.

Remember that engaging multiple senses also means more opportunities to make poor choices. Adding jagged die-cut edges or using a flimsy paper stock, for example, can deliver negative sensory experience to the audience.

I’ll end with a few thoughts

The more knowledge marketers have about the medium they’re working with, the more powerful their marketing can become. Don’t be afraid to work closely with your designer or printer, and don’t hesitate to ask them any questions that might help you cultivate your understanding of the print medium.