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What Every Marketer Should Know About Print Design

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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.

Any other print design tips that marketers should know? Please leave your thoughts below!

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Vladimir Gendelman is founder and CEO of Company Folders Inc. He has spent over a decade learning the ins and outs of print marketing and specializes in helping businesses create quality marketing materials they can be proud of.

LinkedIn: Vladimir Gendelman

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  • by Sean B. Tue Jun 3, 2014 via web

    I'd love to add one! ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS get a proof.

    Always. Not every single printer has a policy in place that requires them to send you one. Make SURE you will get a proof before you have marketing collateral printed.

  • by Melissa Tue Jun 3, 2014 via web

    Until recently, I owned a printing company for 15 years and here are some things I found:

    1. Always ask for your logo in .eps or vector format which are completely scalable. If you've paid your design bill, then you should get your logo in this format - period. A true vector file can be used on a business card or a billboard with no loss of quality (and can easily be converted for use on your website).
    2. Request a proof - you are responsible for any typos even if your designer set it up. If your document is color critical, pay a bit extra to get a press proof.
    3. If you're just starting out, stick with standard PMS colors as they are less expensive. TALK to your printer to find out what he/she stocks on the shelf. Ordering non-standard ink adds time and money to your order.
    4. I can't improve a fuzzy .jpg file you found on the internet to use as your logo. Seriously.
    5. Graphic designers REALLY need to talk to the printers they use. Many times in the past, these highly paid graphic designers were clueless about the printing process and designed something that the client had a tough time affording at the printer.
    6. Garbage in - Garbage out. You give me a low resolution logo, it will only look worse when it's printed. See #1 above.

  • by Jill Tue Jun 3, 2014 via web

    Under the subject of 'subtext matters' think about your choice of paper - it conveys so much. Always spec the paper you want, never leave that choice up to someone else.When it comes to print, paper has a huge impact on the final results of a designer’s work and thus their reputation.

  • by Katherine Tattersfield Tue Jun 3, 2014 via web

    AMEN on the logo versatility! I once had a client scoff when I mentioned providing a logo comp in black and white...but if you think about it, there are plenty of instances on the web where you'll end up using your logo in black in white, such as a watermark for product photos. Simply put, your logo needs to work in any type of environment.

    I think marketers need to know that print design involves some technical aspects that only an experienced designer will be aware of. So it's super important to work with a professional who has prior printing training or projects in his/her portfolio. Never assume that your average web designer will be able to produce a catalog.

  • by Globalemaillists Wed Jun 4, 2014 via web

    Great post,
    truly an eye opener nice review on how each and every marketers should have the knowledge of creating their brand and maintaining their brand color and understanding the printing medium very well thanks for sharing this wonderful post.

  • by Gina Testa Wed Jun 4, 2014 via web

    You make some excellent points, Vladimir! Good design is critical to business success, especially when applied to a mix of digital and print initiatives. Getting your message noticed in today’s oversaturated media world is an ongoing challenge, but when you have the help of a little creativity it’s easier to cut through the clutter and reach the end user. I especially liked your point that print design affects all senses. Sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing – print marketing campaigns are utilizing a range of senses these days because it’s imperative for printed pieces to be interactive and cutting-edge in order to increase the connection between the brand and the consumer. So, partner print with good design and the five senses, and you’ve created one of the strongest and most experiential marketing designs. – Gina Testa, Xerox US Graphic Communications Operations, @GinaTesta

  • by Vladimir Gendelman Wed Jun 18, 2014 via web

    Thank you for your feedback everyone.

  • by ranashohel/comic books for sale Sun Jun 22, 2014 via web

    nice post about graphic design. Every one can learn something about graphic design from this post.

  • by Emily Brackett Tue Jun 24, 2014 via web

    Thanks for the link to our blog, about understanding the difference between CMYK and RGB color systems.

    We've found that is almost always best to find the pantone color for a brand identity, even if it's not initially necessary. Your readers may also be interested in this post where we talk about why:

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