How to Create Effective Print Design That Leaves a Lasting Impression


colour swatch and brochure icons on multicolour background


19 min read

Print design can be the difference between leaving a positive first impression on your audience, or a negative first impression.

Think about it.

How often have you received a brochure or catalogue that looks thrown together?

Because this is a physical piece of marketing, it’s something that customers can actually touch. This makes printed assets much more personal, as for once, there’s no computer screen or iPhone in the way!

Customers can connect better with your business and there’s so much they can learn about your brand that you might not have even considered. For example, the quality of the paper you use, the standard of the images you include, and your choice of text are all indicators of how much thought and effort you have put into your brand.

We’ve all felt wafer thin paper or seen pixelated images, and it screams low-end.

For any brand hoping to make a good first impression and generate interest in their products or services, investing in quality print design is key. You want your audience to know you’re the real deal – not some sort of amateur.

Like anything, you can of course get cheap print design, all you need to do is take to Google. However, if you want to leave a lasting impression and give your audience something you can be proud of, don’t just concentrate on saving the pennies.

In this post we’ll explain how to create effective print design and explore how this can help build your brand credibility and brand recognition.
stack of magazines

What is Print Design?

Print design is everywhere. You might not even realise it.

Of course there are the obvious types such as newspapers, magazines, catalogues, brochures, and flyers, but other forms might go unnoticed.

For example, the carrier bag you use to go to the supermarket is an example of print design.

The menu at your favourite Italian restaurant is an example of print design.

The bill you got from Tescos is an example of print design.

It’s quite literally everywhere, and it dramatically informs our opinions of different brands. As I said in the intro, the materials you use in print design is a huge indicator of quality.

One of my pet hates is going to a restaurant that hands out paper menus.

They’re tacky, cheap, and worst of all, they easily tear apart. Also, god forbid you spill a bit of drink on them (after all, you are in a restaurant) as the ink will run straight away. How can you read a menu when you can barely see what’s on offer?

It’s such a bad design and there’s literally no logic behind it. Apart from it being cheap, it makes zero sense. It also tells you that the restaurant values budget over quality, which is quite concerning when they’re cooking my food!

I much prefer going to a restaurant which hands you a well designed, robust menu. You can tell immediately that it’s good quality, and it even feels nice to hold. Despite perhaps not being in a high end, posh restaurant, you get that same feeling of quality as they’ve taken care with their branding.

And it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Other examples of print design are outlined below:

  • Business cards
  • Packaging
  • Signage
  • Stationary
  • Bag design
  • Billboards
  • Brochures
  • Greeting cards
  • Invitations
  • Calendars
  • Banners

Whichever forms of print design you choose to promote your business, always remember that quality is key.

Cheap print design is going to show your customers that you don’t value the look and feel of your brand, which doesn’t instill that much needed sense of trust.

This applies to every type of business, whether you’re a startup or an established brand as you’re trying to encourage your customers to invest in your brand.

This starts by gaining their trust so never underestimate the importance of effective print design. Scrimping and scraping on this service might save you in the short term, but will actually end up costing you in sales in the long run.

How Can I Create Effective Print Design?

When designing for print, you need to take extra consideration.

These are marketing materials that your audience will be able to physically touch, so you need to make sure they’re sending out the right message.

As we’ve previously discussed, the quality of paper and the images you use are just two things you need to take into account.

Let’s take a look at some of the other key considerations when it comes to print design.
person holding a leaflet

Make Your Text Clear and Concise

You need to grab the attention of your audience immediately.

It can be so easy for customers to simply throw a leaflet or catalog in the bin because they’re not interested. The amount of leaflets I get through the front door which don’t even make it past the hallway.

And why?

Because the messaging has failed to captivate me. People haven’t got a lot of time to read through chunks and chunks of information. They want to know what your product/ service does, and they want to know now.

For example if you work in the Tech and IT market and you’re launching a new product, make sure this is immediately obvious in the headline. Also use punctuation to instill a sense of urgency as this will motivate people to find out more.

You only have a short window of time to grab your customers’ focus, so make sure your copy is clear and concise.

The font and style of text you choose also has an impact on whether or not people will engage with your marketing materials, so choose something that is easy to read.

We asked our Brand Designer, Will Storer about his thoughts on the best fonts to use for print design.

“Your font choice plays a major part in a successful print design as you only have a split second to grab your audiences attention. As a general rule, bold sans serif fonts are a great choice! They are easily legible and can really help your type pack a punch on the paper. There are lots of fonts out there to chose from, however a few of my favourites are Montserrat, Helvetica, Poppins and Roboto.”

You also need to check for any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes before sending your design to print. This can be easy to miss, but failing to do this check can affect the credibility of your message.

There are some great content creation tools out there that take care of this job for you.

Embrace White Space

It can be tempting to see white space as a ‘bad’ thing in design, as you desperately try to fill it with fancy icons and images.

However, there really isn’t any need and we’re here to tell you that white space is a good thing.

Not only does it help to balance out different images, it also helps the reader to digest key pieces of information. There’s nothing worse than being overwhelmed with text as you try to decipher one paragraph from another.

By using white space, you can actually present your message in a much clearer way and help the reader understand what you’re trying to convey.

There are lots of times when we have seen clients fall into this trap. However, by cluttering your print design, whether that be a business card or poster, you’re making it harder for your audience to engage with your message.

Having the correct white space ratio makes print design more visually appealing which increases the likelihood of your customers paying attention to the content.

When designing a brochure for our client Redbridge Tuition, we knew white space was very important. This is a tuition brand which provides children with extra curricular help in a range of subjects, so there is lots of information for them to digest.

As a result, we kept the content clear and easy to read, whilst leaving a thick border of white space around the outer edge of the page. Not only does this direct attention to the content but also creates a good sense of balance and improves readability.

Carefully Consider Images

Images are a huge part of print design and can make or break your marketing materials.

It’s important you choose high quality images that represent you in the right way, as you don’t want your brand to come across as amateur or thrown together.

We’ve all seen DIY brochures which are really poor.

In fact they look as though someone has just printed them out on their home computer after designing them on paint.

The text is all faded and the images don’t fit the space properly. It’s not a good combo.

Also don’t fall into the trap of thinking that anyone can take good images. Whilst you might have a decent iPhone and enjoy the idea of photography, you want images that look high quality and professional.

Another thing to bear in mind is the effectiveness of using stock photography. Whilst there are some great stock photography websites out there offering a huge library of license free images, it’s important to choose the right ones.

Don’t choose images that are really bland and generic, as this doesn’t communicate your unique offering. Original photography is so much better as it gives you full control. It’s also so much more authentic and you don’t have to worry about the same images appearing in your competitors’ printed assets.

Make Contact Information Prominent

Regardless of what type of print design you’re creating, contact information should be immediately visible.

Otherwise how are customers ever going to be able to reach you?

Make sure this important information isn’t buried within the copy or even worse, in teeny tiny text right at the bottom. The chances are, if you position it here, people are going to easily skip past it reducing the likelihood of making a sale.

Like we mentioned previously, people want information quickly and will not sift through your marketing materials looking for ways to contact you. That’s why you need to make it obvious so that they understand how to get in touch.

Depending on what type of print design you’re creating, where this information sits will differ.

For example if you’re designing a business card, your contact information is by far the most important part of the design. This is something you give to clients and customers so that they can reach out to you at a later date.

Take our client, Leaf IT as an example:

leaf business card

As part of their project, we designed a range of printed marketing materials including a product brochure and new business cards.

As you can see, we’ve kept the design clean and minimalistic, drawing attention to the important contact details. There is plenty of white space to separate each line of text, and we’ve used a contrasting colour for the font to make it stand out even further.

We’ve also made sure to include a variety of ways that people can reach out to Leaf, such as the relevant email address, phone number, and website address.

Experiment With Borders

Borders aren’t a purely decorative feature.

They can also help to reinforce your message by drawing attention to your content. They can be used to frame the page and as such, deliver a much stronger message.

By using the correct style of border, you can also improve the quality of your design and showcase a more premium look. Some borders look high quality and can transform the whole look and feel of your brand identity.

They can also help to balance the page as you can wrap them around different pieces of text and imagery. If you’re worried about white space or your design looking too bare, then borders are a great way to add another dimension.

And remember, borders don’t always have to go to the very edge of your design! You can use the border close to the middle of your layout and leave space around the outer edge. There’s also no rule which states that borders have to be a straight line. This is your design so get ready to be creative!

You could use a jagged edge, squiggly lines, circles, and different textures to add a great sense of depth and visual interest.

Borders work great across a range of print design including menus and posters as they direct attention to the central image.
orange peel

Add layers

Gone are the days when print design had to be flat.

Now I’m not talking about adding a 3D element into your print design (although that would be very effective!), instead I’m talking about adding different layers.

This helps to create a sense of depth and dimension which makes print design more interesting. Don’t be afraid to play about with your print design and find ways of making your content more visually appealing.

And the best thing about this is that it doesn;t have to be anything complicated.

Simply layering text over an image is one of the most effective ways of adding depth to your print design. Rather than positioning text and an image side-by side, they can cross over one another to create a multi-layered aesthetic.

Images layered over coloured background are also another great way of adding a sense of playfulness and interest to your print design. By choosing a contrasting background colour you can also use this effect to make your images pop more to direct more attention towards them.

One of the most important things to remember when layering different elements is to prioritise legibility. If your audience can’t read the text then it’s pointless how pretty your design is. If the copy is difficult to read then you should try experimenting with different sized text or a lighter background colour.

Use a Pattern

Although we’ve told you to embrace white space, your design should never look bare.

It’s about striking a good balance between having the right amount of empty space whilst still incorporating a range of design elements. You don’t want your marketing materials to look as though you have run out of ideas for inspiration!

If you’ve gone a bit OTT with the whole ‘minimalist, white space’ look, then using a pattern is a great way to add decoration. Patterns are flexible, functional, and visually appealing. There are also thousands of patterns to choose from so let your creativity flow.

Also unlike icons, patterns don’t really go out of date. They’re timeless which saves you money in the long run instead of constantly chopping and changing your design.

Patterns can be applied across different types of print design, and work particularly well on business cards. You can include all of your key information on the front of your card and then showcase a quirky pattern on the back.

In the end it all depends on what look you’re going for. But that’s the great thing about patterns – there’s something to suit every brand.

If you want something more sleek and stripped back then a simple two-tone pattern might be perfect. Alternatively, if you want something more fun and playful then you can experiment with a range of shapes and patterns.

The choice is yours.

Change up Directions

There are numerous ways of adding visual interest to your print design.

One way that you might not yet have considered, is changing the direction of your text. It’s time to chuck out the rule book as there’s no reason why your text needs to run horizontally like a standard book or brochure. Instead, you could switch it up and have text running vertically across the depth of the page.

However, when implementing this design trick, you need to keep the user in mind.

Similar to the point about layering up different elements, the text still needs to be clear to read. Whilst changing the direction of your copy might look cool and quirky, your main focus needs to be making sure it’s readable.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to only use this tip across small sections of text such as picking out headlines or key dates. By changing the conventional direction of the text it draws more attention to these pieces of information.

As a result you can use this opportunity to highlight information that you want your reader to pay particular attention to.

Also be very cautious when positioning text vertically across a fold. You need to make sure that the messaging isn’t going to be lost, as the leaflet or brochure will need to be opened fully for your reader to see what the text says.

Practice this tip carefully and always create a mock up before sending anything to print.
colour swatches

Consider colour choice

Have you ever considered the psychology of colour?

This relates to how we respond emotionally when we see a certain colour.

For example, what’s the first thing you think of when you see the colour red?

Danger, temperature, stop, and urgency are just some of the words that might spring to mind.

At the other end of the spectrum, what do you think of when you see the colour blue?

Tranquility, peace, and calmness perhaps?

As you can see, colour has a huge impact on the way we think, and most importantly, the way we feel.

That’s why every brand needs to understand the importance of colour psychology when creating print design.

If you were a mental health charity for instance, encouraging people to stay calm and manage their stress levels, then choosing the colour red would be very odd. This sends out the opposite message to what your brand is trying to do, and it would therefore work against your brand identity.

However, if you were designing product packaging for a range of spicy cooking sauces then red would be very fitting. It makes people stop in the food aisle to pick up and product and also hints towards the spicy ingredients. Therefore, in this scenario red makes total sense as it aligns with the purpose of your brand.

As you can see, choosing the right colour for your branding goes beyond finding something that you just ‘like.’ It needs to work logically and evoke the right emotions in your customers.

Use Cohesive Design Elements

If you’re using a range of icons in your print design then make sure there is a cohesive style between them.

For example if you’ve chosen to use line icons then stick to this throughout your design. Don’t mix and match between line icons and 3D icons.

Not only does this look visually inconsistent, but it also looks very amateuer. You want all of your icons to beautifully tie together so it’s obvious they are representing the same brand. This rule applies to all graphic elements including animations, illustrations, and font styles.

It’s not about appearing bland or generic, but focuses on having an obvious theme throughout. The style of design elements can often be overlooked yet it is one of the most important aspects of effective print design.

You need to focus on building up a consistent brand identity so that customers become increasingly familiar with your brand.

Ensure Brand Consistency

When it comes to your brand, you will have a whole range of assets that make up your brand identity including stationary, signage, letterheads, packaging, envelopes, book covers, printed t-shirts, and so much more.

So how do you ensure that each of these assets is consistent with one another?

For your branding to make a real impact, each and every piece of print design needs to be consistent. It’s no good using your old logo on your business cards, but having your updated logo on your product packaging.

This causes a whole host of confusion with your target audience as you want them to recognise your brand as soon as they see it. However if you’re using different logos, colours, or fonts across different print materials you’re sending out a very mixed brand message.

The only reason we know the McDonalds ‘M’ whenever we see it, or the Nike tick is because of brand consistency. Through regular exposure we’ve built up a sense of familiarity with these assets to the point that we would recognise them anywhere.

For your brand to do the same you need to ensure every asset follows the same brand guidelines. Therefore, if you’re using a new font on your product catalogue, this needs to apply to the rest of your marketing materials.

And don’t forget about your digital assets too as they’re equally important.
two people looking at a brochure

How to Create Effective Print Design That Leaves a Lasting Impression

Print design has the potential to leave a long lasting impression on your audience.

It’s your responsibility to make sure it’s a positive one!

By taking the above points into consideration, you can create effective print design that brings your audience closer to your brand. Provide them with marketing materials that look and feel professional to ensure you reflect the right brand image.

Regardless of what type of print design you’re creating, whether it’s business cards, brochures, leaflets, calendars, or menus, this is a tangible element that your audience will physically touch. Therefore everything you choose from font style through to images, will influence how they see your brand and will affect whether or not they invest in your offering.

Print design is something we’re experts in here at Canny.

We know the power of this medium, despite a lot of businesses purely concentrating on digital efforts. We’re here to tell you that print design is here to stay, and it’s an essential part of your marketing mix if you want to make a real impact.

If the thought of working out colour psychology, borders, and a multitude of design elements fill you with dread, then you need the help of our branding team. We can transform your brand messaging and create effective print design that sticks in your customers mind. For a friendly chat about how we could help you, simply get in touch.