You have some marketing efforts planned for a new product but most of your budget is tied up in production costs. Every graphic designer you consult asks for more money than you can afford. You could hire an amateur designer for less but it’s difficult to find quality work on a limited budget. Remember the old adage: “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” Graphic designers can be worth their weight in gold. However, there can be serious value in do-it-yourself design work too.
Here are some things to consider: Your product needs solid design work to catch consumer attention. Your prints need solid design work to draw attention to your product. Your company image needs solid design work to become a memorable entity in the economy. What’s my point? Everything benefits from great design! You are your own best asset at this point so invest some time in to learning how to handle your own design work. Here are some solutions to problems that you may encounter along the way:
1. “I’m doing the work of 18 people and the stress isn’t helping me feel inspired to create.”
Finding inspiration to create can be difficult. Even the best graphic designers deal with this issue. This is why almost every major design blog has an inspiration section. These sites collect the most amazing and well-thought out, and entertaining examples of graphic design. Take some time and browse these pages a bit and your brain will have the fuel to produce some awesome ideas.
These are some great blogs to get started with:
2. “I’m not an artist and I’m lucky if I can make a stick figure look proportionate.”
Fortunately for you, modern design programs don’t always require artistic skill. Sometimes great design is as simple as finding a clever font, choosing a strong color, and picking the right spot on the page. Look at the majority of Nike’s marketing efforts. They usually feature black text on a white background and the simple, yet memorable “swoop.” It just proves that you don’t have to get too in-depth with the design to be successful.
Check out the design blogs’ “Freebies” section for huge collections of software add-ons like Photoshop brushes and free fonts to help with your project.
3. “I don’t have the graphic design software and clip-art just won’t cut it anymore.”
Fear not! There are great resources online. If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, Adobe offers month-to-month access to its Creative Suite programs starting at $19.99 (there’s even a 30 day free trial!).
Websites like pixlr.com and splashup.com offer free web browser-based image editors (setup very similarly to pro software such as Adobe Photoshop).
4. “I’m familiar with graphic design but my work doesn’t have that professional edge that will make my business stand out.”
The graphic design blogs come to the rescue again! The bloggers for these sites are kind enough to provide hundreds of amazing tutorials that will show you, step-by-step, how to get the amazing visual effects that the professional designers get paid hundreds of dollars to produce (just check out the Tutorials section on the design blogs).
Even if you’re not design-savvy, these tutorials can help you produce incredible art for your project – just follow the instructions carefully.
5. “I’m confused about what fonts and images I can legally use for my products and marketing.”
The downside to doing your own design work is that you can’t rely on someone else to have years of experience with legal issues that may arise with creative media.
On the upside, there’s sites like ethicsingraphicdesign.org that do a great job of explaining how to ensure that your designs can be used for commercial purposes.
You may have a crazy schedule but investing a little time into learning basic graphic design now could wind up saving you tons of money and time in the future.
- Use the right software for your project.
- Sure, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint are convenient, but if you want professional results, you need to use professional tools.
- Adobe Creative Suite is the industry standard software that will provide you with solid foundations for a good print. Illustrator is best suited for creating one page documents comprised of text and line art, but if you’re including rasterized graphics such as a jpeg or tiff file, you may want to move to InDesign where you will get better file compression for your final output. Photoshop is designed for image editing and if you’re just printing a photograph, a .psd file will work, but be aware that Photoshop will not produce the crisp text that you will get from a page layout program, such as InDesign.
- Spell check, spell check, and spell check some more!
- Simple errors in spelling are an unnecessary embarrassment. Your spell check tool is just a button click away.
- Now of course spell check won’t catch the fact that you meant to type “read” instead of “lead” but that’s where proofreading comes in. Read your text forward and backward… literally. Reading text normally can be a problem because it’s too easy to become focused on the flow of the sentence rather than focusing on each individual word. Reading text backwards is a great way to reduce the risk of mistyped words.
- Check your phrasing by reading aloud, you’ll catch those little errors that your brain autocorrects when you read in your mind.
- Using a quirky font? Convert your text to paths.
- Supplying fonts isn’t always an easy solution if your font isn’t an open type or true type..
- Outlining text is quick, easy, and ensures that your text will appear exactly as you want it to.
- CMYK vs. RGB – Translating from the screen to print.
- Most modern printing methods are completed using the CMYK color profile.
- Your document may look great in RGB but it will look noticeably different after printing. Make sure that your text and images translate to CMYK before submitting the files to avoid costly reprints.
- Don’t forget to keep a RGB copy though! You may want to use that version for your screen graphic needs.
- Check your bleed settings.
- This will ensure that you do not have an unwanted thin white line around the edge of your print.
- More bleed is always better. We only need 1/8th” bleed but we’d always take more than less!
- Feel free to provide crop marks but leave the rest to us.
- Crop marks are an acceptable addition to your files because we want to make sure the product is cut to your specifications.
- Elements like color bars will slow the process because they’re not always set up correctly for the printer they will be sent through.
- Find out what type of file works best for your print company.
- PDF files are almost always the most preferable option because they’re easy to open on many computers.
- PDF files are also more stable than most other formats. Consider that your file will probably be emailed and moved around between multiple computers which can cause potential errors in formats like Photoshop and InDesign files.
- Provide high resolution files
- High resolution files will ensure that your prints show all the minor details of your page without pixelation.
- High resolution files also allow for more detailed editing in case the lighting needs to be adjusted or colors need to be corrected for optimal printing.
- Zip your files!
- Sending large image files and PDF’s can be problematic because of unreliable internet connections and data conversion.
- Zipping your project into a folder helps to ensure that every bit of data gets transferred through correctly and streamlines the process by removing unnecessary information.
- Know what kind of material you want to print on.
- There are many different types of paper available. Some vary in thickness and others vary in coating.
- You’re not just limited to printing on paper! We have some amazing equipment that can print on almost any flat surface such as wood or aluminum.
- Take some time to research the different substrates or call us and we can help you determine which material will fulfill the needs of your project.
Direct mail is one of the most time-tested forms of advertising. Think back before the internet, before television, …maybe even before radio (scary, I know). People would hear about your business through word of mouth, signs, or maybe a newspaper ad. Essentially, they had to go out of their way to find out about your products or services. Direct mail provided a convenient solution to this problem by delivering the ads right to the customers’ homes. It has remained a viable marketing method to this day. It’s extremely effective compared to a lot of online methods (you can ignore a web banner much more easily than a piece of mail in your hand).
As direct mail and online marketing developed side-by-side, a new problem became obvious. Online advertisements could easily be changed, updated, and directed at multiple audiences at the same time. Unfortunately for direct mail services, printing firms were limited by their equipment. Older printing presses had to use a time-consuming setup process to begin printing. This process was costly and did not lend itself to the fast-paced rate of new data we encounter every day. This is where digital printers truly shine. The setup is quick and affordable. The digital printing software also allows access to Variable Data Printing (VDP).
VDP gives the ability to change data between each print piece while on the press. This evens out the playing field between offline and online marketing and provides numerous possibilities for improving connectivity with your target audience:
- Each piece of a direct mail print can be addressed to a different name and location. This eliminates the need for mailing labels, giving your mail a more streamlined and professional appearance.
- Special offers, birthday promotions, and coupons can be sent out with each customer’s name. Imagine how much more sincere your direct mail will appear when they see their own name instead of “dear valued customer.”
- You can diversify your advertisement to impact individual groups of consumers within your demographic and psychographic groups. For example, if you were selling a minivan, you may want to market to two different groups: people who need a safe vehicle for family transportation and people who want a lot of storage space for recreation on the go. With variable data, you can send the same brochure format to both groups and have the message and images tailored to get the most positive response from each party.
There are many other great ways to use variable data printing to your advantage. Be creative and find new ways to establish a more personal repertoire with your customers. Provide each recipient with relevant data and content and the boost in customer response will be all the proof you need to see that VDP has earned its place in modern marketing.
The goal of print marketing is to deliver important data and a call-to-action to a target audience. You need to inform the readers about a particular product, service, or event and get them to take action to support your marketing goals. To ensure that your advertising dollars are spent well, keep these 8 important factors in mind:
- The design looks amazing!
- The strongest tool in advertising is visual appeal. Readers are busy. They are also constantly bombarded with information from every different media outlet. An interesting and visually stimulating advertisement can make it worth their time to notice your ad.
- The page flows smoothly.
- The advertisement should have an easily discernible flow. Images should lead the reader on a clearly defined journey through the page. The data should be a presented in natural progression; like a well-written story.
- The copy is clear and easy to read.
- The text and typography should be easy to read. Use the correct font, font size, and layout to make sure your message is clear and concise. Graphic design can be powerful and intricate art form but make sure the design does not complicate the message.
- The target audience is clearly defined.
- The effectiveness of an advertisement is also largely determined by who your target audience is and how you go about reaching them. If you create an ad with no particular target audience, it is difficult to provide a call-to-action unless you have a truly universally-appealing product or service. Try narrowing your scope and really catering to the needs of a particular group. They will appreciate the specialized attention and will be much more likely to respond in a positive way.
- The data is comfortable and familiar.
- Include content that immerses the reader in text and images they are comfortable reading. Not every reader wants specific technical details. Some prefer charts and graphs instead of reading data through a text paragraph. Others respond better to a well-composed narrative that reads like a novel.
- The reader is provided with incentives for taking action.
- You’ve made your call-to-action, but what motivation does the reader have to actually act? Provide them with the promise of a future reward. If you are selling business suits, don’t just talk about how nice they look. Explain that the suits will make the reader feel professional and confident. The goal is to show how your product or service will add value to someone’s life.
- The ad focuses on the customer, not the company.
- The advertisement should be promoting the reward for the customer and not the company behind the reward. For example: readers don’t care about the company that makes their motor oil, they care about the effect of the motor oil on their vehicle.
- The ad shows readers what your company stands for without distracting from the message.
- Your company has a mission statement and a core set of values that you worked hard to develop. These things should certainly be present in your advertisements in a subtle way. Don’t make your company the focus of the ad, but be certain that your company’s spirit shines through the ad.
Stay focused on these important elements and your print marketing will have a much better chance of effectively reaching your customers.