November 18, 2014 | Lauren Nelson

Designing Print Materials that Rock Your Digital Branding

Designing Print Materials to Rock Your Digital Branding

Over the last decade, Internet marketing has come to the forefront of most businesses’ marketing strategies, but that doesn’t mean the Internet is the only place your branding appears. When you start designing print materials, all the focus on your web presence may leave you wondering how your digital branding should translate into print.

While digital branding is fundamental, there are lots of times you need print materials to make a great real-world impression. Innovative print design is a force to be reckoned with – while web pages are often skimmed in less than 15 seconds, visually engaging print materials can live in offices and homes for years.

Think of all those great concert posters – they were originally printed to sell tickets. Unlike the ever-changing web, print makes a perpetual impact.

Using Templates vs. Designing Print Materials from Scratch

While you can find pre-made templates free or for sale online, I’d highly encourage you to consider hiring a professional graphic designer if you don't have someone in-house. Templates are generic, created to cover many different businesses, and often have poor-quality graphics when printed.

A custom design created specifically for your business will help your company stand out from the crowd, but more importantly, it will look like it came from your business. Having visually cohesive web and print materials is key to building a recognizable brand. Every business is different, so think about whether the design source you choose will fit your specific needs.

There are a few thing to remember with any print project, especially if you're more comfortable with web design. First, remember to use CMYK color mode for print. Also, save your designs as a vector-based PDF for crisp results. Finally, make sure your text is embedded or outlined in the final file, in case the printer's computer doesn't have the same fonts installed.

Business Card Design

Business Card DesignThere’s no print material more essential than a business card. No matter how small your company is, a well-designed business card will give you instant professional credibility and lend legitimacy to your business.

In the digital age, business cards aren't about keeping track of people anymore, but they're still necessary—as a symbol of who you are professionally.

When it comes to reflecting your digital branding in a business card, the rule of thumb is to keep it simple. There's not much space you can use, so stick to the most basic, recognizable elements of your digital branding - color, typography, and core design elements.

Just include your name, title, company, and whatever contact information you want to share. You don't want to make your business card look hectic and cluttered with too much information (Pager number? Foursquare profile?), so present a clean, strong impression with only the most relevant information and leave it at that.

Business Card Design Tips:

  • Use the color scheme from your digital branding.
  • It's a small space, so try and limit your color scheme to 4 colors.
  • For better impact, create front and back designs.
  • Limit yourself to between 1 and 3 fonts.
  • Know the difference between the "safe area," "bleed area," and "trim area."
  • Don’t use borders; they draw attention to cutting errors and wear around the edges of the card.

Printing Business Cards:
Finding a local printing company to print your business cards is a smart choice. In person, you’ll be able to view a proof and make sure that you’re getting what you need before you make the investment. No one wants to have hundreds or even thousands of cards printed, only to notice a typo or "janky" image.

If you’d rather order online, websites like are convenient and easy, and you can upload your own design or choose from hundreds of pre-made templates. Depending on the weight of the card stock you choose, 100 basic business cards will run you from $7.99 -$24.99 online. Don’t forget to read website reviews before you buy print materials online! Not all printing sites are created equal. Quality and timeliness will vary depending on the site you choose.

Stationery Design

Stationery DesignIf your business requires formal correspondence with clients, you probably need stationery. A custom letterhead and matching envelope will reinforce your brand to the client, but you don't want the design to distract from the content of the letter. Simple and organized is best for stationery - don’t over-design it!

Most business correspondence these days leads to follow-up action online, whether it's to pay a bill or to research the company on their website. When your digital branding is reflected in your letterhead, people will know they've come to the right place when they find your website.

Stationery Design Tips:

  • Use the color scheme from your digital branding.
  • Letterhead is formal, so you'll probably want to use your logo as the main design element.
  • If you're including contact information in the header, keep it to one major point of contact (like a web address); otherwise, include it in the footer.
  • You can add a divider to break up your logo from the rest of the document.

Printing Stationery: also offers custom letterhead and envelope printing through their site, and you can upload your own complete design. In this case, however, there's not much harm in choosing one of their design templates and personalizing it to best suit your needs. Pricing for letterheads and envelopes are separate, costing around $44 per set of 100 letterheads and around $39 per set of 100 envelopes.

Brochure Design

Brochure DesignThe old tri-fold brochure is still alive and kicking. Lots of businesses need to use them frequently, including restaurants, attractions, and venues.

Other businesses print brochures specifically for an event, program, or premium service - but whatever the purpose, they're an easy way to present potential customers with valuable information about your business in a small, portable package.

Brochures are kind of like blog posts; they can include a lot of information, but they have one main conversion goal. Don't forget that you want people to act on what they read, so be sure to include a call-to-action and make your contact information prominent.

They're also like blog posts in that the headline is the key to getting people to read them, so make yours informative, eye-catching, and relevant. You need to find a balance between text and imagery; try not to make your readers' eyes cross with too much copy, or stuff in so many pretty pictures that there's no real message.

Be critical when choosing your graphics and photographs for the brochure, and make sure that they reinforce your message rather than simply fill space. Photos of people are particularly effective at attracting attention.

Brochure Design Tips:

  • Use the color scheme from your digital branding.
  • Limit yourself to about 4 colors, and use each color consistently throughout the brochure.
  • Break up long paragraphs into bullet points.
  • Make the brochure easy to skim with headers, sub-headers, and captions.
  • Use high-quality (300 dpi) graphics to give readers a visual break from text blocks.
  • Keep the design simple; too much information will clutter and hide your original message.
  • Choose an easy-to-read serif/sans serif typeface for your copy and one or two additional fonts for headings.

Printing Brochures:
For the best print quality, it’s preferable to have your brochures printed locally. You’ll want to make sure your graphics and text are displaying correctly on your proof print. If you want to order them online, 50 trifold brochures will cost you about $27 from

Booklet Design

Booklet DesignBooklets are an upgraded, swankier version of the classic tri-fold brochure. The bound format gives them a classy look, which is more appropriate for some businesses.

Booklets are a beautiful way to show off your branding - although they're meant to be informative, I find that their purpose is less about giving information, and more about influencing the reader to feel a certain way about a brand.

When it comes to layout and content, booklets have similar guidelines to brochures. Keep it clear, balanced, and legible! The one exception is that while brochures are usually focused on one conversion goal, booklets often have a broader scope.

Booklet Design Tips:

  • Use the color scheme from your digital branding.
  • Limit your scheme to 4 colors, and use each color consistently throughout the brochure.
  • Use large, cohesive images throughout the design.
  • Try and limit yourself to one paragraph of text for each 2-page spread. Remember, booklets are more about brand experience.
  • Be creative with your typography, but limit your font choices to 3.

Printing Booklets:
Booklets are not easy to print; they should be printed locally. Because they include multiple pages, they can require trial and error to get the print right. I’ve found FedEx to be great resource for booklet printing. While it's a little pricey, FedEx will print, trim, and staple your booklets with care and quality. Vistaprint does not currently offer booklet printing.

Poster Design

Poster DesignPosters allow you to express big ideas in print media, so the design can be as simple or complex as you want. Posters are fun, because they don’t necessarily have to be cohesive with the rest of your branding. Posters are great for advertising events or businesses in a local area, and they can also be given out as freebies.

The purpose of a poster is to convey information through text, imagery, or both. First, find a focus - behind each poster is a core visual message or idea. Then, take your copy and break down the text into an aesthetically pleasing arrangement. You’ll need to know the hierarchy of information in order of importance; this will determine the visual order and size of the text.

Poster Design Tips:

  • Choose colors that express your idea.
  • Be creative with your typography, but keep your font choices to 4 or fewer.
  • Have fun, but be detail-oriented.
  • Balance the composition. You can use a grid if needed to make sure your type is in the right place.
  • Think about how the viewer’s eye will bounce from one element to another.
  • Take a break from your poster, and then come back. You’ll be amazed at the mistakes you missed when your eyes were tired.

If you need a lot of posters, I’d definitely recommend a local print shop. At a local shop, you’ll not only be able to proof the work before the final print, but you’ll be able to pick the specific paper stock that you want, which really changes the look and feel of the poster. If you just need one or a few, Vistaprint offers poster printing. They offer prints in sizes ranging from 11" x 17" to 24" x 36". A single poster from Vistaprint will cost you $3.50-$14.00 depending on your size.

Print media is still going strong, adding tangibility to the marketing and design world. While anything and everything on the Internet can disappear into cyberspace, print remains. Paired with your web presence, print media solidifies your brand identity, and readily engages consumers. It’s important for companies who want to be well rounded to implement print into their branding strategy. Although we have new technology, well-designed pieces of print media just don’t go out of style.

As long as you're at it...

Why not make sure your social media profiles reflect your branding too?

Social Media Image Sizes Guide and Templates


Lauren Nelson

Lauren Nelson

As one of VIEO's graphic designers, Lauren Nelson works on in-house and client design projects like ebooks, infographics, and websites. Though illustration is her favorite, she also enjoys layout design, including magazine layouts and book covers.

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