How to Design for Any Media

Brochures, stickers, letterhead (and blog posts and posters and…)

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4 steps to a successful desktop publishing project

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In this section we will focus solely on using desktop publishing software and guidelines to design pieces from scratch, as opposed to concentrating on the writing of copy for them, which is covered more in depth in the copywriting chapters. We will also not get too detailed into graphic design and its intricacies.

1. Brainstorm

As we also mention in the chapter on copywriting, and similar to the process of drafting a website, any good printed medium – be it a brochure, newsletter etc. – starts with you jotting down some ideas on paper. At a minimum you should figure out the answers to these questions:

  • What is this for?
    • Will this be a brochure given to clients to give them an overview over your services?
    • Will this be a newsletter for your donor base?
    • Will this be a flyer for an event? Will the event be a one-off, seasonal or will it recur?
  • Who will this be given to? (Who is your audience?)
    • Members
    • Donors
    • Volunteers
  • Given both of the first few points, what do you want to get across at a minimum?

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2. Information you should always include

  • Name of your group/organization
  • Logo if you have one; if not make your name stand out by choosing a larger, different font (see also details regarding logo design)
  • Postal address and phone number (set up a Google Voice number for this and route it to another phone number)
  • Website address/URL (if you have one; see also the section on website design and hosting)
  • Email address (preferably your email address; if you don’t have a domain registered or you don’t have an email for your group/organization, you can register a free email address YOURGROUPNAME@… or YOURNAME@… instead)

Obviously, if you are designing a sticker, you don’t have the space for all of this. However, unless you have funds to blow and are making up things as random tchotchkes rather than using them more strategically, at a minimum you should put your website URL on the sticker somewhere, too.

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3. Carry your look/brand across mediums

In the copywriting section we talk a lot about keeping your message consistent. This goes for the way your pieces look and feel as well. The technical term for this is branding.

Why can you always tell it’s McDonald’s or Nike? Because these big corporations have done a great job keeping the way they present themselves consistent. If they switch to something else, this “rebranding” is usually a big deal and planned with much care.

What this means for you: before you even put your mouse to the screen trying to make up a brochure, think about

  • what fonts you like to use (one “special” one for headings and one “normal” one for body text), preferably related to your text logo, if you have one
  • what colors you like (black and white don’t count here) – pick one or two that go well together, like blue and orange

We cover colors more in depth in the design section. If you are unsure about fonts, how to pick and install a font, take a look at this document.

4. A few general points

When preparing your text, keep it short and sweet. The reader should be able to grasp the main points by simply glancing through the piece. If you bury your messages in dense text, the reader may simply decide that it will be too much work to read your brochure and just throw it away.

  • Speak directly to your audience.
  • Use headings and subheadings to group ideas and help the reader focused on items that are of interest to him or her.
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms, even if you are sending the piece to people who “should get it”. Use clear language that everyone can understand.

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