There will be times when your product will require a touch of creative flair, but you don’t have the resources and budget to have it designed by a professional. By using your good sense and eye for detail and following a few basic guidelines, you can create your own effective promotional items in-house.
Firstly, the issue of copyright
One of the most important issues – legally and ethically – to be aware of when creating your own promotional material is copyright. Copyright infringement occurs if you ‘borrow’ someone else’s work without expressed legal permission. The concept of ‘changing it 10 per cent’ to avoid infringement is inaccurate since the main consideration is whether or not the original work is recognisable in the recreation. So be aware of the facts about copyright and if in doubt – don’t!
There are two categories of graphics and photographs available for your use. ‘Copyright protected’ material covers the majority of works and needs to be licensed and paid for each time. ‘Royalty-free’ material is paid for only once and can be used multiple times. Investing in quality royalty-free clip-art and photographic catalogues can be a great resource for DIY in-house designers as well as for professionals.
So you want to create a promotional item for your business? Perhaps a menu for your restaurant, a price list for your store, or a flyer of your company’s specials? You understand that even these basic items serve a purpose in relating the image and message of your business to others. but where do you start?
Whether you invest in a specialised package of images relevant to your industry, or use an image bank that came with a software product, you can achieve maximum effect by ensuring relevance and continuity.
Use images that are relevant to the message of the promotional item – don’t just fill the space or ‘pretty it up’ as this will detract from the overall impact. If you are using more than one image per page, try to maintain consistency by using images that have the same drawing style or feel. If you create many in-house items with clip-art, then pick out several images in a similar style and use them repeatedly as an extension of your branding.
Never trade legibility and ease-of-reading for trendiness or hype. Remember that the purpose of your promotional material is to communicate a message – all other elements are there to support, not detract, from this.
For most layouts, one well-chosen font is more effective than several competing ones. There are many fonts available so make sure you use one that visually supports the message you want to get across. In other cases, two contrasting fonts – a serif (Times or Garamond) and a sans serif (Arial or Helvetica) can work well together for heading and body text.
White space or ‘breathing space’ is essential. It’s easy to believe that all space should be filled with information to get your money’s worth. But if the page is too crowded and text-heavy it achieves the opposite effect by confusing the reader.
The way you use white space can improve comprehension and speed of reading – and it promotes a more professional image.
Like other elements of design, your use of colour should be carefully thought out. Colour is a great way to attract the eye and draw attention to a particular area, but it should be used with subtlety and purpose.
If you already have other items which have been professionally designed – business cards or a letterhead – use these as a starting point in terms of the placement and size of your logo, typefaces etc. You can also ask your graphic designer to create templates and guidelines so that creating your in-house items can be a powerful extension of your visual image and branding.
If you haven’t had anything professionally designed, start looking through magazines and other people’s promotional material and figure out what you like and what works for you.
So give it a try and remember to have fun!