5 Elements of Successful Print Design

It’s no secret that I love print design. Despite the fact that the world of web design and ebooks is rapidly growing, it’s my belief that print isn’t dead (this article sums up my feelings about it). There is something special about getting a well-designed mailer, invitation, or brochure into your hands. People tend to digest and remember information better when it’s in print form.

That being said, the way you present the information you’ve been given is very important. Design is more than making pretty things; it’s organizing and presenting plain information in a visually pleasing way. Here are some elements of good print design:

5 elements of print design

Brand consistency

Whether you’re designing for yourself or for a company, store, or service, the document you’re designing should match the rest of the brand.

When I worked as a corporate designer, we outsourced some of our work because there were only 2-3 designers for the whole company. We were way too busy to do all of the work coming in. Most of the work we got back from our design firm didn’t match our branding. They’d use the wrong fonts, the wrong shade of red, or they’d leave the company website out of the footer. It ended up just making more work for use because we had to work to fix everything.

Not every brand is super fun to work with. You may hate the logo, colors, or brand elements but unless you are tasked with doing the branding too, you’re going to have to work with what’s there to make it consistent with everything else.

Kinfolk's branding is consistent across the board. Their signature look carries over from their books to magazines and workshop invites/materials.

Kinfolk's branding is consistent across the board. Their signature look carries over from their books to magazines and workshop invites/materials.



Strong typography

Typography is one of the more important parts of design in general. Don’t use more than 2-3 fonts. Make sure the fonts you choose have enough contrast. Thick/thin weights, serif/sans fonts, and larger/smaller sizes are easy ways to achieve contrast. Readability is also key. Pick fonts that are legible, especially when it comes to body copy. Most body copy is 10-12pt size and some fonts are more readable than others, even when viewed at the same size.

The packaging for Balzac's Atwood blend coffee uses a variety of typefaces at differing weights that work together to create strong typography for an overall awesome package design.

The packaging for Balzac's Atwood blend coffee uses a variety of typefaces at differing weights that work together to create strong typography for an overall awesome package design.

 

Consistent hierarchy

Hierarchy is crucial in design – it’s achieved by using elements such as typography, white space, and color. It helps guide the eye to view elements in the proper order.

Titles are meant to be read first, so they’re larger than the body text. Leaving white space around an element draws attention to it and establishes importance. Using color strategically also highlights important elements, such as making a callout, title, or box a different color.

This modern, minimalist design uses white space and a typeface with varying sizes and weights to establish visual hierarchy. 

This modern, minimalist design uses white space and a typeface with varying sizes and weights to establish visual hierarchy. 


Grid layout

Using a grid layout is important because it establishes order. Some find a grid layout restrictive, but a flexible grid system provides a solid foundation for your design. Using grids will produce a more visually pleasing design compared to a document designed without grids.

This is a fantastic example of a well-designed grid layout. The seven column design keeps things orderly while still providing flexibility.

This is a fantastic example of a well-designed grid layout. The seven column design keeps things orderly while still providing flexibility.

 

Use of photos and graphics

Photos and graphics are often an important part of telling the story in design. They should support the information and make it easier to digest as opposed to distracting the viewer from what’s important. Steer away from graphics or photos that don’t really have anything to do with the purpose of the document.

Martha Stewart's magazine always does a great job of combining photos of physical elements with typography in a beautiful, cohesive way.

Martha Stewart's magazine always does a great job of combining photos of physical elements with typography in a beautiful, cohesive way.

Together, these elements work together to create a strong print design whether it's a mailer, brochure, or packaging. What is your favorite example of a good print design? Is it a magazine? Book cover? Link to it in the comments below!