Printed collateral: balancing copy and design to create killer content

If your collateral is just one of the 10,000 advertising messages that the average person sees every day, how are you going to cut through? There are digital options, of course, social media marketing, banner ads and email campaigns to consider – but traditional print advertising is alive and well, too. After all, while 80% of emails linger unloved and unopened in overflowing inboxes, 80% of traditional mail is opened

Some research has even shown that readers are more likely to pay attention to print (38%) vs digital (25%) advertising, find print (39%) more interesting than digital (28%) and say that it is easier to understand (52%) than its digital equivalent (37%) 

So in this piece of (yes, we know) digital content, we’re going to celebrate the powers of print and tell you how we, here at Soap, balance copy and design to create killer collateral for our clients.

It may sound obvious, but copy and design need to work together. We like to think of it as collaborative content. There’s no point having a beautiful layout if no-one can figure out how to actually buy the product, and vise versa, nothing will kill a perfect headline faster than some shoddy stock photography. So while there are pros and cons of starting with one or the other, we find a collaborative approach to content creation, where both elements can evolve to compliment the other as the project progresses, usually results in the smoothest process and the most effective outcome. 

If a client comes to us with loads of copy for a small leaflet or ad, we’re not afraid to pick up the phone and have a chat about why that many words may not work. We have even been known toquickly mock up designs with too much copy on to show the need for an edit. This can save our clients’ both time and money by avoiding unnecessary rounds of redesigning as the project progresses.

But how much copy is too much copy? Most successful printed collateral can be split into three sections to follow the rule of thirds

• Top third: hero image or headline – what is it?

• Centre third: a few short, snappy USPs – why do I want it?

• Bottom third: a clear call to action – what should I do about it? 

Ensuring that copy clearly and succinctly answers these questions and are designed within these spatial boundaries will result in collateral that looks great and clearly conveys key messages. If in doubt: edit! As the saying goes, less is more.

That said, there are exceptions to every rule and great printed collateral will always take the intended size and location into account and be designed to meet the audience where they are. For example, large format posters need to be designed to be viewed from a distance with probably a very short dwell time and so may only include ‘top third’ content. Whereas A4 brochures may be able to go into more detail on ‘centre third’ content, since the format is hand held and more easily digested. An A5 leaflet from the same campaign could include the same USPs as the A4 brochure, but switch to bullet points rather than block copy to meet the needs of the smaller size. 

Every piece of collateral is unique so we make sure we approach them as such. For instance, nothing below thigh height on an exhibition banner will be noticed at a busy event and legal compliance requires a financial organisation to pack loads of detail into even the smallest leaflet. There are loads of super specific size and location needs that we have learnt over the years of working across multiple sectors – the key is to make sure the content matches the audience

No matter the size of the printed collateral, when we’re creating multiple types of collateral for one campaign, we make sure that there is content (i.e. design and copy) consistency across the campaign. Flex your content to meet different collateral needs but make sure you maintain a unified campaign look, feel, tone of voice and set of key messages.

Remember that in print there is no endless scrolling so with a finite amount of time and space to play with, your information hierarchy needs to be on point. Western audiences will consume collateral from top to bottom and left to right so positioning of key messages should reflect this.

Here at Soap, we love getting into the nitty gritty of layout, colour, form and imagery – but we know that great copy is a vital ingredient, too. As designers, we can elevate copy from ‘words on a page’ to content with real power and purpose to create printed collateral that really packs a punch. And we think that’s exactly what our clients deserve.

If you are working on a campaign with a printed element, why not give us a call to see how our team can take your collateral from average to amazing?

Are you ready to start your next creative project?

Email us or give us a call on 01275 400 777