Planning a (virtual) event? Here are a few useful aspects to consider in order to create easy-to-understand flyer designs.
When designing a flyer, whether it be for a concert, a fundraiser, a tournament, or any other kind of event, it’s important to keep some aspects in mind. In the world of design, there are no right or wrong answers. However, if you follow some of these basic ideas, you’ll have a foundation on how to approach design with confidence.
Where Is this Going to be Delivered?
This is always the first question I ask a client. It’s important to know where the end product is going to be displayed. Whether it’s in print or digital, knowing this is vital.
For example, if you’re creating an 11×17 print flyer, you can enjoy more detail and utilize smaller elements that will still be legible up close, while utilizing the remainder of the real estate for larger elements like typography. If you’re creating for a platform like Instagram, your real estate is much more limited. You’ll need to be cognizant of how viewers will see it, and design with this in mind. In a lot of cases, it’ll be deployed on multiple formats. If that’s the case, it’s important to find a happy medium. I’ll speak more on this later.
Hierarchy of Information — Who, What, Where, and When
All too often, designers fail to optimize their designs for the viewer. In some cases, it comes down to explaining to a client why a certain piece of information shouldn’t be included. Ten years ago, it made sense to put a venue’s address or website on the flyer. But now that events increasingly promote online, that supplemental information is usually attached on something like a Facebook post or posted directly on the venue’s page.
When approaching flyer design, I often try to center it around a main visual element. This can either be a main photo, illustration, or a mix of design elements. Ultimately, it integrates with the rest of the information, but you can move it into other formats and resize it for different avenues of deployment as its own element. Typically, this will include some sort of main text element, like the headlining band or the name of the event. It’s usually good practice to have that main visual element and the name of the event integrated. This immediately tells the viewer the “who” or “what” right off the bat.
Once you’ve established what this main graphic is going to be, then you’ll want to consider what the second most important piece of info will be. This will take up the next important amount of real estate after the main element. This could be the date (“when”), the venue/location (“where”), or the supporting artists (“who”). It’ll be up to your discretion as to what is more important.
Once you have your main element and secondary information working, then you can add your final details. Most often, this includes pricing, logos, or vendor information. Here’s where you’ll have to figure out if it absolutely needs to be included. It’s best to have more of a minimalist approach rather than a crowd of information. Too much information is confusing for the viewer.
Considering Platforms and Formats and How It Translates
As I talked about before, event artwork will most often be displayed anywhere from an 11×17 printed flyer, to a square 1080×1080 graphic on Instagram or Facebook, to a 1080×1920 Instagram Story format, and even to wide Facebook banners. These all require different dimensions and color profiles (RGB vs. CMYK).
Whichever one you’re designing for, make sure you set up your files appropriately. Ensure your final deliverable is optimized for that format. Many events typically want a version for most major social media sites. If you set up the file correctly from the start (i.e. the correct dimensions and pixels per inch), this will save you headaches down the road. Usually I’ll start with the largest format — an 11×17 — and downscale from there.
It’s also a good practice to have a high-quality file in case a client requests it for shirts, banners, or turning it into a motion graphic. Although this is usually discussed in the beginning, it has happened on many occasions, and having it on hand is a true time saver.
Simple Tips for Deliberating on Design
1. Designing Your Main Element
I’ve found that if you can, create the graphic as its own entity. If it’s a photo, fit it into a shape. If it’s an illustration, have it in a contained space. The idea is to be able to move it around to different formats and for it not to be married with all the other elements.
2. Impactful Imagery — The Cornerstone of Getting Noticed
A lot of the time, it’ll come down to Illustration vs. Photography vs. a Mixed Design. Depending on the event, the client might provide you with photos. You can, in turn, create cutouts or illustrations based on those. This is a great time for research. See what similar events have designed. However, sometimes what everyone else is doing isn’t always best. There’s a lot of bad design out there. For example, flyers for karaoke nights (they always have pictures of microphones).
If that’s the case, it may be more impactful to do something different. This is the part where you really get to be an artist, and it’ll ultimately be up to your own personal sensibilities.
3. The Key for Color
Generally, I want to keep the main colors to no more than four. I wouldn’t count every conceivable color in a gradient, but I mean the overall colors you utilize. If you’re using a color photograph, pull colors out of it. Experiment with pulling out some of the main colors and applying them to the fonts, the background, and other elements.
Sometimes subdued colors are better than saturated colors, but that just depends on what you’re going for. It should be contingent on the mood you’re trying to convey. The key will be contrast. Make sure your information is clear and doesn’t match the value of the background too closely. An easy trick is to desaturate the image. Then, if the important information is lost, you’ll need to make adjustments to create more contrast. Don’t be afraid to pull color palettes you like from other resources, as well.
4. Typography Dos and Don’ts
A big rule of thumb for me is to not use more than three fonts in a flyer. If you find the right fonts, you won’t need more. This process of trial and error can be one of the more consuming parts of the operation. I typically pair my main element with a “decorative” font. Look for something like a handwritten script, or a distressed wood type, or a futuristic font. Find something that can work as a title, but you wouldn’t use for general info.
When it comes to picking fonts for secondary and general information, I find it incredibly helpful to pick a font within its own family. If you have a font with thin, italic, regular, bold, and bold italic versions, you’ll have a lot more versatility to work with without having to necessarily add more fonts. Pick fonts that are legible when small and don’t kern them too close. Also don’t mess with the height-to-width proportion of fonts. Typically, these font designers know best, so leave all those things alone. Nothing looks more unprofessional than disproportionally stretched fonts.
We’re going for maximum legibility. When it comes to fonts, it’s paramount to help the viewer ingest the information quickly. If you don’t do this well, they won’t want to continue reading.
Once you get all your elements working together in beautiful harmony, now you can start adding some fun stuff.
This is a great time to play with things like near-transparent background patterns or gradients. I like to add vignette overlays to a lot of flyers because it adds a bit of depth. Another all-time favorite is having texture overlays. I also think having something like a distressed paper overlay gives the artwork twice as much personality. It brings it to life — making it live in the real world, not just in a computer. Paper is my favorite, but experimenting with overlays like metal, concrete, wood, and much more, can open a whole world of new exciting effects.
Remember, less is more. It can be more effective at ten percent opacity as opposed to fifty percent, but it’s important to trust your own judgement.
Give It a Fresh Look
Sometimes you have to walk away, and then come back to get a fresh perspective. It has helped me countless times. If you walk to the kitchen and come back, you may notice a glaring issue you failed to see up close. This is a great approach when it comes to anything creative. If the information is clear and easy to digest, after that, there are no right or wrong answers.
It’s also always helpful to just brush up on trends and put your own spin on them. If you follow some of these basic approaches, you’ll be on your way to creating highly effective flyers.
Cover image via TLP Media Works.
Learn more about designing for print here:
- A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Gate Fold Flyers in Adobe InDesign
- PPI vs. DPI: Demystifying the World of Online and Print Resolution
- 25 Excellent Flyer Designs to Inspire Business Owners
- What Is CMYK? Spot Color and Process Color in Print Designs
- Print Advertising: What to Include in Your Company Brochure