Due to their short life span, flyers can seem like such a fleeting part of our lives, and it’s easy to brush them aside as trivial pieces of information. But as a very basic and ubiquitous form of informational design, flyers tell a lot about the value the author places on the information presented, their understanding of informational hierarchy, and their sense of aesthetics.
The following are three of the most common flyer design mistakes I see on our bulletin boards around Bar Harbor. Their pervasiveness signals how easy it is to fall into their trap, but also how simple it can be to make yours stand up to the competition just by remembering these tips.
1. Violating the integrity of photos.
Few things betray the unprofessionalism of a flyer more than the presence of unsuitable photos. The two technical criteria that I care about the most in determining the acceptability of photos are resolution and proportion. With commercial printing of any shape, size, or volume, you’re going to come across the number “300 dpi” which sounds a little mystifying at first.
To put it simply, an inch on the screen does not look the same as an inch on paper. In general, images on the screen are shown at 72 pixels per inch while images on paper are printed at 300 dots per inch. That picture that’s 5 inches across on your computer screen (zoomed in to 100%) is actually only 360 pixels across, which means it’s going to be just a little over an inch on paper. Either that or it’ll be a very blurry 5-inch picture. An image needs to be at least 1,500 pixels across to come out acceptably as a 5-inch picture. The best way to ensure that your image is high-enough resolution is to use the original version straight off the camera. If your images are still too low-resolution, your camera settings might have them save as low-resolution to begin with.
There is another branch to preserving the integrity of a photograph—the proportion problem, or what I call, “Don’t place your photo next to a black hole.” When you change the width of your image at a different rate than you change the length, your image gets stretched out of proportion – tires become flat, faces grow longer, or trees become shorter as if they were approaching a black hole. Hold down shift while scaling your image to make sure that it stays in proportion. If scaling is not an option, cropping is your friend.
2. Evenly spreading out information.
This may seem a little counterintuitive, but it is not a good idea to uniformly disperse pieces of information on a page. What do a rock garden, a piece of music, and a good story have in common? They contain emphases and dynamics to appeal to the human brain, and flyers work much the same way. This is what hierarchy of information means to me: It almost doesn’t matter what the most important piece of information is – so long as there’s a focal point and an organic flow of information that follows, I’m ensuring higher likelihood of retention by all readers. Turn your information into dots and see if they lead you through a pleasant curve or if they take you all over the page. Even a just straight line is better than risking loss of interest with the latter.
3. The rainbow throwing up on your flyer.
In the interest of grabbing the attention of passers-by, many flyer designers give into the temptation of splattering all the colors, all the fonts, and all the clip arts in the world on the same page. Not only does this drive people away with its information overload, it interferes with legibility itself. This is the truth of “less is more”: When in doubt, stick to two fonts, two colors, and two images. If you prioritize straightforward communication, all else will follow. Heck, all else will usually end up looking much better that way anyway.
Bonus: When choosing your fonts, avoid Times New Roman, Comic Sans, Arial, Papyrus, Copperplate, and Corsiva. Invest a little bit of time picking a font that truly reflects who you are.
This is a guest post from Jill Lee of Jillybean Designs.