Tips to Design for Print

5 Tips When Designing for Print — Or Having a Production Studio Do It For You.

Convinced that print is dying? Don’t be so sure.

  • 82% of consumers trust print ads the most when making a marketing decision
  • 95% of people under 25 currently read magazines
  • 80% of consumers act on direct mail advertisements
  • 92% of 18-23 year olds say it’s easier to read print than digital content
  • 400% increase in effectiveness of online campaigns that combine print and digital ads


The numbers don’t lie; print still has its purpose in marketing today — big time. However, the increasing dominance of digital raises the standards for print design even higher. Consumer expectations are less forgiving than ever, so low-quality, unengaging visuals simply won’t cut it. In fact, they could ruin you.

What Makes a Good Print Design?

Print design is all around us — seriously. From shopping bags and restaurant menus to trucks, billboards, and bus stops. We live in a world that’s completely saturated by visuals trying to get our attention and influence our behaviors. So, what sets some of them apart from all the others?

Consistency, uniqueness, adaptability, eye-catching, emotion-driven — these are all elements that are used to describe effective campaigns. At tradeshows, print design has the ability to stop foot traffic and inspire conversation. In health systems, it has the ability to offer reassurance and education to anxious patients and their loved ones. But the more creative we become in how and where we utilize these print designs, the more aware we have to be about all the little things that allow us to bring them to life.

The truth is, a great design starts with a smooth design process. It means knowing everything that makes handoffs and delivery as seamless as possible. Formats, colors, specs, etc. — a lot of marketers are in the dark when it comes to the technicalities. They instead choose to rely on their design teams to figure it out. And we get that; that’s why studios like ours exist. BUT what really helps cool concepts become extraordinary designs is when marketers actually know what makes the process successful too.

We have 5 easy examples to get you started…

5 Things Marketers Need to Know When Designing for Print vs. Digital

  1. Separate Your Files
    If you have a digital design file already created, it doesn’t mean you’re ready to go to print — even if they’re the exact same deliverable. A lot of marketers aren’t aware that these files are prepared very differently by designers. And this is because they’re treated differently during set up and while exporting. So if the only design you have is for digital, plan for some extra instruction and prep time to ensure your designer can get you what you need to go to print.

  2. Know Your Colors
    Ever have a great design that as soon as it hits the publication, it comes out a different shade or too dark? No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you; colors can change from the screen to paper, and vice versa. Here’s why: digital designs work with Red, Green, Blue (RGB) lights, so that as you add more of one, you get closer to white on the color spectrum. Print, on the other hand, is working with inks, so as you add, you get closer to black. They’re completely different processes — so in turn, you have completely different values.

    When designing for print, you’ll use CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and K — which represents black), and these values are measured in percentages. Computer screens show color using RGB values, which are based on the three colors of light, or a six-digit code known as the HEX value, which represents all possible permutations of these three colors. And knowing the difference is going to make the difference in getting the actual color you want no matter what you’re designing for.

  3. Understand Your Dimensions
    Scaling is not an easy task with print — which is why dimensions matter. Unlike digital which offers a lot more freedom and flexibility in modifying dimensions, print has to fit into pre-determined paper sizes. So if your design was originally created for another placement, it may not fit the space you’re given, nor will it translate well if you try to force it to. Know your limitations and make sure your designs team has all the files they need to adapt.

    Another helpful reminder: when it comes to print, the asset size should always be specified as width first then height (i.e., 8.5” wide x 11” high).

  4. Consider Placements
    Speaking of placements, it’s important to consider where your design is going before you start designing for it. If it’s a multi-page spread in a magazine or company brochure, consider how the centerfold will affect certain text and images within the design. If it’s for a tradeshow booth, think about which way the signage will face or how large certain elements have to be to be visible and easy to read Having a design expert who understands these nuances is invaluable, but knowing the right questions to ask publications and printers, as well as being as transparent as you can about these details to your designer is just as important to make the process as efficient and effective as possible.

  5. Export Like an Expert
    Everyone knows the negative impact a low-quality image can have on a first impression. And for that reason, we have what’s called “High Quality Print” format. This layout helps the printer know exactly how to print your design, incorporating special markers to ensure proper alignment, trimming, and color values.

    For example, Crop Marks communicate an axis that allows cuts to be made without losing any aspects of the design, while Bleed gives the printer a little extra leeway while cropping to ensure the color still meets the edge of the page. Center Marks provide annotations that describe the geometry size on the design to help guide alignment. Each of these items are key to ensuring an issue-free printing process, and your design should incorporate all of them.

The print process can be as quick and seamless as digital if you have the right people on your team. To learn more about partnering with Assemble for all of your design needs, contact us today.

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