How to Develop an Effective Flyer Design

August 19, 2016 - 25 minutes read

sticky flyer design

This is the fourth article of a 7-step training series about flyer marketing. Have you read the previous article How to Find Affordable Flyer Printing Options?

Now that you have figured out who you want to target with flyers, the next step is to develop a killer flyer design that appeals to your target market. A flyer contains two major elements: design and content. Design refers to the aesthetic or overall appearance of the flyer. You’ll want to be strategic with your flyer design, and select colors, fonts, patterns, layouts, etc. that will catch the eye of your ideal customer. Once you get their attention visually, your flyer content (the information you are providing) should work to get your prospects interested or even close the deal. The content could be a story, offer/discount, educational information, images or other creative ideas. In this post, I’ll explain how to develop both the design and content for a successful flyer campaign.

Developing engaging flyer content

I usually start by developing the content before worrying about the flyer design. After all, the flyer design will be affected by the amount of information you include and the way you want to display that information. The content is basically the meat and potatoes of your campaign. It is what ultimately leads someone to either consider your product/service or throw your flyer away!

1. Figure out the purpose of the flyer

The first thing you need to consider when developing content is the overall purpose of your advertising campaign. There are a lot of different ways to use a flyer. You could use it as a general awareness campaign and simply tell your audience about who you are and what you do. You could also advertise an upcoming event or a single product/service. Maybe you just want to get people into the door quickly by giving a special offer or deal.

So how do you choose the purpose and content of your first flyer? The first thing to consider is whether or not your flyer audience knows your business yet. Be honest with yourself here. Fewer people than you think know your business’ name (we often overestimate how well known we are). If you have rarely or never before reached out to this area, think about this flyer as your first impression. Your main purpose is to introduce your business, make a good impression and set the tone for future marketing touches.             

What do you want people to think of when they hear your business’ name? If you are a high-end restaurant that serves the best food in town, you may want to share your story in a way that reflects your premium service. Tell your audience about the restaurant’s beginnings, include a biography of your best chef or list the awards you have won. Listing a deal or coupon on the flyer wouldn’t be consistent with the image of a high-end service provider. On the other hand, an affordable, family restaurant may want to lead with a coupon since that is consistent with their business model.

The purpose of your flyer campaign will be different if you have already been advertising to this very same area with online ads, radio/TV ads, signs, direct mail, etc. If this flyer is one of many other touches, you can assume that you have already begun a “relationship” with some of your audience. That’s great! You have more flexibility with your flyer; you can be as focused or creative as you want to be since many residents have already heard of you. Just make sure that this marketing piece makes sense in your overall marketing plan and matches the business image you initially put out there. Furthermore, if you are running another advertising campaign at the same time, you will want your flyer content to match the other campaign for the sake of consistency.                                   

Content is King                                     

When we create a flyer, we like to use a “content marketing” approach on at least one side of our clients’ flyers. The purpose of content marketing is to provide FREE valuable and relevant information to your audience to attract, engage and retain their attention. By providing free value, you will ultimately gain their respect, trust and, in many cases, their business! On flyers, this may look like a How-To-Guide or something else educational. For example, a restaurant could include a food menu and a gym could include a step-by-step exercise tutorial. Try to provide information that someone would want to hold onto and perhaps even post on their refrigerator. Over time, your flyer will get many more views and may even be shared with others.

2. Write the copy or text

writing marketing copyOnce you have decided on the overall purpose of your flyer, you will want to create the copy (written script). Once again, you will want to create messaging that speaks to your audience. Is your audience well educated or not? Young or old? Male or female? White collar or blue collar? The “voice” you use in your copy should speak to the demographic you have chosen.

As a general rule, people in our society are busy and distracted, so make sure your messaging is clear and brief. Don’t overwhelm your audience with long paragraphs of information; this also doesn’t look good visually. I like to use bullet points to display information in a very readable way. Furthermore, you will want to to explain to your audience why they should use your product/service (your value proposition). Show your value by telling them about the benefits that will help them, not the features of your product/service. In other words, instead of just describing your product/service, explain how your product/service will help your customer save time, money, effort, etc. It’s all about bringing up emotions. The more you can suggest that you are the solution to one of their pain points, the better.

3. Strategically position your copy

positioning content in your flyer design

I’d suggest making a simple sketch on some paper to plan out the structure of the flyer. Remember that hierarchy of information matters. In other words, place your most important content at the top of the flyer! You may only get 5 seconds or less of attention. Make it count. The headline will likely be the first thing that catches your prospect’s attention and often affects whether or not they will continue to read. You want your prospect to identify with your headline and/or be intrigued by it. It works to ask a question or bring up a “pain point” in your headline that will elicit an emotional response. Most importantly, make sure the headline is not too vague or confusing. Check out this useful article about writing headlines to learn more about crafting a killer headline.

When it comes to the body of your flyer, PRIORITIZE YOUR CONTENT. Try to fit all the most important information on the front side of the flyer and make the different parts of your message flow. I’d recommend having another member of your team read over the copy to double check that it makes sense. Even better, find a friend or contact who fits the description of your “ideal customer” to some extent (someone who is the right age, gender, income level, etc) and ask them for feedback on your copy. Make sure to make your contact information clear as well.

4. Include an Effective Call-To-Action

Call-To-ActionThe most important part of your content is the Call-To-Action (CTA). This is the message that tells your ideal customers what to do. Do you want them to call you? Attend your event? Bring in the coupon on the flyer? Don’t make them guess. Tell your audience clearly and concisely what they should do and why. Hopefully, you have already explained in the general content your value proposition (the why). Now, entice them to take action. It often works to create urgency for your CTA by including a deadline or temporary incentive (i.e. “Call us by ___ and get ____”) .

Developing the flyer design

Once you have developed your content, you are ready to begin the flyer design. Some of you may be thinking, “I’m not an artist and I don’t want to be.” In that case, I’d suggest you hire a freelance graphic designer to create your flyer design. If you don’t know where to find one, you can find an affordable designer on Upwork, an online community that connects businesses to professional freelancers.

If you want to DIY, you will first want to find the right design software to use. Most professional designers use Adobe Creative Suite software for their work, especially Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe InDesign. You can set up a monthly subscription for one or all of these programs, or instead use a more limited but free design program called Canva. YouTube and Lynda.com are great places to find tutorials on how to use this design software.

Now, let’s talk about the actual flyer design.

1. Get the creative juices flowing

I’ll be real with you. I’m an experienced graphic designer and I often still stare blankly at my computer for a while before starting a design. It’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin when you have so many design choices ahead of you. Don’t be intimidated. All you need is inspiration…and you can get that easily through a wonderful thing called the Internet!

Google flyer design ideasWhen I get started, I usually Google “flyer design [industry name]” and start an Image Search. This search pulls up a lot of images of other flyers that have been designed for your industry.  By looking through the flyer design examples, you’ll start to see flyers with elements that you like and don’t like. For instance, I might see a flyer that has a really cool headline font. I then go to dafont.com and find a similar, awesome font that I can use for free in my design. In another image, I may see a color scheme I like and decide to use some of the same colors in my design. Please DO NOT plagiarize another designer’s work by copying the entire flyer design. Rather, look at several different designs for inspiration and cherry pick a few elements from different examples that you like to get started.

Another great way to get inspiration is to look at your own website or business materials! You likely already have a brand aesthetic and it should be displayed on your website, business cards, sales materials, etc. If you can, use the layout, colors and fonts displayed on these materials to design a flyer that looks like the rest of your brand.

2. Design for your target audience, not for yourself

Of course, it’s natural to start a flyer design by choosing elements (like fonts and colors) that you personally like, but don’t forget that this flyer isn’t for you. It’s for your target audience.

Maybe you are a burly man’s man who likes to play football, fish and drink beer. Your favorite color is dark blue and you think bright colors and busy patterns are obnoxious. However, your remodeling company works with upper-class housewives who love HGTV and Pinterest, and want to make their homes more modern, colorful and unique. You will need to design the flyer in a way that appeals to your demographic and matches your brand, not your own personal style preferences. Blending these two intentions shouldn’t be a big issue if you brand aesthetic was developed in the first place with your customers in mind. If it wasn’t, you may want to consider re-branding.

My main point here is that you need to get into the mind of your customer as you develop your design. Remember that people react differently to design elements like colors and fonts depending on their gender, age, profession, ethnicity/culture, etc. Color Theory research even shows that certain colors symbolize or trigger various emotions. Check out this article to learn more color symbolism.

3. Use design elements to emphasize important content

use design elements for emphasisNow, that you understand how simple color or font choices can influence whether your ideal customer pays attention to your flyer or not, you can take this knowledge a step further. When we discussed content earlier, I recommended that you place your important information on the front of the flyer and near the top. To draw even more attention to your key content, you can also play with the design. Don’t be afraid to make it obvious since you often have a few seconds of someone’s attention. For example, place a big red arrow on the page pointing at your Call-To-Action. Place important text in a shape (like a star or circle) that draws attention. Use neutral colors for most of your text and bold, bright colors for the key information, such as your phone number. You can use underlining, funky fonts, different font sizes, italics, colors, shapes and more to draw the eye to what you want to emphasize. Just be careful not to overdo it; if everything is bold and brightly colored, nothing actually stands out!

4. Use professional-looking, high-resolution photos

flyer design using Adobe Creative SuiteI know a lot of small businesses don’t have the budget to hire a quality photographer. Luckily, most of you have smartphones with excellent cameras. Snap some images of your business storefront, products, work, etc and touch them up with Adobe Photoshop or free photo editing software like Pixlr. There is a lot that you can do to enhance a photo, but the easiest and most effective aspects to tweak are the “Brightness” and “Contrast.” If you have access to Adobe Photoshop, you will also want to switch the color mode of your images from RGB to CMYK (so that the colors print correctly), and make sure each image has a resolution of at least 300 dpi (so that the images print clearly instead of pixelated). That last part may sound like nonsense to some of you. If you want to ensure your flyer design prints correctly, I’d suggest reading up about how to optimize images for print on the Internet or hiring a graphic designer.

Images are usually a very central part of the flyer design so I’d also recommend using stock photos if you are uncertain about your photo editing skills. There are many online websites that provide FREE stock photos! I’d suggest free websites like Pixabay, Wikimedia Commons and Freerange Stock. Just make sure that the images you use are “royalty free” and for “commercial use” (you can use it for business/commercial purposes). These stock photo websites have rules about where, when and how you can use the stock photos, and if credit needs to be given when you utilize the images. Read the website guidelines and Creative Commons license for each photo carefully before you download and use anything (for legal reasons). Images that contain people are psychologically more appealing to humans than those that do not. Remember that when you go on your photo hunt!

5. Make the flyer design unified

We’ve already discussed most of the major design elements, including images, fonts, colors, shapes and text. The last point I want to make in regards to design is to make the piece look cohesive or unified. You will be mixing together a lot of elements. So how do you make them all come together? The easiest way to do this is through patterns!

The human eye loves patterns. Consistency and similarities helps us make sense of everything. For your design, patterns include choosing a color palette with 2-5 colors and sticking to those colors (or shades of them). Use the colors in different ways throughout the piece (sometimes as the background, sometimes as the text color, etc). The same goes for fonts. Select a couple fonts– usually no more than 3 — and use each a few times. You can create patterns with shapes as well, by using rectangles, circles, or other shapes repetitively in the flyer design. If you aren’t sure how to do this, remember to look at other flyer designs for inspiration and see how the best designers out there unify their design pieces.

Conclusion

There any many ways to develop the content and design of a flyer. The points and guidelines I outlined here are not concrete, so feel free to use your creativity during this process. Hopefully this guide helped you get started with the meat and potatoes of your flyer campaign! In the next article of this series, we’ll show you how to incorporate tracking methods into your flyer campaign so that you can determine the return on investment (ROI)!

This article is part of a 7-step training series on how to create a successful flyer marketing program for your business. To receive the rest of the articles by email, just make sure to register below!