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Looking Good in Print: Do-It-Yourself Layout and Document Design

Seven essential steps to take to look good in today's high-tech world.

C. Marie Swift, 02/01/2007

While today's technology gives you lots of ways to do your own design and output--right in the comfort of your own office--steer clear of the deadly "amateur mistakes" some unwitting firms make if you want to build and maintain strong public perceptions.

It was not so long ago that looking good in print meant finding a good company who you could work with to create materials for you. Planning and thought went into projects because each new print piece represented a significant amount of money. Choices were made deliberately and with guidance from professionals. Do-it-yourself printing simply was not an option. But the personal computer along with powerful software, such as Microsoft Office, has changed everything. Individuals are now empowered to design and print materials on an as-needed basis straight from the desktop, reducing costs and enabling the production of more printed information to get your message across to the public.

On the surface, this sounds great for your marketing efforts! But be careful, software is simply a tool and only works as well as the person operating it. A printed piece that is designed on a whim, through arbitrary choices and produced without a defined purpose can easily dilute your marketing message, make you look like everybody else, and communicate a lack of professionalism.

How to Look Good in Today's High-Tech World

Step One: Begin with a Purpose
Marketing is all about communication. Before producing any printed piece ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What needs to be communicated in order to achieve this?
  • To whom should/will I communicate it?
  • What is the best way to communicate it?

Step Two: Determine Production Method
If the solution to the last question is a printed piece, then you need to determine if it is something you can or should produce yourself or if a professionally-designed and printed piece would be of greater benefit. For example, it may well be worth the investment to get professional help with an invitation to a formal event; even though the purpose seems simple, you are most likely putting some time and effort into producing the event and a well-designed invitation can not only get people to come but can set the stage for the entire event.

Take a look at the holiday invitation sent out by Randy Hallier, CFP, an advisor in Overland Park, Kan. Notice how the invitation and tickets build excitement and position this as an event not to miss.

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