Monday, 26 September 2011

LeafLET it be

This is probably one of the most interesting topics for me personally: a take-away publishing and celebration of its design which still hasn't found an equivalent in the e-world. Print wins the leaflet fight, and I couldn't be more glad.

I don't think that any other form or publishing actually goes so closely with life. Free things people can take from all sorts of public places and collect - how amazing is that? I can hardly think of any other form of promotion that would work this way: not only does it stay in your mind longer than that split second you spend on watching an ad in a screen, but often you voluntarily bring it home and let it stay there indefinitely.
If you, the one who made the leaflet, are lucky - or simply clever enough to spend enough time on coming up with great design - you will push a sentiment button and make it to somebody's wall or a scrapbook. I am one of the people who have an endless amount of leaflets, brochures, free magazines etc. And the best ones get stuck on my wall, becoming an inspiration for future work. The funny thing is that there are many, many design-UNrelated people - especially young ones - who collect leaflets just because of their aesthetic value. Or at least they think so. The information on a leaflet definitely makes it to the consumer's mind, even if he's convinced it doesn't.

Whatever happens to the leaflets - whether they stay on a table of a trendy cafe, accidentally get on the floor, are brought to a shop and left there, or forgotten on a bus seat - is a win. It should be noted, of course, that this only applies to good design. NOTHING can help a badly designed leaflet, even if it's distributed in high numbers. If the leaflet doesn't attract the consumer's attraction, it will go to a trash can or end up as a piece of paper to put your chewing gum in. As for the good design, no matter if the service/event or whatever you promote is of no interest for the person who picks up your leaflet, he won't put it back there. This is a very interesting phenomenon, and it especially caught my attention during the London Design Festival. We've all have seen those tables or window sills covered in piles of different leaflets, and we've all seen those sentimental people who spend a few minuted there, choosing which ones to pick up. There are ALWAYS piles that grow smaller faster than others, and piles that stay untouched. I think it is a vital part of a process for each designer or a designer's client to walk around places like this and see what are the key elements that make people grab a few leaflets at once ("I'll take one for Jane and one for Mike too, they're gonna love it").

The key mistakes that can be done when producing the leaflets are:
  • Printing on a simple copy paper. This hardly ever works, and if you want it to work, you have to give 5 times more effort for the actual design. Copy paper-based leaflets are spoiled by the tiniest drop of water or a stain, it gets wrinkled, it doesn't feel like a thing worth keeping. Sorry.
  • Using grayscale. On copy paper. I personally don't even bother taking a look at leaflets like this, ESPECIALLY if they are printed on some pastel green or pink color paper. That makes me think about destruction and all the good paper and ink used to make something so crappy and useless.
  • Using inappropriate format. The best leaflet is the leaflet of a standard 10cm x 15cm size. It's like business cards - we are not prepared to carry something that is not compact. Bigger leaflets may look nicer at a first glance, but a random passer-by may not be carrying a large book or an A4 file, which instantly leads to the leaflet being folded and losing its value. That's a sad truth. The only other format which can be gladly acceptable - and in some cases way better than the standard leaflet - is a bookmark. I like it when the designer is considerate about me always needing something to put into a book I am reading.

    The freedom of brochure design is much more unlimited, but brochures and leaflets serve slightly different roles, and in a way I feel that leaflets have a bigger potential to survive. Even though brochure design offers amazing opportunities and often takes one's breath away with some innovative solutions, it is getting a little old. In a bad way. A leaflet is nothing but a tiny ad, which doesn't necessarily have to provide the consumer with too much information; it serves more as a flashlight: "Look at me look at me! Okay, you've seen me, so now go and see all the info on the internet". Meanwhile, informative brochures hardly make it to one's home, because they offer yet another serving of information. We are getting a little tired of the information overload, so you'd better be careful with that.

Coming back to the leaflet topic, there is one thing that somehow is surprisingly underrated. It's STICKERS. If it were up to me, every second leaflet would be a sticker. I have no idea why people cannot see the pros. First of all, stickers are fun. They have a specific entertaining quality to them, which makes it hard to resist taking a sticker or two when offered to take them for free. Well, unless they are very poorly designed.

Stickers are so much more powerful than leaflets! It's very hard to resist sticking them somewhere. I have a fridge covered with magnets and stickers, I used to stick them on to cupboards. Now I occasionally stick them on my laptop, and know several other people who do the same. Even if you don't bring the sticker home, you stick it on a lamp post, on a bus shelter, on a seat in front of you in a bus. Spreading the message. Stickers are like an infection: you only have to give them away in one spot, and they will be spread all around the area. Staying there long, being noticed and doing their job of promoting your service or your event.

And that's so much more useful than the tiny ad at Gumtree that you could hardly afford.

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