SMPS Chicago Blog

Designing Great Marketing Materials


Two Easy Steps to Designing Great Marketing Materials

It’s late in the day, you realize your day got smaller and your to-do list got longer. Lingering there is X, Y. Z marketing documents that are needed for the X, Y, Z presentation. You don’t know where to begin. You google, “how to design a marketing document” just for funsies, and, well, it’s a broad topic. And what IS a marketing document? Isn’t technically anything containing your logo a marketing doc (imagine me making sarcastic air quotes here)? The answer is yes. Anything with your name on it becomes a part of your brand. And anything that is a part of your brand needs to look good. It’s a joke to point out when something is off-brand now days, but in the world of marketing collateral, being off brand is a big deal.

So there are two questions to consider when setting up well-designed marketing materials.

One, is it on-brand? Two, does it follow the rule of 3?

This first question is important and could possibly be the easiest place to start when creating quality marketing material. Imagine you’re five and creating an art project. In your art toolbox are four things: paint, pens, paper, and a ruler. Your brand is essentially a combination of these four things. Your brand guide is like the toolbox itself providing these tools with which to work. You can’t work with anything else, lest wandering dangerously into off-brand territory (you can dip your toe in off-brand territory, but make sure the brand police aren’t looking, and do it quick and not often).

Your brand tools are the equivalent of the following:  brand colors are your paints, brand fonts are your pens, the medium you are creating (sales sheet, brochure, postcard) is your paper, and lastly, your brand guidelines on how to properly apply the logo, fonts, colors is the ruler. If you follow the rules – use the right colors and fonts – and ideally have a great template to work with that a graphic designer has set up for you, you’re safely in on-brand territory, and bonus, the marketing director will be happy.

The second question to consider when designing your corporate marketing material is, what’s the design hierarchy? Yes, a few more rules here... but these are rules of thumb (there are no design hierarchy police this time). In fact, good graphic design hierarchy is often overlooked and kind of should be because it evokes more of an instinctive response on the viewer. Simply put, if a well-designed piece has good placement and hierarchy, it gets noticed on a subliminal level. Our eyes want to hold it, look at it, read it, buy it, all because it feels right.

What creates a good design, or visual, hierarchy? The answer is: the rule of 3. Give the reader three levels of information to look at- a primary, secondary, and tertiary focus. This all seems fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to over-complicate things. First, the eye should fall to the most important piece of information on the page. Most likely that’s the logo. Give it either substantial size or substantial white space (probably not both. That’s where things tend to get too heavy). This is the first thing you can’t help but see. Other ways to emphasize something are with color (solid saturated backgrounds, pop color effects, etc.), contrast, alignment (or the counter-balanced off-alignment). And there are a thousand other tricks that graphic designers have in their toolbelt.

The second focus point is more than likely the reason for the piece. It’s a header, a title, an image that visually says what the point is. Instantly now the reader knows who this is from, and what it’s for. If it looks good, so far they’re still intrigued. This can sync up in a nice balance with the primary focus piece, or it can contrast it completely, as a point-counter-point effect. As long as you read primary then secondary in the correct order, you're headed in the right direction.

And lastly, the details become the third level of focus and is most likely the copy on the page. Now the observer is engaged and reading the smaller body of text because up to that point, everything was clear and the dots were connected quickly. They feel comfortable taking their focus to the smallest font size on the page and diving in deeper. They're not distracted by competing graphics, or subconsciously confused about where to look first and what information to process. In fact, they want to read more to fully satisfy the point that you’ve tee’ed up with the primary and secondary items.

And one last tip: remember to leave the reader places for their eyes to rest along the way as well. Don’t jam your canvas with these three elements. Repeat after me (and this is a hard lesson to learn): white space is my friend.

Creating well-designed marketing collateral doesn’t have to be challenging. In fact, it really shouldn’t be hard. But the real question is... is it done well? Because a marketing piece that you put time and money into producing that doesn’t get read is just, well, noise.

Birch Road Cellar is a private social club with a wine cellar focus. This EDDM (Every Door Direct Mailer) was created for mailing to zip codes surrounding three separate locations. It needed to be a quick and easy eye catching sales tool to engage the community and (re)introduce Birch Road Cellar to their neighbors as we all start to come out of pandemic hibernation.

Blog post courtesy of:

Amanda Eich | Managing Designer

Sepia Studio

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BB 2021 Program News

August can’t come soon enough! Build Business 2021 will be a great way to collaborate, gain knowledge, and network with others. Now is the time to R.I.S.E. together after facing various challenges this year and inspire one another. Leading keynote speaker Bonin Bough will discuss how to drive innovation across your organization and share how his groundwork took Mondelez International’s e-commerce business from $65M to 265M in 18 months.


Are you interested in transforming your business, becoming a stronger leader, and fostering relationships? Join us on August 4–6, 2021, as a virtual conference.


Check out the great lineup for Build Business 2021 here: 


Learn more about Bonin Bough here: 


Register here: 



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