Print Or Digital. What do you need?

When a client says “We need a flyer!” there are some basic questions asked right off the bat. The first of these is will this piece be a digital asset, a print asset, or both. Deciding how your audience will interact with your asset materials helps to set the project on the right path to success. If you want brochures for a presentation that prospective clients can look through, touch, and can be left behind -the design will be quite different than one that is meant to be sent as a link and experienced via their computer. This end product goal is important to how the design takes shape. Let’s dive into digital and print assets, the reasons why you might choose one over the other, and how the design process is influenced by which one you choose.

When a piece is designed as a digital asset it is developed to be viewed on a digital platform. These pieces might be used as a presentation, ebook, social media, graphics for an email, graphics for websites, etc… They are meant for the audience to interact with on their personal device or via a screen in a presentation setting. These pieces often live on multiple platforms and have longevity in the digital space.

When a piece is designed as a print asset, the end goal is to have a physical printed piece such as a brochure, flyer, newsletter, signage, poster, postcard, etc… Primarily print designs are used to build brand awareness and marketing as they represent the brand in a physical form and create an experience that invokes the audience’s senses in a more tangible way. They can be large or standard-sized pieces that are meant for people to visually experience and or keep/take with them.

When thinking of a marketing campaign, deciding which assets will be digital and which will be print comes down to usage and the audience experience. Questions like; “How will this be utilized?” “Who will see it and what will they do with it?” and “In what context will they be interacting with the materials?” For most marketing campaigns the answers will yield a mix of physical printed assets and digital designs, allowing the audience to experience the brand and messaging in a variety of ways and allowing for multiple use types.

Why is it important to know the end product format before we begin? There are several reasons that come to mind. Color, Layout, Fonts, Accessibility & Usability. The first factor is color. Vibrant colors help breathe life into design projects. In order to consistently achieve a brand’s color standard across various platforms and elements, different color formats are required. Designers use these formats to ensure that colors look as close to the same in print, as they do on digital platforms.

Let’s break down these color formats to better understand their usage. CMYK, RGB, and HEX are the three main formats we work with. For printing, the color format most often used is called CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and K which represents black). HEX and RGB color formats are used for digital designs. The RGB format is based on 3 colors that you can see looking at any computer monitor (Red, Green, and Blue). HEX codes are six-digit codes that define the spectrum of all possible permutations of these 3 colors, basically, they allow for varying shades of each color in the color spectrum.

Layout is as important as color when it comes to design. From choosing whether a piece will be landscape vs portrait to positioning the different elements in a design, the layout is informed by the end product experience. If a design is digital, the layouts might incorporate video or photos moving into place from different directions to add an interactive experience for the audience. In contrast, the elements needed may inform the layout, if an aerial is needed or a wide photo is used then landscape design might be a more appropriate choice for a print piece. If it is going to be mailed like a postcard vs handed out at an event made to fit in a suit jacket breast pocket, each usage case informs the size and shape. Understanding the use helps inform the entire design.

Readability is of paramount importance in any designed piece. The fonts chosen may be different in a print design than in a digital format. Did you know that some fonts won’t show up in certain browsers automatically? Have you ever had a print piece that you could barely read because the font was either too small or fancy and hard to recognize letters or words? These choices are not lost on a designer. When we make postcards, we must consider carefully the amount of content and the font size to ensure that the recipient can read the content and that it is impactful. When we craft an email newsletter, we must choose fonts that are recognizable by browsers and email platforms to ensure that the resulting email to the recipient is styled for maximum response. Fonts also set the tone, whether that be a traditional font that lends stability to content or a more modern font that can impart innovation and creativity.

Last but certainly not least is accessibility and usage. This brings us back to creating campaigns meant to be experienced in a variety of ways both with physically printed materials as well as digital assets and experiences. We strategize with our clients to ensure they see the big picture of a marketing effort. For example, a client needs backgrounds for a webinar, but we also ask how will it be marketed, is there a takeaway like an ebook that might make for a more impactful experience, where will it live long-term if anywhere. Our goal is always to help our clients put their best foot forward whether they are using a printed design, a digital design, or both. We work to understand the unique needs of our clients and advise on the best ways to achieve their goals through design.

What seems like simple questions to the client yield a lot of information to the designer.




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