How to Design an Awesome Flyer (Even if You’re Not a Designer)

by on 19th July 2011 with 34 Comments

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This article will walk your through the process and logic of designing a basic but attractive flyer. We’ll look at how you can plan your content, find and implement some quality images and handle the alignment of a significant amount of content while not sacrificing too much of the visual appeal.

A Design Dilemma

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Design Shack reader Abigail used our Design Dilemma form to ask about flyer design. After reading through our tips on designing presentations, she wanted to know how she could apply similar advice to flyer design. In our presentation article, we advised designers to keep their slides painfully simple, but flyers understandably must contain more information than a simple headline.

We’re going to answer Abigail’s question with a full-on flyer design project that you can either browse through for general design advice or follow along with for some solid experience.

No Photoshop? No Problem

Now, one important thing to consider is that Abigail is a librarian, not a designer. She stated in her message that she doesn’t have Photoshop or any equivalent, just some basic office software like Powerpoint and Word.

This definitely complicates things. It’s much harder to achieve decent looking effects, blending etc. in apps that aren’t really intended to pull off such tricks. For the most part, I’ll try to keep this project simple enough that just about anyone can do it with run of the mill office software. I’ll be sure to point out any Photoshop-specific tricks that I used.

Getting Started: Plan Your Content

The first step in any design project is to organize your information. What is required? What are your goals? Since this is an imaginary project I’ll be using some filler text but we’ll try to keep it realistic with the content.

Any good concert flyer needs to say, at minimum, where and when the concert is, who’s playing and how much it costs. I’ve designed plenty of real concert flyers using only this information, but to make it a little more difficult, let’s assume there are a couple of paragraphs of copy to include as well.

“Your goal then should be to pare down all of the necessary information into easily-digestible chunks.”

Though flyers can and should have way more information that your average presentation slide, that doesn’t mean you should go crazy with the content. The same basic rules apply here: less is more. If you create a flyer that is primarily made up of large chunks of text, very few people are going to glance at it for more than a half of a second. They’ll only see that it looks like a lot of work to sort through and move on.

Your goal then should be to pare down all of the necessary information into easily-digestible chunks. Throw out anything that you don’t really need and look for ways to make what you do need more concise.

Bullet Point Fever

Making your information concise doesn’t mean you should fill the flyer with fifty-seven bullet points. Bullets are great, and we’ll be using them today, but amateur designers are quite prone to going nuts with them. If you’re using bullet points as an easy-to-read and understand way to distribute your information, you’re on the right track. If you’re using them as a crutch because you don’t know how else to design a flyer, you need to rethink your strategy.

Finding Images

Non-designers really get intimidated when it comes to adding in imagery. Many of them know that clipart is pretty cheesy and often completely horrid, but don’t know of any other options. Fortunately, the web is a wonderland of free resources if you know where to look.

Flickr Creative Commons is a great place to start but today we’re going to use Stock.xchng, a free stock photography website. Typically, I’m not too excited by the results from this site but today I lucked out with some great images that will really make for an awesome concert flyer (Image Credit: Josiah Norton and Angus Wurth).

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Step 1: Combine the Images

Set up your document to match your desired flyer size: 5″ by 7″, 17″ by 11″, etc. It doesn’t really matter, just make sure you’re going with a vertical orientation.

Once you’ve got your document set up, toss in the two images from above, allowing them to take up your entire canvas. Stack the bass player on the top of the crowd image, eating up a good portion of the available space. It’s difficult to sacrifice space in a crowded design but we really want to make this an eye-catching flyer.

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At this point you’re probably thinking that these images are way too busy and that we can’t possibly put any text in, but don’t worry, we’ll take care of that in the next step.

Step 2: Fill In the Bottom

As I just mentioned, our flyer in its current condition isn’t very conducive to text overlays so let’s see if we can simplify things a bit.

To make sure our colors all look good together, it’s always a good idea to use colors that already appear in the image. With this in mind, sample the color from the top left of the bass player image. If the application you’re using doesn’t have an eyedropper tool, you’ll have to eyeball it.

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Once you’ve got your solid color rectangle over your photo, reduce its opacity to around 84%. Most applications with graphics allow you to reduce an object’s opacity, if not, you’ll just have to use a solid color.

As you can see, this gives us a background that’s more interesting than a solid color but a lot easier to place text over than our original photo. Plus, introducing the color overlay makes our two very different images look really great together.

Step 3: Add a Headline

Every good flyer needs a headline, so let’s take care of this next. Remember that the headline doesn’t necessarily have to be at the top of the page. We’re going to place ours near the bottom of the bass player image.

To do this, I repeated the same basic process as in the last step. I drew a black box coming from the right side of the flyer, then reduce the opacity just enough to let the photo start to show through. This helps make the text more readable over that busy background.

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For the font, I used Six Caps from Font Squirrel. The condensed, all-caps nature of the font is perfect for the look we’re trying to achieve.

Step 4: Who, Where and When

Since we addressed the price point in our headline, we’re down to three other important pieces of information: who, where and when. We can break these out into three bullets with exactly those headers.

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There are a couple of important things to note about this. First, I didn’t like the readability of the Six Caps font over lots of text so I switched to Futura Condensed for this portion. Furthermore, notice how I’ve structured the hierarchy of information very carefully. The headers are the largest and colored differently to stand out. Once again I grabbed this color from the bass player image. I’ve also given some size differentiation to the headliner band.

The main takeaway here is that some pieces of information that will be more important than others and you need to take care to give those special attention. This gives your work visual variety and makes it easier to browse.

Step 5: Add the Paragraphs

Dividing the bottom portion into two main columns will give us plenty of room for content. We just created the first column and left it quite narrow, which is fine for the content that it holds. This allows us to have an even wider column for our paragraphs, which wouldn’t look right if they were too narrow.

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Notice that I used the same basic conventions as on the previous step, with some subtle changes. I didn’t repeat the colored headers so as not to detract from the primary information points on the left. With the same goal in mind, the paragraph headers are smaller than those on the left.

Finishing Up

With that, we’re all done! Our flyer says everything it needs to and is quite attractive to boot. The page layout work here was really minimal and most of the aesthetics were provided by the third-party images. Almost anyone can make this flyer! Click the image below for a larger preview.

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Notes About Alignment

Make sure that as you’re building your flyer, you don’t just casually throw your objects on the page. There are some very strict and intentional alignments in place in my design:

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Notice how everything lines up nicely on both vertical and horizontal planes. Also notice how much distance is placed between the edge of the page and the content. Always give your content plenty of breathing room, just like the margins on a Word document.

Notes About Printing

If you plan on designing and printing your own flyers, there’s a lot to keep in mind. First, your file layout may need to account for bleed and trim if you’re working with a commercial printing service, often templates are provided to make this easy. However, for these kinds of jobs you really should possess some sort of professional graphics software as the templates provided by the printer will likely be for Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop.

If you’re printing these from the office printer, full bleed will be harder to come by and may not even be possible with your model. In this case, don’t sweat it. This design looks great with a white border around the edge. In fact, it helps give it that “flyer” look.

Finally, you really need to watch out for the quality of print you’re getting. This design features white type over a dark background, if your flyer size is too small, this quickly becomes problematic and the result may be an unreadable print. Make sure your fonts are a decent size, then run a test print. If it doesn’t work well you may have to change fonts, increase the size or rethink the design so that the bottom is white with black or gray text.

Conclusion

If you’re not a designer, projects like this can be quite intimidating. However, with the tricks I showed you above, you can really blow away your bandmates, coworkers and/or friends with your mad design skills.

Leave a comment below and let us know what other types of design projects you struggle with and how we can help out!

Comments & Discussion

34 Comments

Comments & Discussion

34 Comments

  1. Alex says:

    Fantastic post. It seems like posts that touch base on “the basics” are all too rare these days. I’ll treasure this one.

  2. Simple, clear, beautifully explained. The bit about using a color overlay to both blend images and add visual interest and a bit of texture to the piece was the stand-out tip for me– great job, many thanks!!

  3. Gabriel says:

    Ok then, how about “…how to extract a wisdom tooth, even if you are not a dentist!”! I think is about time we stop giving incentive to cowboys in the industry, and give some value to the 3 year+ educational programmes and hard earned experience of REAL designers! Sorry, but can’t stand reading frustrating posts like this on an online magazine that I quite enjoy reading from time to time!

  4. adnan says:

    I think I’d rather look at a flyer designed using this tutorial than at a typical Microsoft Word catastrophe.

  5. Gabriel, I JUST posted about hardcore, in-depth programs for learning design and development. Here at Design Shack, we cater and target professional designers and occasionally post something for the masses, not the other way around.

    I think your dentist metaphor is flawed. People who don’t know dentistry probably shouldn’t go around doing dental work. However, it’s impractical to tell anyone to NOT do design work. Whether you’re a secretary, a mom hosting a bake sale or just a kid helping out with the computer at church, design opportunities that don’t merit hiring a professional will arise. I’m a firm believer that we should teach everyone basic design principles and guidelines. The world would be a much prettier place!

    • Tomás Enrique says:

      Yes! I concur. As professionals I do not think we should seek to monopolize our design or trade but rather help others to do the same. It does make for a “prettier world!” Great job Joshua and keep it up!

  6. Lloyd says:

    This is very refreshing, bravo.

  7. Web Coder says:

    Simple and fresh

  8. Marie says:

    Thanks for this. It will definitely be useful the next time I have to design an event flyer. My problem is this though: I work for a cash starved non-profit so most of the printing is done through a colour printer and not a commercial printer. We don’t often have to print large quantities and if we do, we’ll take it to an office supply place and get bulk copies made. So when I print to colour copier, I get those ugly white border margins. Is the only solution to print it and then trim the edges or am I missing something?

  9. ricky says:

    In addition to Joshua’s points about not everyone needing or being able to hire designers for every project, another benefit of teaching design to the masses is that it makes them understand that there are rules and reason for design decisions. A tutorial like this will help them better understand the design process, and hopefully create a better relationship with the designer when the time comes that they need to hire one.

  10. Daniel says:

    Holy crap, I actually know the Josiah Norton that took and edited that photo! Nicely done.

  11. Andrew Syiek says:

    Useful, resourceful articles like these are precisely why the web represents one of the greatest technological advancements of all time.

    Your generosity, insight, knowledge and skill translates well throughout this piece, step by step you effectively guide and recommend. Thank you for sharing your experience and know-how.

  12. Really COOL! Now I also have idea for my ebook cover page.

  13. Dan says:

    Hi, this is really interesting post, I don’t have any editing sofware so I go in http://www.minuteflyer.com there is allready made templates

  14. Inne Utomo says:

    Awesome! Awesome!
    It’s very simple, and yet attractive!
    Big thanks!

  15. abigail says:

    I’ve never been called a cowboy before. Good times.
    Thanks for a great post- I’d love a sequel with more ideas!

  16. Max says:

    It really helped me a lot. Great idea ans very simple to implement. Nice, thank you.

  17. seo says:

    This design is spectacular! You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  18. Ivan says:

    Finally some good information on how to this type of things… I would like to see one about how to create layouts for flyers.

  19. Ann says:

    Thank you for the sharing! Everyone at some point in their lives need a design of something whether for personal or community. You make the world a better place!!

  20. Ashley says:

    This was a life saver for a college project! Basics like this are so useful to me, what can I say..Thumbs Up! Thanks for the post!

  21. Zahid says:

    simple but fantastic….i can now able to make simple and cute flier,

  22. Shannon Moneymaker says:

    Thank you so much for this article! It was reader friendly, and refreshingly easy to follow!

  23. If you are relying on a program like word to do a design you are already at a huge disadvantage. I put together a few wedding invites in Microsoft word only because to achieve several of the Vietnamese letter characters the person who put together the verbiage utilized two distinct fonts. That meant trying to change each letter’s font to match every time the paragraphs were transferred to another program. It became very annoying so I decided to keep the document in it’s original native software (Microsoft Word) and instead design the header and footer in Photoshop then import them into MS Word. Even then, it was difficult experimenting to find the right tools in Word to finally get the text to flow properly and to push the images to the rear so the text would show up in front and the image placed and sized as I needed it.

    I would say for a few smaller events like a bake sale, yard sale or barbeque, by all means design it yourself and follow the basic rules listed in the article. For most other designs, saving yourself the frustration and time is usually worth the price of hiring a professional designer, especially if it is directly related to attracting customers and increasing profits. There’s no point saving $100-300 on design work if you are going to lose Thousands of dollars in sales because of that same decision. – Emir Santana Graphic Designer

  24. Ray says:

    this is a great post…simple and straight to the point but full of substance. thanks.

  25. Kamiana says:

    thanks for a great post! I now have an awesome business flyer I am proud to print and call my own

  26. R A Jamison says:

    A very good article on how to create a flyer. I saw a program that works better than PowerPoint and Word called Easy Flyer Creator (http://www.flyerscreator.com) that comes with flyer templates, event flyer templates, and business flyer templates. You can import art like Joshua did and allows creation of Bar Codes, QR Codes, and MS Tags. another exiting option is to mail merge the flyer document by importing contacts from Windows Contacts List, Excel Spread Sheet, or MS Access Table.

  27. Rosanna says:

    Thanks for the post!
    I have been creating flyers to help out for events at my Church and found your many tips very useful, thank you!

    Rosanna

  28. Spunky One says:

    That was one AMAZING tutorial. Thanks!!

  29. awesomeflyer says:

    really nice tutorial, very simple way, i really like it!
    keep on!

  30. Shar says:

    This is awesome! I just tried this and my flyer came out awesome! Thanks a ton!!

  31. Chris says:

    Used your tutorial as an activity in my high school classroom. Great Job!!! Encourages great design. Keep it up & we will continue to follow!

  32. Xan says:

    I am an event planner who has just gone out on my own. I do quite a bit of charity and fundraising events many of which I volunteer my time. This tutorial helped me. The charity events do not have a budget for a real designer like smart assed Gabriel. I am more confident in creating flyers that look great for these events. Thank you! I am also adding this link to my Pintrest because I think you described the ‘how to’ easlily enough for a non designer to understand and accomplish.

  33. Saul says:

    The information on this site was extremely helpful! It gave me the tools to build a dope-ass flier for our nonprofit program. Thanks!!!

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