The FEI Tribe Discovers the Secrets to Designing ‘Eye-Catching’ Marketing Materials (Part I)

Last week, Fire Enterprises, Inc. (FEI) communications director Cecil the Cyclops discussed how effective copywriting can create promotional pieces that drive sales growth. This week, Cecil begins a discussion on best design practices for printed marketing communications. Remember, fire = print.

The hour grew late at the Red Argus, as Marka and Cecil ordered another round of grog.

“I never figured you for a design whiz,” Marka said, resting her arms on the bar counter.

“You know, I’ve been told I have a real ‘eye’ for design,” Cecil replied wryly, pointing to the big veiny eye stuck in his forehead.

“Oh brother,” Marka groaned. “I’ll listen to your ideas, but please—no more ‘eye’ puns.”

“I’ll try my best, but no promises,” Cecil said, digging three tablets out of his other pocket. “Let’s start at the beginning.”

Cecil’s Brilliant Design Idea #1: Design for design’s sake is out. Your design and layout should derive from the size and shape of your promotion, not the other way around.

“That makes sense,” Marka said.

“A one-size-fits-all design model will end up fitting none,” Cecil explained. “For example, the design elements of a one-sixth-page trade ad will probably look lousy if converted into a one-page flyer. Similarly, the features of a self-mailer will largely determine what types of design should and should not be used.”

“What else?” Marka asked.

Cecil removed a second tablet that read:

Cecil’s Brilliant Design Idea #2: For small ads, rely on snappy copy and simple graphics.

“The success of smaller ads largely depends on how well your headline functions as a ‘grabber,’” Cecil said. “In ads that are a quarter page or smaller, headers should occupy the dominant (top) position, and function as the largest design element.”

“So what’s the second most prominent element?” Marka asked.

“Your call to action—phone number, O-site address, etc.—which should be positioned at the bottom of the ad,” Cecil answered.

T.J. Tedesco is a sales growth, business strategy, marketing and PR consultant operating at the intersection of clear vision, compelling content and effective outreach practices. For nearly two decades, T.J. has been an independent consultant and sales growth team leader. Previously, he sold commercial printing, graphic arts machinery and supplies, and finishing and bindery services. T.J. helps North American companies with content development, Web and print design leadership, nurture marketing programs, sales coaching, sales team alignment and business strategy. Since 1996, T.J. has worked with more than 100 clients on retainer, 80 percent in the graphic arts industry. T.J. is author of "Win Top-of-Mind Positioning," "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry," "Fire! How Marketing Got Hot," "Direct Mail Pal" and four more books published by PIA. He can be reached at (301) 404-2244 or
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