Seven Ways to Create a Stylish Image

You've just landed a year-end report for a prominent financial planner. During your creative consultation, you discover he caters to retired, very affluent folks in your community. He wants the report to exude stability, maturity, and trustworthiness.

So how do you tackle the job so this promotional piece presents a stylish, high-class image? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Use Premium Paper

Paper quality affects the image of a product or business, so be choosy about the type of paper you use in your clients' marketing pieces. Paper manufacturers have many styles and qualities available, including a wide variety of recycled papers. Using recycled paper gives the image of being concerned about the environment … if that's the image you want to convey.

Generally speaking, matte papers have a classier appearance than glossy papers, but the choice depends on the piece you're producing. Try to see paper samples before making recommendations to your client. Many paper companies offer free or low-cost samples, including:

Smart Papers (
Clampitt Paper (
International Paper (
Living Tree Paper (
Fox River (

Use Distinctive Ink Colors

Try an unusual color – such as eggplant, dark plum, or dark coffee for headlines, body copy, and possibly photos. Dark inks like these do not interfere with readability. Contrast with a vivid second color – like lime green, aqua, or peach – for accents (in screens, tints, initial caps, rules, etc.). Be judicious with your use of the second color, though, so it doesn't overpower the design. Remember the first principle of DM design: Readability must never be sacrificed for other design considerations.

Use Four-Color Work

Some products need full color to look their best in print. However, it's expensive. If your client has the budget for it, great. Otherwise, you can help him save money by printing four-color on the front and back covers, and then switching to two colors inside.

Use Professional Photos

For some projects, stock images just won't do – especially if you're going for a unique, upscale look. That's when hiring a professional photographer really pays off. Professional images are more expensive than stock images on the front end, but you can get a LOT of images out of a photo session that can be used over and over again in a variety of formats.

If you work with a professional, make it clear that this is a work-for-hire assignment, and that your client gets the copyright to the photos. If you don't, the client will have to pay royalties to the photographer every time he uses one of the photos.

Use High-Quality Clipart

Illustrations that support the message in the body copy have the power to pull readers into the story. Just remember that when choosing clipart, you get what you pay for – so don't go for the cheap stuff. You can get credible clipart here:

Use Careful Design

Your reader will be very aware of the image the design conveys – at least subconsciously. So it should say “style” in every way – from the basic layout right down to the typefaces. You won't find high-class designs cluttered with graphic elements and jazzy colors. Stylish designs are more subtle and clean.

Use Professional Printing

When your client's image is at stake, he needs the best printing he can afford. If you've already chosen a particular type of paper, make sure the printer knows how to print on that sheet, and that his equipment can handle it. Some quick-print companies are great with inexpensive paper stock, but not so good at handling high-quality stock.

Explain to the printer up front the kind of quality you expect: margins aligned correctly, all pages fully inked, and folds done so the paper doesn't crack or crinkle. You may want to conduct a press check to make sure the colors and alignment look exactly as you intended.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: December 28, 2006

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