You might say that flyers are the “Swiss army knife” of print design.
They can be anything — advertisements, announcements, invitations — and take on a variety of shapes and sizes. They’re blank canvases waiting for a creative purpose. Maybe that purpose is to promote a concert, fundraiser, or other event. Or perhaps it’s to market a new business or advertise a grand opening. A flyer can be tailored to any marketing purpose; so if you’re a designer by trade or you take on design tasks as part of a job or volunteer role, then a good grasp of flyer design is a handy tool to keep in your pocket to pull out when the need arises.
But what characterizes an effective flyer? Keep reading for your comprehensive guide to creating a fantastic flyer, with tips and techniques for tackling everything from the design to the copywriting and more.
Creating Your Flyer: Three Ingredients of a Good Design
If you’re new to the design process, it can be tough figuring out what kinds of design choices work together to create an attractive, effective final product. Why do certain fonts go together? How did the designer come up with that great color scheme? We’ve tried to answer some of those questions in our list of “12 Ways Designers Know When a Design Looks Good,” which can give you an insider’s look at the process, but for now, let’s discuss three basic qualities you’ll want to get right on on your flyer.
01. Make It Eye-Catching
Let’s say you’ve stopped in at Starbucks to get your morning caffeine fix. You shuffle over to a small counter to get some sugar and cream, but as you reach for the carafe, something catches your eye. It’s a flyer for a local concert hanging on the bulletin board overhead. Now, you’re busy—you’re trying to get to work, you haven’t had your coffee yet, but something still made you stop and give that flyer a second look.
Has something like this ever happened to you? Whatever it was that caught your gaze, it was most likely a visual element — maybe the colors or shapes, or a nice photo or illustration, or attractively arranged typography. At their heart, flyers are visual advertisements, whether they’re selling something or not. So if you want a flyer to serve its intended purpose, it needs to be seen, first and foremost.
Let’s look at a few features that will help your flyer design stand out:
- Clear Focal Point: Every design needs a focal point, which is simply the part of the layout that draws viewers into the design. It could be an image or graphic, a headline or promotion, or other text/lettering — but the focal point of a design is usually the thing people notice first. For that reason, it’s a good idea to make sure your focal point directs viewers to the most important information you have to communicate.
You could argue that the flyer below has a dual focal point: the illustrated border is certainly eye-catching, and it draws viewers into the center of the layout, where the message of the design is explained. The contrast between the darker colors of the border with the white background helps viewers zero in on the copywriting there.
In this design, a neon, greenish-yellow stripe highlights the flyer’s most important points — the business name, website address, and a kind of a conversation-starter. Against the charcoal-colored background of the rest of the flyer, this technique will be effective in showing viewers where to look, which (after all) is the whole purpose of a focal point.
- Relevant Imagery: Most flyers will benefit from some kind of imagery, whether simple graphics like shapes or icons, a photograph in the background, or something more fancy like a custom illustration or hand-drawn typography. A visual component that is relevant to the purpose or theme of the flyer will help viewers immediately get a grasp on what the flyer is all about.
This series of flyers for a college athletic department uses photography to good effect. The dramatically lit, black-and-white pictures of student-athletes in action are the clear focal point — what better advertisement to promote college sports? Plus, paired with bright pops of color, the imagery is not only relevant, but also visually striking.
Here’s another example. The flyer below, announcing donation and volunteer opportunities for a nonprofit organization, uses illustrations of needed donation items like canned goods and toothpaste to creatively display information. This doubles down on the flyer’s message with a visual reminder.
However, if you’re sourcing your imagery elsewhere rather than creating it yourself, you’ll want to make sure to search out high-quality options both in terms of both form (i.e., no clip art, matches mood/purpose of flyer) and function (high enough resolution for printing, etc.).
- Appropriate Fonts: Typography plays an important role in pretty much any flyer layout; it’s the rare design that can communicate its message using imagery alone. However, in the same way that choosing images requires consideration of a flyer’s purpose, context, and audience, picking fonts calls for just as much care. Because fonts alone can give a design a distinct look or mood, you’ll want to make sure any typeface you choose matches up with the overall style and intent of your design.
For instance, take a look at this leaflet that’s advertising an app for parents with young kids. It features a simple, friendly sans-serif typeface — which suits the brand nicely.
This next flyer, on the other hand, has a specific theme and sticks to it in a tasteful way. It does this by using the art and the typography to allude to the seasonal aspect of the event (Halloween, an obvious theme). However, the illustrations also cleverly point out the type of business that’s hosting it (an animal hospital; pets being a secondary theme). The “spooky” font that’s used for the name of the event probably wouldn’t be suitable for anything else — it’s what’s known as a display or novelty typeface. It wouldn’t work for, say, a black tie party invitation, but it works here for one reason: it matches the theme and purpose of the design. And that’s key.
Readability is also an important factor for flyers, which means you’ll want to avoid any fonts that or overly ornate or unusual, barring a specific purpose (as above). For tips on choosing and using fonts (as well as recommendations on where to find great free typefaces), browse our comprehensive guide here.
02. Consider Color
Nothing’s attracts our attention quite like a splash of color. But color also engages our feelings and emotions, which is why you should take advantage of that ability to give your flyer design even more impact. For instance, warm colors like red and orange are thought to communicate warmth, energy, and excitement, while cool colors like blue and green are considered more calming, nature-inspired, and conservative. Use these qualities to enhance your flyer’s message.
This piece does that, opting for a nice ocean blue to complement its tips for keeping New Zealand’s beaches and coastlines clean:
However, color choices don’t always have to be quite so literal; a more abstract approach can work, too. Here, a classic blue, white, and yellow color scheme lends a little seriousness to the otherwise whimsical, hand-drawn design. It also brings to mind bring to mind starlight and nighttime skies, hinting at the late-night festivities the flyer is advertising.
Bonus Tip: If color printing isn’t an option, you can still infuse some color into your design by using black ink on colored paper. But being limited to one color ink doesn’t mean your flyer has to look plain. For example, the flyer below has plenty of pizzazz with blue paper, clean fonts, and fun icons and illustrations.
For a more in-depth resource on using color, make sure to visit Canva’s guide to color theory for designers here.
03. Find Balance
One thing that’s sure to discourage people from looking at your flyer is a crowded, busy layout. If there’s so much information crammed onto one page that discovering what the flyer is for and finding information looks next to possible, then viewers are likely to just walk on by. On the other hand, a balanced, well-spaced layout makes the whole flyer easy to see at a glance and makes pertinent information easy to find.
Aside from limiting your content to only the most important information, one of the biggest factors in achieving a balanced layout is making good use of white space, or blank areas without any words or graphics. While your first inclination may be to fit as much as you possibly can onto your flyer, that approach won’t do you any favors. And including white (or blank) areas in your layout isn’t wasted space — it helps direct the eye to the focal point and other content. Think of those blank areas as a roadmap that viewers use to navigate your layout, traveling from one design element to another.
Bonus Tip: Taking advantage of the margins and alignment settings or tools in your chosen design program can make even a content-heavy flyer look more balanced. These settings work in combination with white space to help organize your layout.
This concert flyer features both white space and strategic alignment (notice the left- and right-hand aligned blocks of text on the opposite sides of the page) to separate and organize its content. The result is a balanced layout that creates a dynamic, diagonal composition that easily leads the eye from one design element to another.
Composing Your Flyer’s Content: Three Copywriting Tips
To create a flyer with maximum impact, the art and the copywriting need to work hand-in-hand to produce an effective marketing tool — as two halves of a cohesive whole. And while the visual design might be the first thing that catches viewers’ attention, designers who don’t devote some careful attention to the text on a flyer are missing out on a valuable opportunity.
How can you capitalize on your flyer’s copywriting to make the overall design even more compelling? Let’s look at several methods:
01. Develop a Content Strategy
Before you start placing your copy into your flyer design, it’s a smart idea to do some planning. What information is essential? What’s nice to have if you end up with extra room? What would just be taking up valuable space unnecessarily? Setting aside some time to narrow down your copywriting ideas and, at the very least, identify your must-have pieces of information will pay off in terms of getting eyes on your design. Because, as flyers go, less is usually more. Their job is to first attract your audience, then tell them what they need to know in a straightforward way that’s easy to see and understand — so you don’t want your flyer looking so busy or information-packed that it overwhelms viewers.
This flyer for a music event does just that, cutting down its content to only the need-to-know basics: the date, location, bands performing, time, and cost.
Bonus Tip: At a loss as to what information to include on your flyer? Take a page from Journalism 101 and start with answering five simple questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why?
02. Organize & Prioritize
After you decide what information is essential to include in the design, it’s time to organize it in a way that’s easy to navigate. This idea is often referred to as typographic hierarchy, which, in this context, is simply arranging the textual elements of your flyer in such a way that viewers know, at a glance, what information is most important and where to find additional information.
Your can organize and highlight your flyer’s copy in many different ways. Some options include:
- font size
- font weight and style (bold, italic, etc.)
- bullet points
- visual cues (underlining, arrows, ribbons/banners, etc.)
- text boxes or blocks of color
- proximity (placing related items closer together)
Bonus Tip: Typographic hierarchy is all about prioritizing your most important information. So whatever the most important piece of text is on your flyer — perhaps an event title, a company name, or a promotion or discount — it should generally be the largest in size and/or have the most visual weight. And since we read from left to right and top to bottom, placing it near the top of your layout will make that key content more visible.
03. Make the Purpose Clear
Though we’ve mentioned how versatile flyers are, each design will have a specific purpose or message. Maybe you’re opening a small business and want to advertise it. Maybe your church or club is putting on a free concert for the community and you want to get the word out. Whatever it is, make that highly visible — don’t force viewers to scour some fine print to find the main message of your flyer. The more clearly you communicate through your copywriting (and the less work your audience has to do to discover your message), the more likely you’ll be to get a good response.
Bonus Tip: Using your flyer to offer your audience some kind of incentive will only boost your chances of achieving your goals. Words like “free,” “discount,” or “X% off” are like magnets; use them in a prominent place on your flyer to help attract your audience.
Getting Results From Your Flyer: Three Marketing Tactics
01. Integrate Your Branding
If you’re creating a flyer for yourself and you have a personal or professional brand, integrate that visual style into the design. Or if you’re creating a flyer for company or individual who has an established visual identity, ask for a style guide or brand guidelines and work those elements — like logos, brand colors, and fonts — into the flyer.
Here, a flyer for a farmer’s market takes lime green and brown, the colors of its logo (seen at top) and uses them throughout the design for a cohesive, polished look.
Even if a style guide isn’t available, you might create a flyer inspired by a company’s website or other marketing materials. This creates a consistent aesthetic for the brand and will help make it more memorable for the people engaging with it.
Bonus Tip: Interested in creating a style guide for your own brand but don’t know where to start? We’ve put together a collection of step-by-step instructions on what you need to know here. Make the process even easier by creating an editable, shareable online guide using Frontify’s free style guide-building tool.
02. Include a Call to Action
You’ve nailed down your design and copywriting, and now it’s time to seal the deal. And sometimes it’s as easy as asking for it. The call to action (or CTA) is a foundational marketing concept, and it’s not complicated. You want your audience to do something? Simply invite them to do it. And CTAs aren’t just for selling things. Holding a grand opening? “Visit today!” Promoting a no-cost event? “Get your free tickets now!” Marketing a business or service? “Visit our website at…”
You get the idea. If you think a call to action would complement the purpose of your flyer, trying one out is certainly worth a shot. Address your audience directly, make it friendly and conversational (you don’t want your audience to feel pressured), and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
This promotional flyer for a design business features copywriting alone — enhanced by bold fonts and a simple, black-and-white color scheme — to communicate how clients can benefit from good design and branding. The writing is simple and clear, and ends with a call to action, “Add value to your brand through creative, intelligent design,” as well as where to go to do that (the company’s website) and what you’ll get from choosing this business (“creative ideas, well executed”).
The flyer below takes a slightly different approach, putting the CTA (“Download free DSD music”) right at the top where it can’t be missed:
Bonus Tip: Once you start looking, you’ll notice CTAs everywhere, both in print and online. If you’re using a CTA on your flyer, you (or your client) would likely also benefit from having a CTA button on your website. First, check out our tips and inspiration for designing CTA buttons here, then apply what you’ve learned to create your own functional button using this free tool.
03. Distribute Physical and Digital Copies
You have a stack of freshly printed flyers, and now it’s time to make sure they get seen or get them in people’s hands. You have traditional options like mailing them out or hanging them in windows or on bulletin boards in public places like restaurants, libraries, and post offices.
However, you may also want to consider distributing your flyer digitally. You can send it out in an email, publish it on your website, or post it on social media. If you do opt for that method, you’ll want to make sure your flyer looks its best online. Two of the most important aspects to consider are color and file type:
- Color: When designing a flyer for print, your file should be saved in the CMYK color model, since that’s what printing equipment uses. However, if you view a CMYK file online, the colors will look distorted. So you’ll need to convert your file to RGB (the color model that computer monitors and other screens use) to ensure the colors display as you originally intended.
- File Type: JPG and PNG file formats both display well online. JPGs are your best bet for flyers that feature photography or are otherwise highly detailed, while PNGs display lines and sharp edges well and are best for designs with lots of text and solid blocks of color.
For more pointers, check out our Design School article on formatting images for the web.