When creating materials for your institutions, it can be easy to fall back on the familiar. Perhaps you have a tried-and-true format that’s flexible enough to apply to many different projects. And that strategy can be great for saving time, but not so great if you’re trying to create something unique. Lots of amazing resources are out there for finding print inspiration – and those are great tools – but I’m going to share something else.

Let’s examine the questions and considerations that you and your partner firm should keep in mind to make sure your print pieces are truly unforgettable.

Start with a solid foundation

We recommend starting your project with a creative brief that includes your strategic goals and objectives. Spend some time with your institution’s key decision makers and choose the content, target audience, and key differentiators you will focus on for your institution.

The more in-depth your research and strategy are at the beginning, the stronger your overall concept will be in the end. What you need to know includes what you are making, who you are making it for, and why they should care about it.

Side note: It’s always good to have more than one concept to choose from, but each project is different. Let the number of concepts be limited only by the number of ideas your partner firm wishes to explore.


One of the first items to consider is pacing. Will the reader stay interested throughout the engagement? Or do some areas start to feel overwhelmed with content?

Try these ideas to keep the pace from becoming tedious:

  • Break out the information into small, digestible nuggets where possible.
  • Try an oversized statement or pull quote that spans a full spread.
  • Use a large image or infographic that unfolds into an accordion.

Tactile elements

Think of the tactile experience of engaging with the piece. If budget allows, tactile elements are a great way to engage the audience and keep them interested and curious enough to keep turning the page.

Many opportunities are available to make an impression with your audience that they can feel, such as gloss, patterns, embossing, debossing, die-cuts, stitched binding, pop-up pages, scents and stickers. Think of all five senses and dream big. If you and your team are open to exploring any of these methods, start communicating with your partner firm early enough to get a good idea of the cost and timing involved. This is the fun part, so enjoy the possibilities.

Stay flexible

You’ve gone through the strategy phase, reviewed and picked a concept, and started to develop the interior content. So far, so good. But then you’ve hit a snag. Maybe one of the printing techniques isn’t quite as cool as you thought once you see it in real life. Or the content from the writer is too long (or too short) to fit in the allotted pages. Try not to panic. In most cases, your partner firm will have dealt with circumstances like this before. It’s best to stay flexible and open-minded through the process.

Quality matters

Beautiful photography, well-crafted paper and technically sound production are all crucial to the process. If any one of these items isn’t considered, it can leave you with a lackluster end product. Press-checks are not as common these days, but samples are still a crucial part of the process. Ask for physical proofs, and as many real examples of the type of paper and production methods (die-cuts, glosses, embossing) that will be used as possible. This will allow you to review and assess the final piece in the most realistic setting.

And remember, print is forever. If there’s something that you are not satisfied with during the proof process, don’t hesitate to speak up and raise your concerns.


A personalized greeting or message can add to the overall impact of your materials. Your materials might be difficult to distinguish from the piles of junk that get sent through the mail everyday. But a customized piece with your reader’s name and a special message – that’s unique! It adds a human quality to a medium that can sometimes feel impersonal and cold. Variable printing also provides an opportunity to do A/B testing with different headlines or calls-to-action with different audiences.

It’s a wrap

Ahhh, the final product. There’s nothing like getting that box of print samples – all beautifully stacked and fresh off the press. It even smells new and exciting.

With many ways to engage and interact with a brand, print materials remain one of the most important ones in higher education. Remember, this is one of the few opportunities to place your institution’s brand in your audience’s hand. Try to make it unforgettable.

mStoner Staff

AUTHOR - mStoner Staff

mStoner, Inc. helps clients to tell their authentic stories by clarifying their unique brand value proposition, creating a content strategy to communicate the brand effectively, and implementing compelling and dynamic communications across the web, mobile, social media, print, and other channels. We focus on research, data, and results.

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