Flying high in a whirl of colours and text: how should churches practically approach their print publicity?
Churches love flyers.
We produce loads of ’em.
In this digital age, we still fall back on traditional print media, producing church flyers, posters, handouts, news sheets, hymn sheets: the list goes on.
Print is still a big thing – both for informing our members and attendees and for evangelism and outreach. Whilst I urge churches to properly invest in doing digital well, this shouldn’t come at the expense of our offline, ‘off-screen’ methods of communicating with those around us.
Doing digital well shouldn’t come at the expense of our ‘off-screen’ methods of communicating
The issue as I see it is this; as with many things, our churches, their leaders and their volunteers are stretched thinly, either having too much to do, or not having the right skills for the job (see my recent post ‘Stop Hiring Alan’ for more on this). This can, in some cases, lead to poor standards in the publicity we produce – whether we’re aware of it or not.
With this in mind, the following tips are written to give you some helpful design pointers for those tasked with creating your church flyers.
Note that I’m being purposeful in not including any ‘negative’ examples, for a couple of reasons; we’ve all seen badly designed church flyers (whether or not you find them quite as cringe-inducing as I do) but more importantly it’s not my intention to ‘shame’ anyone here.
I know that publicity is usually produced with best intentions, wanting to bring people to know God, and so I don’t want to downplay this. With that said, if we’re able to improve our church communications output with some easily-implemented steps, we should definitely be seeking to do so, for the same reasons!
These suggestions may (hopefully!) also apply to other church communications materials that you may be designing, such as posters, slideshows, digital assets and more.
So let’s dive on in.
Do choose fonts that complement each other
Almost all publicity includes text, and for good reason: a picture may be worth a thousand words but if it can’t fully communicate your message, your flyer will be lacking.
Choosing well-written text is so important, but almost as important are your font choices.
Whenever I’m impressed by a design, the typography is a big part of the reason. Without getting in to technicalities, let’s just agree that some fonts work better together than others.
Rather than re-writing the playbook, here are a couple of resources:
Spending a little time on font selection can make a huge difference to the overall look and feel of your design, as well as its legibility and effectiveness in communicating the message you want to get across.
Don’t use lots of different fonts
I stand by what I said above, but there is a limit. Try to keep a lid on it! Let’s just say less is more and we’ve all seen print publicity that has far too many fonts.
Oh, and while we’re on it, certain fonts should be made illegal for church use. I know it’s trendy to hate on Comic Sans (please click that link, it’s amazing), as it is with Papyrus (another great link). The truth is, they’re fine, for certain uses, but please, let’s just use something else, k? I’m pretty sure there’s something about not using Comic Sans MS in the book of Proverbs anyway…
Do leave space
It’s usually a good idea to leave a fair amount of white space – otherwise known as ‘negative space’.
Proper use of white space not only frees up the design from being overcrowded and cluttered, but also serves to draw the eye to the details that are important, as we’ll come on to shortly.
This reminds me of the following quote, which is so appealing to my minimalist tendencies:
“Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away”
Here are a few examples of white space being used well (click images for larger previews):
Don’t include every detail you can think of
If you’re inviting your audience of young parents to a family event, they probably don’t need to know right now that your church has a ministry for ‘seniors’. They also probably don’t need to know that it meets at 2pm in the hall. Or that it only meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month.
Am I being over the top? Perhaps a little. But the point is this – KISS (keep it simple, stupid!). The more details you include, the more elements there are to distract your audience from the message you actually want them to take away and act on.
Do include key details
It’s absolutely vital that you include clear next steps for people to take after viewing your church poster or flyer. We need to lead our audience to learn more and to perform an action as a result of viewing the publicity – make it obvious! Use button shapes, larger type or contrasting colours to help your call to action to stand out.
Common examples of call to actions for churches are ‘Further information’, ‘Book now’, or simply the dates and times of events that you want to invite people to. ‘Like us on Facebook’ or ‘Follow us on Twitter’ could also work in the right situations. Just make sure that it’s not only clear what the call to action is, but also how to do it – i.e. the relevant web address or who to get in touch with.
Don’t use clip art
However tempting it may be, just don’t do it. It’s not the 90s any more, it’s time to move on.
Similar to the Comic Sans edict, I don’t think much more needs to be said here.
Oh, and this also includes Word Art. Don’t get me started.
Do include photos that reflect your church life and culture
I won’t say much on this, because I’ve written on it before in this blog post about church event photography.
Good photos are easy to come by in the age of camera phones: it’s more a case of ensuring we capture the right things, and often. Plan your events with this in mind, and build up a photography library for your church communications team to use.
Don’t use obvious stock photography
Again, stock photography in church communications is something I’ve written about before.
Stock photography is sometimes a necessary evil, but this seems to be more widely recognised these days, so there is an increasing number of sources for good stock photos, some of which I refer to in the link above. With this said, I still stand by that stock photography will rarely, if ever, portray an accurate, honest and helpful picture of your church life.
Do get church publicity printed properly
Value is evident to those who pick up your flyer, so don’t just photocopy your leaflet in-house on flimsy paper. This is something that’s stuck with me throughout my career thus-far, and it could almost seem a little materialistic, but quality matters.
Use an external printer and print on a half-decent weight of paper, with a nice finish. Remember to use the layouts provided by your printer, for example these templates from Solopress – this ensures your content will go right to the edge of the page and won’t be cut off during the printing process.
Don’t use loads of different colours
Again, less is more. We can overload a design with too many colours, in the hope the it will stand out. Ironically, this often makes these different elements blend together, confusing the overall look and message of the leaflet or flyer. Your leaflet should have ‘life’, but it doesn’t need to be a rainbow.
Do use colours that work well together
A good idea is to create a sample palette as you begin your design, and to stick to it. There are many resources available to help you do this, my favourite being Adobe Color, which allows you to create and save pallettes, even syncing them with Adobe Creative Cloud apps like Photoshop or Illustrator.
This is something I’ve often found really helpful, as it provides a helpful creative restraint throughout the design process, as demonstrated in the following projects:
Whilst I’m aware that this is their third link in this blog alone, Creative Market yet again have another helpful post here: The Missing Cheatsheet For Brilliant Color Combinations.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
There are lots of templates out there that you can use, including loads of free ones. It’s important, though, to be aware that they aren’t all equal in terms of quality! For a bunch of good paid options, check out Creative Market (once again! I promise this isn’t a paid endorsement) – they even have 6 free products every week.
Be aware that you’ll need the right software to edit the template that you choose. This is often Photoshop although some sites offer print templates for Microsoft PowerPoint. If you need help choosing or customising a template, get in touch with me!
Do try out new tools from time to time
You may or may not have access to professional design software, but there’s a lot out there that you can get for free.
Tools like Canva, for example, are worth taking a look at. It’s essentially a light version of Photoshop, that lives online, running in your web browser – and it’s free. It offers default layouts for both prints and digital end products, such as Powerpoint slides, social media graphics and banner images.
Alternatively, many print companies offer free templates which you can customise on their sites, before completing your order – like these from Moo.com.
So there we go
Hopefully these tips will have been of use to you!
They’re aimed as a little overview of helpful tips, rather than a full course in graphic design, so if there’s anything I missed, let me know in the comments, or send me a message.
It would also be great if you could share this with any church volunteers who may find it helpful!