Corporate print, while still a long way off being an endangered species, has to work harder than ever to justify itself. Since it can be cheaper to use the company website than bankroll a massive print-run and postal charges, clients which do commission good old fashioned print have to be sure that they are really getting what they need. As a result, designers are under more pressure to deliver solutions that maximise the full benefits of print. Where the print medium can still score is by using its natural advantages of size and texture to effectively convey not only information, but brand personality. And this is certainly what clients seem to be looking for.
At merchant bank Granville Baird marketing manager Alison Capps is pleased with the way mailers with unusual print formats and bold typography – designed by Soukias Jones – have helped to convey the bank’s offbeat personality (see case studies) to its various investment audiences. With a print budget of £80 000 for roughly 15 projects a year, she believes that print still has an important role, where it is appropriate.
“The over-riding thing is whether it works as a vehicle… There are some things that are a slower business read – the pleasure of having something with good colour and texture cannot be replaced,” she says. “Print works for us in two ways. It has to convey our personality as well as keeping readers informed and trying to give people an idea of who we are. Everything we do says we’re ordinary and quite nice. Second, it has to be educational – a difficult balance between creating something funky, up-beat and modern that still comes across as professional.”
The result is better-designed literature which Capps says has in the past few years helped the bank to become a much more marketing-savvy environment. “Reps have developed a real sense of identity and pride going out with something of quality. It can say far more about the company than they can in a meeting,” she says.
Similarly, at property group Grantchester Holdings, Silk Pearce’s award-winning bold and colourful design is intended to reflect the fast-changing, lively retail park sector, with the colour carried through the document as page margins and in backgrounds to staff photographs, and also match the very modern and informal company style. The pulpy paper and flat reproduction also gives the brochure stand-out from its more glossy peers.
When Aldeburgh Productions commissioned the design for the guide to its famous music festival, its priority was a combination of the practical – a pocket-sized, easy-to-use format – and a wish to convey a flavour of the organisation and its locality. “We like our print to say something about who we are. It’s an emotional feel,” says Beverley Etkin, head of marketing of Aldeburgh Productions, who commissioned a 55 000 print run for the programme. Silk Pearce came up with a solution that instead © of featuring photos of the performers, stressed Suffolk’s fishing heritage, using a mound of silvery fish as the cover image with further photos inside – by Jeremy Young – of fishermen ashore and afloat, which the group hopes will appeal to the cultured festival audience. “As a marketing tool it’s very important. It’s a particular size – like a diary – so it’s easy to carry around. It has a very strong visual look and is very tactile so that people want to pick it up,” says Etkin.
It is this use of design to appeal to the target audience that’s important to clients. At the Design Business Association, the emphasis is on producing print design that connects with the designer target audience. “We tend to give the design group a free rein to be as creative as they like to appeal to people in the industry,” says Stephanie Smith, DBA assistant chief executive.
The association works with a range of its design group members including Design House, Interbrand Newell and Sorrell, Redpath, Interstate, Elmwood and its regular printer Bezier Corporate Print. Print runs vary from 3000 to 120 000. “We have to be so careful about what we do produce because we know how critical the audience is,” Smith adds.
Redland’s approach to its latest Landmark publication (see case study) was also guided by the need to satisfy a design-literate audience; while for documents produced by HM Treasury explaining the Euro to small businesses (see case study), the emphasis was on clear and attractive design which would encourage the target audience to read on despite the dry subject.
Yet it seems inevitable that today’s print clients will continue to look hard at the Internet option. While many clients favour a “parallel publishing” approach, print runs for some documents – with the exception of annual reports and accounts – are now declining as clients explore Web-based communications. At Redland, product material can be found on-line as well as in print, but marketing director Clive Jackson acknowledges that many still prefer the printed medium. “We are printing less. The print-runs are getting shorter… But it’ll be some time before most material required by our customers is provided electronically,” he says.
“We do a lot of literature, but less so (now) with the Internet,” adds Kathryn Partridge, head of external communications at Diageo, saying that some standard corporate brochures and media packs have been completely replaced by the Internet, which has the advantage of being able to provide downloaded images. “Print-runs for annual reports aren’t reducing just yet, but over the next few years I think it might happen,” Partridge adds.
While Grantchester now mainly uses the Internet in preference to print, chief executive Nick Hewson admits that print retains many special advantages. “It’s there, tangible, touchable, feelable, gets into the heart of a reader as well as the head,” he says, referring to Grantchester’s latest annual report and accounts. “It definitely conveys personality and possibly brand issues, certainly that we are in retail and that that industry is dynamic and changing.”
Clients still want the same ability to communicate whatever the medium. “From a design point of view it’s very important the work is able to market the company brand properly, look and feel,” says Partridge. She cites the 1999 Diageo annual review, by Bamber Forsyth, which made bold use of illustrations to convey the company’s many brands being enjoyed against a bright orange background. This ties in with the annual report and accounts, which has the same orange for its cover but is otherwise more restrained, showing just four of the Diageo brands along the bottom.
Bamber Forsyth also designed GlaxoWellcome’s latest report and accounts and its separate annual review, which takes much more of an upbeat approach, focusing on interviews with members of staff about their work. In the review, which has a print run of 350 000, inspirational text is matched with dramatic photography and printed on uncoated stock.
“We’re very pleased with the result. We are aiming for a warmer magazine feel to what had in the past been a colder document,” says client publications manager David Holmes.
He has a publications budget of £750 000 excluding the report and accounts, using in-house designers for some of the print. But for such a major project he picked Bamber Forsyth, one of the eight to ten regulars on GlaxoWellcome’s design roster.
The Internet will inevitably impact more and more on print requirements. But as ever, it’s a case of horses for courses. Print may increasingly be used more selectively, but it will always have natural advantages which will continue to give it a key role to play in communicating a client’s brand values to its audience.