OK, hot shot, you need 5,000 brochures in the next 7-10 business days for a trade show in Saskatoon. Your boss says it better be unique, jazzy and cheaper than last year’s. Your move. What are you going to do? The clock’s ticking.

First of all, don’t run immediately over to your Publisher Software and add drop shadows to all your headlines on last year’s brochure.  And second, don’t add drop shadows period. What you should do is calmly return to your office, put your creative pants on and buckle up.

Let’s break down these pointed, but vague, directions from your boss. Impress the brass and more importantly, drive business by thinking through the project.


My years of experience have given me enough clairvoyance to determine your boss is asking you to make something that you don’t see every day. Given that this needs to be a printed piece, your boss probably isn’t looking for a tri-fold brochure or a rack card. Although cheap to produce, these formulaic materials really don’t entice your reader.


Jazzy is an industry term for “don’t make it suck.” This means your boss is looking for a well-designed marketing piece where content and design work together to deliver a direct and thoughtful message to the reader. If I’m wrong, well, then your boss probably wants drop shadows on everything. However, typically, when you present a design with good copy and layout practices, your materials really don’t require a drop shadow. That seems to only happen when the marketing piece is missing something and a designer is trying to fill the void.

What are some ways to make your piece “jazzy?” Here are three really quick and simple design tricks.

1. Let photos fill the whole page – even over the fold line. Just make sure your photos are large enough to flood the space. They should be 300 dpi (dots per inch) when you blow them up.

2. Kern your fonts in the headline. Kerning means that you squish the letters together. Fonts have a ratio of space between letters, so when you increase the size of your font, the space between the letters gets bigger. In a headline, you can push the letters together without sacrificing legibility and it’ll look clean.

3. Use negative space. In other words, it’s okay to leave some of your printed material empty. It lets your eyes focus on one block of messaging at a time.


Well, this means cheap as in inexpensive. The best way to do that is to waste as little paper and labor as possible.

Start by contacting a commercial printer.

Commercial printing typically involves a higher quality of product than your conventional copy shop like FedEx Kinkos. A copy place like FedEx Kinkos usually prints on a laser jet and you get charged a per printed sheet price as determined by the sign above the front desk. A lot of these copy shops charge around 50¢ per copy for a full color 8.5×11 sheet. Sure these places offer a one or two-day turnaround, but this flyer would cost you $2,500 for 5,000. Yikes. With limited folds and paper stocks, this piece wont’ be unique or cheap.

Commercial printers have more or less an estimating and biding process. This is where experience in the print industry is helpful and knowing some of the tips and secrets of printing is critical for production. Think in a printer’s terms of efficiency: labor + materials = money. Keep the production automated and you can cut the costs on the plates and paper.

Plates? Let me explain.

A commercial printer uses metallic plates to transfer an image or text over to paper. Generally, there are four ink colors that create a full color image – cyan, magenta, yellow and black. You’ve probably heard of these colors in regards to your laser jet printer at the office. In your laser jet, these colors are placed on the page simultaneously. On a commercial press, these plates are much larger and placed one at a time.

Paper is the largest variable in the printing process. I have countless books of papers with different thicknesses, textures and coating styles. Fancier paper usually costs more. But fancy paper in the printing world is way different than the “fancy” paper options at your quick run shop where you get a handful of thicknesses and your choice of matte or glossy. To meet your boss’ request of something unique and cheap, I’d probably get something with a little weight to it and perhaps a light texture. It’s better than your copy shop options and most likely in stock, so the cost will be lower. Since paper is a product of nature, it’s a commodity which means pricing will fluctuate by product and the time of year. In other words, ask your printer what’s available.

A press that is not running is not making any money. Therefore, an empty press is a cheaper press. In order to get your printing costs down, you should go through a bidding process with a few different printers. List all your specs; dimensions, paper choices, design requirements and most importantly, your turnaround time. The print estimator will take your spec sheet, determine the most efficient print run and schedule time on the press. If they are slower that week, they will probably cut the price to ensure they win the bid so they can keep the press running.

Here’s another quick word of advice: ASAP is not a calendar date. Rush jobs cost more. Offset this by getting print bids before you start designing. Reserve your rate and time on the press. Just be sure you stick to the deadline you set.

Alright big guy. You’ve got seven days, a few bullet points, a handful of pictures and a boss that demands pizazz.  Hopefully the one thing you won’t have is stress. Good luck.