Applying UX Principles to Print Advertising

While user experience (UX) design is synonymous with online user experience and interactive design, the principles behind UX design are relevant in all aspects of advertising design – especially print (which is most definitely not dead). After all, we want the mailer you receive to catch your attention, not wind up in your trash can.

Built on a strong foundation of high-volume experience with direct mail, the RP creative department works on printed pieces every day. From logo design, collateral materials, event invitations, newsletters, and annual reports to over-the-top specialty mailers, we love the challenge of finding creative ways to satisfy our clients and actively engage their customers.

We also love nerding over pantone swatches, fancy stock, finishes and foils. There is nothing – I repeat – nothing quite like the tactile experience of printed pieces.

But back to UX. Whether it be problem solving, managing customer expectations, or anticipating actions, UX design principles are inherent to our work in the RP creative department.

Here’s a break-down of our top 5 UX design principles for print:

1. Plan the Interaction

From folded newsletters to postcards to die-cut champagne bottles, you must think about how the customer will interact with your piece. If you open something and have to flip it upside-down to read it properly, you probably need to re-think your design. This is a quick way to make a bad first impression. Planning on the front-end helps ensure that your message is read in the correct order, which, in turn, translates to a better overall consumer experience.


2. Grab their Attention

The most obvious way to command attention is with a headline that’s big, bold and on-point. While proper informational hierarchy is paramount to the user experience, our favorite way to make people stop and notice their mail are specialty pieces. A very simple way to bust through the clutter is to do an oversized piece; something larger than regular mail. But size isn’t the only way to grab attention. Specialty papers and processes can instantly elevate a printed piece, taking a design from one glance to one-of-a-kind. At RP, we’re touched by touché paper, melt for metallic foils, and die for die cuts. We might even make you a piece that literally pops off the page (like a pop-up box).

3. Clarify the Message

Not only does the headline need to be attention-grabbing, but the rest of the information also needs to be clear and concise. In this fast, digital-first world, no one wants to read a novel on a postcard or outdoor board (read our blog on Effective Outdoor Advertising for more on that). It’s best to get to the point and highlight your call-to-action. Relevant visuals and imagery are also key to complement your message and balance the design. This is also a great opportunity to incorporate a creative infographic.


4. Stay True to Your Brand

It’s always good to step outside the design box, but it’s never good to step so far outside that you’re unrecognizable. It would be irrelevant, off-brand – and frankly, a little weird – to create a pop-up book for a hospital brochure about cancer care. Acknowledge your established brand elements to maintain brand relevance while creating something new. This will help to nurture the brand-customer relationship, while still giving the customer a new, memorable experience.


5. Connect with the Audience

Every principle listed above is integral to this step. UX is all about connecting with the customer and providing them with an unforgettable experience. To do this, you must know your target audience. However, it’s more than just doing the research. You might have to do creative testing. If you’re unsure of what your audience will respond to, create multiple, distinctly different designs for the same promotion over the course of a few months, send to varying groups, and see what design style gets the best response rate. While a big investment of time and potentially cost, this could lead to a much larger payoff in the long run.

Building upon these principles has allowed RP to carve a niche in the interactive DM world. Check out a sneak peek of a specialty piece we recently created for Hard Rock Casino – Cincinnati that will soon be featured on our website. This die-cut piece utilizes black touché and silver Stardream papers, with purple foil and spot UV gloss, to create an exclusive invitation for a rockin’ VIP experience.

We can’t wait to create the next experience for you and your customers. Get in touch to see how our team can help your brand.