By Gavin Meikle, Head Of Learning And Founder Of Inter-Activ

The other day I picked up a flyer from my local business school advertising some open talks.

When I got back to the office and attempted to read it, I found out that they had made some irritating formatting errors that made it almost unreadable. I started writing some feedback for them and then thought that the points that I noticed were worth sharing with you. I recommend that you print off this article and use it to test your own written marketing material at the proof stage.

1) Is the font size chosen readable by your target audience?
As someone who is a little bit older, I am discovering the inevitable truth that eyesight tends to diminish with age. I now struggle to read very small print. I know it can be tempting to go for a small font size in order to get more text into a given space, but I strongly counsel against this. There is a trade off with readability. Start by thinking of the age group of your ideal customers. Are they likely to have 20:20 vision? There is nothing more annoying that unreadable text! Before going to print, please check that the font is readable!

2) Consider the effect of background colour on readability.
The particular leaflet that prompted this post had a graduated green background, shading from dark green on the left to lighter green on the right. The font colour was black. As a result, text on the right hand side of the page was reasonably readable bit the text on the left was not! I suspect that this design may have looked fine when reproduced on a backlit LCD monitor but the readability was altogether different in print. Err on the side of caution and avoid combinations of dark backgrounds and dark fonts.

3). Is all the important information immediately obvious?
When a flyer is promoting an event, I think that it is essential to include;

• Topic or event title
• Date of the event (day month and year),
• Start and finish times,
• Venue (including postcode),
• Price (if applicable)
• Booking instructions

Few things irritate your readers’ more than missing or ambiguous information of this type. Of course, they can phone or email for the missing information, but that means more work for them and, since like most people they are intrinsically lazy, they probably won't bother.

In conclusion
Printed marketing material still has an important role to play in communicating with existing and prospective clients. Unfortunately, poorly designed flyers leaflets and postcards can end up being an expensive waste of time and money. Before you give the go ahead to the printer, check for these common mistakes and if in doubt, get a printed proof copy as well as an electronic one.

P.S. If you have any other formatting pet hates not mentioned here, please email them to me at gmeikle@inter-activ.co.uk