The entire world seems to have gone digital these days, from newspapers and magazines creating online versions to social media taking over the advertising world. Even though print circulation has decreased, that can actually mean good news for marketers because the readers left are those who are highly engaged and very targeted to that particular magazine.

Some studies even show that print advertising creates a stronger impression than a digital ad. Knowing that, it is smart business to reach consumers on as many levels as possible. While there is a time and a place for digital ads, there is also still a place for print ads. With so many digital magazines requiring an email to subscribe, some people simply want more privacy and turn to print instead.


However, there are some very specific design elements you’ll want to keep in mind when creating print ads.

1. Create Unique Imagery

If you really want to capture the attention of the reader, think about how you can use imagery for the ad in a unique way. Is there a symbol or something related to the product you can use in a unique way?

One example of this can be seen in the Volkswagen ad above. The image of a key is turned on its side and instead of the hills and valleys a key typically has, the consumer sees a landscape with trees and adventure. This ties right in with its tagline “Turn on your adventure.”

2. Use of the Space

Make sure you use all the space you’ve paid for to the utmost advantage. A center spread, for example, means you have the entire spread across two pages to work with. At the same time, you have to consider that there will be a fold to deal with in the middle. A center fold means text and other elements that sit on that fold might be skewed. You need to consider this with the overall design. While you want the two pages to appear seamless, you also want the consumer to be able to read the text.

In the ads above, Adidas does an excellent job of using the entire space, but placing the image so the center fold doesn’t disrupt the overall effect of the ad. Notice how the placement is exact so the top ad almost looks as though the woman is in the middle of doing a situp.

3. Use of Color

Bright colors can grab the attention of readers, particularly if there are many pages of white with black text. A sudden pop of a brightly colored background or item can really draw the eye. Talk to the magazine advertising contact about what colors might surround your ad. Although they may not know until the final layout is approved, they can give you an idea of typical content for the magazine.

In the Miyabi print ad above, the colors are bright and vivid but also tie into an everyday thing you might cut with one of their knives — a watermelon. If a reader were scanning through a magazine, the bright blue and red would definitely catch that person’s eye.

4. Know the Rules, So You Can Break Them

There are some basic rules for magazine ad layout. For example, about 65 percent of the ad should be the image, and the rest made up of the headline, logo and ad copy. While this is a general rule of thumb, considerations such as the space available and putting the focus on one specific element can change how much space each element takes up. Understanding these basic tenets allows you to also know when to break the rules to grab the reader’s attention.

Note in the ad above for Curtis tea that there is no headline at all. The entire focus is on the cup of tea and the logo. In this instance, the brand lets the image speak for itself. This can work well in a magazine that is word-heavy. A visual can give the reader a break from all the text.

5. Align to the Right

Think about the last time you read a magazine. More than likely your eye traveled to the right hand side of the page. If you create your ad with right alignment, then the magazine is most likely to place your ad on the right for a balanced look. This can give you a slight edge over the other ads in the magazine.

6. Overall Tone of the Magazine

Your ad should match the overall tone of the magazine. If the magazine is upscale and serious, then you don’t want to place an ad that is fun and lighthearted. On the other hand, if the magazine has a lighter tone, a posh-looking ad might not be the right choice. Take the time to study various ads in the magazine to get a feel for what other advertisers are doing. Go one step further and also study the articles and features to get the best feel possible for the audience.

7. Is it Evergreen?

Print ads can stay in circulation for a long period of time. For example, you might visit a doctor’s office and find a magazine several years old. Because of this, it is important that your ad is not so trendy that it will be outdated in a few months. Try to stay away from pop culture trends, and focus on what is likely to still be popular in a few years. This will keep your ad timely no matter the season or year.

Hard Copies

There will likely always be some type of hard-copy form of magazines and newspapers. Some people love the feel of these items or the ease of taking it along absolutely anywhere, even where there is not good internet access. In a world where people are deluged with digital ads, print ads still have a place and audience.

*Cover image by Alejandro Vizio.