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How to Design Business Collateral for Consultants

By Jake Downs

As a business consultant, perception is an important part of developing a client base. Even in the internet age, printed business materials – business cards, brochures, fliers, etc. – play a big role in how people view you. They can make your company come across as a well-established expert or an untrustworthy amateur – and that can be the difference between getting passed over or landing a new client.

If you’ve already developed your internet presence, it’s a good idea to coordinate your printed material with its design.

So how do you develop materials that set you up as the go-to consultant? Whether you’re hiring a graphic designer or doing it on your own, it’s good to know the basic design principles to present a professional appearance.

Design with the fold in mind. When creating a brochure, don’t forget how it will ultimately be put together. Information can literally get lost in the fold if you don’t leave a blank space. Do a test run before you actually go to print to ensure everything looks alright once it’s completely put together.

Don’t forget the basics. What’s the most important thing to get across in any piece of business collateral? Contact information! You may be surprised by how many people get caught up in the other parts of the design and forget this detail. Make sure your business’s name, phone number, address, email, and website URL are all clear and easy to read.

Keep the background simple. In an effort to get fancy, many businesses try to use an image or pattern as a background, but if it’s not done right, it can detract from the design much more than it adds to it. Text can be harder to read, and it may be more difficult to create a clear focal point.

Use blank space. Instead of using a complicated background, take advantage of that boring old white background to draw attention to what matters most. Clutter can make it more difficult to locate relevant information.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Once you’ve developed one piece of marketing material – like a business card – you can use the basic design elements from that for other pieces of marketing material. This will help you to develop a clear and consistent brand, as well as saving you time and money.

Match your website. If you’ve already developed your internet presence, it’s a good idea to coordinate your printed material with its design. That way, when people visit your website after looking at your business collateral, there is no question that they are at the right place.

Use your photo. Put a face to your business – yours! It may help people remember you if you hand them your consulting business card.

Choose high-quality paper. A surefire way to seem unprofessional is to use flimsy stock. There are many good-looking versions available – glossy, matte, textured. Be sure to do a test print to ensure that your design looks good on the paper type you select.

Stay standard for business card sizing. When creating a card design, you want to do something that makes you stand out – but there’s one area where you want to follow the pack: size. You’ll find many weird shapes and formats advertised as a way to draw attention, but the problem is that the card won’t fit in a standard business card organizer. That may mean that your card ends up in the trash instead.

Go hi-res. Make sure your images look their best. To avoid blur and pixilation, you want to use at least 300 dpi.

Make sure fonts are readable. It’s often best to stick to the basic fonts – Times New Roman, Arial, Courier, Helvetica – to ensure readability. Don’t go too small, or you may find that some potential clients simply can’t read it! You can draw attention to headings and subheadings by using bold, increasing the font size, changing the color, or even getting fancy with features like glow, bevel, and drop shadows.

Consider the order of information for brochures. Look at how your brochure will open up, and design with that in mind. The front outer flap and back center panel are the things you’ll see without opening it, so make those sections count!

Jake Downs covers digital document management in Chicago. In his free time, he spends hours finding cool stuff on eBay.

3 thoughts on “How to Design Business Collateral for Consultants

  1. Jake, you’re right, design issues matter. They are part of the consultant’s client experience, but often overlooked.

  2. Tom Stevens says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Aarni and Jake on this one. Design is so important. Michael, it looks though you’ve made design important here too, it’s correct?

  3. Tom – certainly. Design can be a powerful force in setting the right first impression in the marketplace. And its importance and role in the world of business has grown as well.

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