How to Design for On- and Offline

Jonny Rowntree
by Jonny Rowntree 20 Feb, 2014

:: By Jonny Rowntree, Elanders ::

It's one of the most exciting aspects of starting up a business: spending those countless, dedicated hours before the computer screen, gaining a grasp of all the various intricacies of design and combining them to create the perfectly branded Web page which will draw in traffic...and translate onto paper? Let us explain.

It's savvy marketing at its finest. Embodying the scope of the company's ethos and optimizing the design for litho printing purposes can seem like a daunting feat, but in reality, despite the precision, effort and talent involved, a firm grasp of the basics is enough to produce a high-caliber product which is sure to catch the eye of many new customers.

Key Design Elements

Using the right kind of design elements is the most important aspect of Web design to follow, because ultimately, this is what will help your business stand out and appeal to new clientele as well as become a recognizable and well-loved product to current customers. Composing that elemental design is both challenging and interesting, and gives you the opportunity to think outside of the box and come up with ways to play with symbols and themes. Some great ways to do this is to sketch some images which come to mind when thinking about your products by hand, and then draft them onto a graphic design program.

As Juul Coolen states, there are 7 key elements which comprise a good Web design, and this should be kept in mind for optimum printability:

- Balance (How where you will place "weight" on certain aspects of the page)

- Grid (How to compartmentalize each section)

- Color (How to convey certain moods and expressions)

- Graphics (Select choices or how to represent the company and illustrate concepts)

- Typography (Use of fonts)

- White or Negative Space (How the space around provides greater impact and access)

- Connection (Unity and consistency)

Getting the right kind of program to utilize these essentials is fairly straight forward. These range from all kinds of skill levels, from Microsoft Paint to Adobe Photoshop which features several stock shapes and signs which can customized for good effect. Free, open-source programs like The Gimp and Inkscape offer similar services to Adobe, and a list of plugins from the developer community can enhance their capabilities to produce certain graphics and file types (Inkscape, for example, is known for its specialty in vector graphics).

Several online sources are available as well, so you don't always need Microsoft Publisher - a highly intuitive Web page creator which has found a niche performing several other functions - in order to achieve either a logo or a layout. Online photo editors can be found across the Web simply by typing in their URL or adding an extension to your browser, while simplified websites make personalization simple and effective. Blogger, WordPress and other media websites offer a wide range of features that can be adapted to meet a particular style, and can be used effectively as an online source as well as for printing. Then, for websites which carry your name on the domain, many offer templates which can be altered as well as the option to start from scratch.

From Digital to Tangible

While most traffic is directed toward these websites, being able to carry the torch from digital to print is essential for business success. Particularly in smaller, quieter communities, word of mouth serves as the best form of marketing and the neighbor who owns the local pub has the perfect venue for brochures, flyers, and business cards. Ranging from the simplified to the detailed, these little gems of paper are the tangible truths that get passed from hand to hand so that potential clients will divert to the website to gain more information or satisfy curiously. Keeping the design and the ethos consistent is crucial. Small businesses need to carry the same tone and conceptual style as they do in the online world and take it beyond.


It's not just about staying consistent with color and other design elements, although these are definitely important to keep in mind. The chromatic scale on a 64-bit system, for instance, will not contain the same depth as on a 32-bit machine and both will not replicate 100 percent on print, except with industry standard printers which can handle maximum dpi (dots per inch) and high resolutions. It's important to keep this design as crisp as possible - not simply for professional quality and ease of printing, but because simple, striking business cards, for instance, are more likely to make an impact on a customer.

Bear in mind too that print faces challenges based on its static nature and cannot be adapted as easily as a few updated details via the webmaster, so running plenty of test runs to ensure that you have reached the proper design concept is crucial before settling into a permanent item. Making sure this is consistent with the website's overall theme is at the core of transferring from print to website seamless. This means that dynamic attributes of design assets such as embedded video and apps which link to other sources or internally should be presented in a manner which explains their function on print so that when navigating to the website, the viewer can easily relate to the purpose of the media. Of course, these can be left out altogether as well, in which case they need to take a subtler role online.

In some cases, print products will "bleed" their backgrounds to emphasize a sense of continuity and also demonstrate some consistency with the Web page as well, so if striving to capture the same kind of impression, don't simply focus on the logo and immediate info alone - give it the expansiveness and openness which makes it appealing to the aesthetic eye and can filter into the subconscious of clients. Ultimately, the design concept which helms the appearance of the Web page and print will be the same, just a matter of experimenting with different mediums to achieve a powerful and enticing message.

Jonny Rowntree is a freelance writer working with worldwide printing partner, Elanders UK based in Northern England. He has previously worked with other design and technology publications such as The Next Web and Creative Bloq.