Creating Killer Promotional Materials, Part 4: Flyers

Ministry of Sound flyer

Here's a flyer for a sold-out event at Ministry of Sound (where we're filming some of our forthcoming free pro DJ training). What makes a good flyer work? And what are the common pitfalls you need to avoid? That's what today's article is about.

In part one of this six-part series we looked at your DJ bio, before moving on to your DJ logo in part two and your press photo in part three. Today we're looking at event flyers.

Practically from the moment that anyone ever decided to throw a public party, there has been the flyer. Probably the most key piece of advertising ever used throughout history, its simplicity as a piece of paper containing information has also been just as complicated in how they are designed. Today I want to dive into proper flyer design and hopefully help you build better advertising for your events. I'll show you mistakes many make and how to get the most for your time and/or money...regardless if you design them yourself or hire someone to do it.

What's your advertising plan?

Before you even think of designing anything (or having someone design it for you), really seriously need to think about how you want to go about advertising your event. Basically, your tactics. Are you ready and willing to go out and network, handing out flyers to potential customers? Or are you just planning on leaving small stacks in local stores? What about online? Do you have a website? Social media? Email list?

The main reason to think about these things (and plan from them) is because you don't want to spend valuable resources on physical paper flyers if you're not going to really utilise the art of street promotion. Leaving stacks in local shops has become a losing situation, mainly because everyone does this and thus your flyer is lost in a mass of others.

I'll also add in that promoting your event online is a different tactic than on the street. Too many will design one paper flyer and then use the same graphic on websites, social media and emails. The problem though is too many print flyers are just not easily read in the online medium. This is why you need to make a plan, and list out all the potential areas you're going to seriously advertise in.

Designing a flyer for print

So let's say a print flyer is in the plan. First you should decide if you want to enlist a designer to do the work, or if you wish to go at it on your own. Many DJs have toyed in graphic programs such as Photoshop or GIMP to make their own flyers in the DIY spirit. Others will know someone or even enlist a design student looking to build his/her portfolio.

Print flyer

A good designer can turn your mass of event information into an effective, distinctive and attractive flyer.

If you go the DIY route, bear in mind that some programs are better than others, but there isn't a set "wrong" or "right". I've seen flyers designed in Microsoft Word that can do the job just as well as those designed in Photoshop. What you need to be able to do though is provide your printing service an adequate file they can use. This usually means a PDF or even a JPG that carries a high resolution of 150-300 dpi (dots per inch).

The primary reason for the higher resolution is that a lower resolution will give you an end result of a blurry, pixelated flyer. I touched on this point in the article on logos. While you don't need to make a vector file of a flyer, you do need something sizeable enough to print.

When it comes to size, that really comes down to you and what your budget is. Unless you're an experienced designer in some regard, I'd tell you to shop around for a printer, and then talk to them about sizing and pricing. Flyers can be printed in black and white, or more often now "four colour", which means CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). Those four colours are what printers use and mix to make literally any shade of any colour you design with.

Talking to a printer in advance can help you because they often will advise, give you templates to work off of, or even offer you design services at a modest fee. It's in their interest to help simply because not helping could end up with them receiving a "project from hell". So talk to them, and don't be afraid to ask questions. If they seem annoyed, then take your business elsewhere.

Clean design with a hierarchy of information

If you had to ask me for just one extremely important piece of advice in designing a flyer, I'd actually give you two: Have a clean design, and build a solid hierarchy of information.

When I say "clean design", I mean a design that can be easily read and understood. Way too many times I'll see complete rookies and even amateur designers get a little too enthusiastic with fonts, colours, filters and 3D effects, turning what's supposed to be a flyer into a busy cluttered mess one can't easily decipher.


'A clean design with a hierarchy of information': Here are the three areas on this flyer fir primary, secondary and tertiary information, so you can get a sense of how important getting this right is.

I don't care how cool that font looks, or how glows and strokes make words blast out... if you can't easily read the flyer then it's useless. Best practice is to use the wild effects on what's known as the "hero image". That's the main big logo or text lockup of the whole event.

So if you put "EDM DREAM" as the name of your event, that's the big piece of text that could be jacked up in effects. Your lineup, address, and other vital information should simpler, clean, and easy to read. Even then, there is good creative design, and then there is overkill. You can only put so much "pop" on a flyer until you make it a mess.

The hierarchy of information is even more vital. This is when you take all the information you need on the flyer and break it down into a list based on importance. From here, the placement of that information, and even how big and "designed" you might make it, will begin to take on great importance.

Look at most flyers you've encountered. Usually the date and name of the event is treated as of the highest importance. Secondary to this would be what you see as the "main draw". Bear in mind this won't always be the DJ. It could be some kind of "contest" (like a hot body contest), or some unique attraction/vibe (like a white party or costume party), or even just a great food/drink special. I know we're all DJs here and would love to promote ourselves as the most important, but always think business. Think what you believe the average person will come out for.

From there, the rest is only what you feel is important to put in the space you have. Of course the venue address (or hotline number if this is a rave) is important, as well as any web addresses you like. When it comes to the DJ lineup, you should only list names if you think they are truly beneficial to your marketing. Sometimes you just need to sacrifice the smaller names on the print flyer to push what's more important.

You should also not try to cram everything into a flyer. Again, it'll make a busy, cluttered mess. Always think like the consumer does... and what you think will attract them.

Other good tips

If you are using background imagery or colours, design your flyer with a bleed. A bleed is added background length/width put on a design that will be chopped off when the printer cuts your flyers. A 1/8-inch bleed is usually standard. So if you're designing a flyer that's 7" x 5", make your final design 7 1/4" x 5 1/4". This is how you get colour (or the photo) running to the edge as opposed to small bits of white showing up in the cut.

Messy flyer

Here's an example of a messy flyer. People's attention is short, their time for anything you've got to tell them limited. Don't make it hard for them by producing a flyer that doesn't even look like a flyer, more like a screwed-up paper bag.

Make sure you use high-resolution imagery for anything you need. So if you have a photo of a headliner or some pretty girl you want to use, make sure it's big. Taking a small photo off someone's Facebook page won't do. If you don't believe me then try it and see how well it looks.

A big tip is to think branding and marketing in your design. Way back when I touched on the fundamentals of marketing, I showed a flyer I made for an event that failed. It was supposed to be a laid-back, fun night at a bar with some good music, and I used an image and design that would more fit an elegant lounge. It's no wonder the flyer didn't help promote our event. You need to watch yourself when you think pictures of gogo dancers, or DJs, or big space events could be a wonderful visual... when your night isn't about that.

If you're looking to save to money, consider designing two one-sided flyers and printing them on either side of the paper. This is ideal for those who perhaps have two weekly events and thus want one flyer to hand out for both (even if they are at different venues). Granted you lose valuable real estate in going one-sided, but you'll save money and have one easy flyer to give out (as opposed to two).

Versioning for online use

Despite event promotion moving more online than offline, I still see too many out there not fully utilising the internet space for maximum return. Most simply take that large high-resolution flyer image and post it on websites, in emails, and all over social media. The end result are images sitting in hard-to-read sizes, and thus potential customers passing you by.

When you design a flyer for print, take down the sizes you would want for a full online promotion, and implement them. I won't list any sizes here because they constantly change as these sites implement updates. I will say though that your online graphics should have a resolution of 72 dpi, as opposed to the 150-300 dpi of print. This is mainly due to the fact these graphics will be seen on screens as opposed to on paper, and screens (even HD ones) are low resolution.


Back to our friends at Ministry of Sound, and look how Defected uses a clean, simple (but recognisable) version of its branding on its Facebook page to advertise its events.

So let's say you plan to heavily promote on Facebook. Many will want to put the flyer on news feeds, as well as the cover photo and/or profile photo. Notice though how you're now dealing with three different sizes. The cover photo is very horizontal while the profile photo is a square, and news feed photos are smaller and rectangular.

So what's the solution? Design three graphics, and make even bigger decisions on the information to be shown. That profile photo perhaps should be your "big text" telling the name of the event, and the date. Put other information in the description. Your end result will be a visible graphic that might entice someone to look deeper.

The same goes for the cover photo. Why are you cropping a big vertical image into a horizontal space? You'll end up losing 80% of your information. Instead, make a big horizontal image that fits the space with the name of the event, date, venue, and one to two big pieces of important information, such as the headliner. In all honesty, barely anyone will even come to your profile page versus seeing your flyer in their news feed, so your cover graphic (if you want one) should be a quick read.

With the actual news feed, you'll probably be posting the flyer as an image, like you would any photo. You might think your normal flyer design is ideal, and it just might be. However, if you have small text, then it won't be easily read...even when they enlarge it. Your goal should be a quick read graphic that will catch their attention as they gloss over most of the junk on their news feeds. Again... think clarity and information hierarchy.

All of this still reinforces why you should have a website; a central spot to send people to where they can get all the information... including if they need to buy tickets. Your social media and email should all be about leading the patron to one spot where you can post full information in great detail.



Next week…

I mentioned email promotion earlier in this article, but I want to take the time to fully show you how to use email to promote your events, music, or whatever. We'll dive into if you need to use email, the correct and legal way to build an email list, how to design and build emails, and how to properly send them.

Here are the links to the other parts in this series:

Have you ever poured your heart into a flyer design only to realise you'd made a fundamental error or tow? Have you had a flyer that did really well? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. I've recently taken on the role of flyer designer for my events and this was very helpful to me. Thanks

  2. Hey there! Also, as a quick rule with hero images and creating the layout grid then the 'rule of thirds' is a good one to remember. For example, the hero image in the demo flyer above occupies around 2/3rds of the height of the flyer for a visually pleasing size.

    • Good point! Thanks for adding.

      I usually think "rule of thirds" when I do photography. It is a good design discipline, but I'd also say 1/2 and 1/2 can also work if you have more info than can fit in the space. Still, 2/3 hero to 1/3 secondary/tertiary info is a better practice to get maximum impact from those who see your flyer at a glance.

  3. ForcedHand says:

    Again, I like what you said, but I'd like to add a couple of things.

    When making a flyer, try not to go too overboard with the fonts for information. The purpose of the flyer is to convey information, not "show how street you are." If you have a flyer that isn't legible by the casual reader, your event will suffer.

    You can add spot colors like; gold, silver, or glow-in-the-dark (which works really well under black light) to your flyers too, but I recommend C-M-Y-K-B for anything printed with normal colors (the black just adds that nice punch which gives depth).

    It cannot be stressed enough that whenever you launch a marketing campaign, you must-must-MUST! keep everything looking stylistically similar (try a few designs out and then pick one and go with it). All layouts, all interfaces, and all fonts must keep a certain look-and-feel across all media. Otherwise, you'll end up looking like you don't have control of things (like the messy flyer D-Jam references above).

    I honestly feel that printed flyers are on their way out (in this digital age). QR tab-linked flyers are certainly an easier way for people to "pick up a flyer" as this is a way to ensure only the people who want to know more about events get it, but there's never any wasted material that doesn't get handed out (or dumped in the trash can by a person who is paid to pass out flyers). With this style of advertisement, you can link a person's e-mail (or calendar) to events (so people are... 'reminded' about your events) while also tracking them as a patron (and rewarding them for loyal patronage). I've done this for a few clubs and the integration takes a little bit, but when you incorporate a little technology, you can really get some big numbers as a result. being treated like a V.I.P. keeps people coming back.

    For tickets, places like Eventbrite allow you to host for very little and even allows promotional codes. This is worth looking into if you don't want to manage a database of clients but still want the power that comes from having that database.

    • ForcedHand says:

      Ah! another reminder not to do two things at once! I meant to say C-M-Y-K-G (G being green) as human beings see more tints/shades of green than any other color.

      How's that edit function coming along? 😛

    • Thanks for the additional discussion. Again, I didn't want to get too deep into "how to do graphic design", but they are valid points that one should reckon.

      I also agree that printed flyers are on their way out. It's why I stress that unless you're going to be out on the street putting flyers into the hands of potential patrons, then don't waste your money. Dropping stacks in the stores is pointless now, and that money would be better spent on perhaps putting ads on popular local websites or paying to use another promoter's email list (will get into that next week).

      I'm also finding now that Reddit is becoming an untapped potential spot to promote. Go into subreddits for cities, like r/Chicago or r/ChicagoEDM and you'll see people post how they're coming to visit and want to know where to go. Toss them a link to the info or even offer them a comp entry or something to pull new heads. This of course works if you live in a major city with a tourism scene.

      I'm skeptical on QR...mainly because studies have shown barely anyone in the US uses them. However, I think it would help if Apple, Google, and Microsoft had included QR readers in their respective mobile OS's.

      • QR codes are an interesting one alright! I have QR codes on my business cards, and people are always impressed by them when I hand them out.... but I URL track when they're scanned, and it's basically never! I would have taken them off, were it not for the kind of professional look it gives. I think they're essentially useless in that regard. Who'd scan a QR code when there's a website to type in? Same goes for flyers really, if you have a flyer in your hand, you're far more inclined to just type in the website, or Google the club name and find the event that way!

        • Many now are investing in short links over QR. I'm talking a shortened URL over putting a code, like you would put on a tweet.

          • If I use QR, I would tend to use the code plus the url below. You can't guarantee that the user has QR tracking software built in but then you cover both bases. The ease of scanning plus the true URL. This also helps if the url is longer or more convoluted.

            My design work is very minimal though, so it suits that style of transfer.

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