Design and print | University of Oxford
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Design and print

So you think you need a leaflet or brochure? Here are some things to consider before you start:

1. If you can afford to, get a professional and listen to them! The explosion in home computing and desktop publishing means that anyone can design – but just like anything, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and professional results can only be produced by a professional. You may want to consider using the University's Design Studio. Based in the Design & Publications Office, the Studio provides a professional design and print-buying service for members of the collegiate University.

2. Start with something similar. Pick up something that you think works and looks nice. This will be a great help to whoever designs your material.

3. Make sure you have a budget. You will need to allocate money for design, printing (and delivery), image commissioning or copyright if required and envelopes and postage if you need them.

4. Make sure you know how many copies you need. Small print runs cost a lot, so order as many as you think you could possibly use. Repeat orders of small amounts are very cost inefficient, e.g. 500 A4 leaflets could be around £300 whereas 5,000 of the same leaflet might be as little as £450. This isn’t the printer ripping you off – it’s economies of scale. The set-up costs alone on a job often reach more than £200.

5. Make sure you provide copy that’s the right length. Look at other publications and do a word count. Too much text will look crowded and unappealing.

6. Edit and re-edit your content. Simple, well-ordered messages will sell your ideas and your products.

7. Follow the University’s Style Guide – there are many ways to write content such as date formats. The guide exists to try to standardise as far as practical our University-wide communications. This in turn gives greater consistency, readability and brand associations for us all. 

8. Get your copy signed off before you get it designed – this might be difficult, but it is worth trying. Even relatively small changes can alter a paragraph length and this in turn means the designer spends significant time making the alterations – which you’ll then be charged for!

9. Make sure that you have permission to use any images. Photographers retain rights to their images and even if you commissioned a photographer you may not automatically be able to use those images again. You probably won’t be able to pass them on to colleagues to use. Taking images from websites and using them without express permission (such as a Creative Commons licence) is illegal: don’t do it.

10. Size matters: Standard print sizes exist because they’re cost effective and practical (they fit folders, wallets, standard envelopes etc). If you depart from those, make sure you understand the implications on postage, storage, distribution etc. Your printer can make up a blank dummy in the correct material.

11. If in doubt, keep it simple. The human brain likes simplicity, hierarchy and symmetry. Many colours, titles, weights, italics, underlining etc as well as more than two fonts all contribute to making us tune out - leave such complexity to experienced professionals.

12. Bigger is not better – making something bigger and bolder does not necessarily make it more noticeable. If you think something is getting lost it’s probably because there’s too much other stuff. Try getting rid of some of that less important stuff first. Bigger and bolder nearly always adds to the confusion.

13. Always think about what you want the reader to do after finishing reading. Do you want them to call you / email you / register / upload / attend... Make this action the last and most prominent thing on the final page. It’s called the ‘call to action’ and it’s the only way you can be sure your message is getting through. To be extra sure, create a phone number or email address that only people reading your leaflet will see – then if it rings, you know what caused it. Establishing the effectiveness of your communications is one of the most challenging, important and neglected stages of all communications.

Making the most effective use of design and images

Took place on 14 May 2012

Anne Brunner-Ellis, Head of Publications and Web, and her colleagues Paul Chinn (design) and Jo Kay (picture research) explained how to make the most of the new Design Studio and online image library. 

Brand & Design

General contact:

Head of Brand and Design
Paul Chinn
Tel: 01865 280541, email:

Publications Officer and Studio Manager
Jo Kay
Tel: 01865 280543, email:

Senior Graphic Designer
Laetitia Velia
Tel: 01865 280542, email:

Graphic Designer
Pippa Havenhand
Tel: 01865 280057, email:

Acting Finance Officer
Lauren Pounds
Tel: 01865 280545, email:

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