Print Media: Thinking Outside the “Template” Box


When it comes to designing print media, using templates is a bit like using a cheat code in a video game. They’re an easy way to save time and money since you don’t have to expend much creative energy coming up with a design. The problem is, your clients are paying for your creativity and they expect you to put forth the effort to make something truly unique.

Custom die cuts make it possible to create whatever shape you can think of for your print media designs. Although it may add to the cost and production time of your project, there are several reasons why custom die cuts are worth the added investment.

1. Templates Can Be Boring

Using a template can stifle the creative process and prevent you from making a one-of-a-kind design. Think of it this way—would you rather draw a picture on a blank canvas or color a picture in a coloring book? Even if you colored outside the lines, you’d still be limited to what you could accomplish. Meanwhile, using custom die cuts goes beyond coloring outside the lines—it’s creating your own lines altogether.

Print templates can be creatively boring.

Not to mention, templates are reused so much that they lose their impact after a while. Even the most breathtaking, creative template will eventually become passé the more that it’s used. Clients won’t find your print media designs all that thrilling if they’ve already seen similar designs before.

2. Shape is Important

Shape is one of the basic elements of design; however, shapes in digital media can only be experienced by sense of sight. In print media, shape can also be touched and the feeling of a unique shape will create a unique sense memory with your design. This keeps your clients happy because their print media can be as distinctive as their brand.

A unique die cut design.

Custom die cutting technology allows you to make any custom print shape you can imagine and design from the ground up. These shapes can be abstract, such as the shapes that are formed by cutting around the contours of your printed design elements. However, these can also be identifiable shapes that tie into your client’s brand identity, such as a business card shaped like a martini glass for a bar.

3. Templates Get Around

Your clients may not be divas, but they do want their brand to be in the spotlight and they don’t want to share that spotlight with other brands. You can never truly showcase a unique design or brand identity when using a template because there are almost certainly other designers and brands out there utilizing the same one. This causes brand confusion and can even damage a brand’s identity if the printed media is being associated with a less-than-reputable brand due to the similarity of their design.

Replicated Design Templates.

Not only that, but there is a direct correlation between the quality of a template and how many times it’s been used. The most effective templates are also the ones that have been used the most, which means there are more chances that your design will be mistaken for another. If you decide to use a template that no one else has used, it’s more likely to be of a lower quality than a popular template.

4. Templates Look Unprofessional

Using templates can have negative connotations for both you and the brand you are trying to represent with your design. When people recognize a template design, it makes the brand look inexperienced, apathetic and unfocused. The brand doesn’t look like the type of company that would hire a professional designer to create their print media; they look like a start-up company using an unpaid student intern.

Unprofessional print design

Think of it this way—you never see high-end brands using templates in their design media. These brands spend their time and money ensuring that their print media represents them in an accurate and distinctive way, which resonates with their customer base. Although your clients may not be a big name, they likely want to be and have hired you to help them look as such.

5. Your Clients Expect More

Templates may save you time in the long run, but doing so will make your client feel as if you didn’t have the time to put any thought into their project. This could damage your reputation as a designer, not only by making you lose clients but by preventing further word-of-mouth business. Nobody is going to ask your clients where they got their fantastic print media if you’re working from a template.

Impressed Clients

And that itself should be reason enough to break away from the template mold and invest in custom die cutting– because crafting truly creative designs for your clients is better for your career in the long run. You’ll always have dazzling examples of your past work for your portfolio and your impressive print designs will attract more word of mouth business. People always want to work with designers who go above and beyond, not the ones who only do the bare minimum.

 So Where Does That Leave Templates?

Templates can still serve a purpose in building your design, just so long as you’re willing to branch out from the template instead of letting your design become boxed in. For example, you may want to start with a template when designing a folder so you can get an idea of where the cuts and folds go. Then you can go back and make alterations to the template, such as changing the shape of the pockets.

If you’re still uneasy about using custom die cuts, your printer can guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have. They may even have suggestions and ideas to take your designs even further, helping you to create the best possible end product.

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