Binders are incredibly valuable as a promotional tool for businesses. Even if print design isn’t your primary specialty, being able to create fresh, original looks for binders is a vital skill for designers to have. But creating a great-looking design requires much more than just knowing how to make an aesthetically pleasing image.
You have to fully understand the company you’re designing for—their purpose, audience, and personality. And even after you’ve done all your research, it can be difficult to get started if you haven’t found that “spark” that gets your imagination going.
Things to consider
Binders are wildly diverse and can be made from a variety of materials, including leather, paper, vinyl, or plastic. Be aware that the type of material you’re working with will affect the way your design appears. A logo imprinted on a piece of white paper, for instance, will look very different on a piece of dark leather.
It’s also important to make sure you have imprint methods in mind; there are several available to you.
- PMS Ink – With this printing technique, your design will likely consist of no more than two or three colors. PMS inks are pre-mixed to match a particular hue, making it an ideal choice when the design requires exact-match color branding.
- CMYK Ink – This imprint method uses four different inks that are mixed during printing: cyan magenta, yellow and black. With the four-color process, you can use full-color photography and a wide variety of colors with very few restrictions. If you want more than three colors in your design, this is the method for you.
- Foil Stamping – Foil stamps can be used to add additional shine or textures. They can be metallic or non-metallic, depending on the amount of shine you’re hoping to achieve.
- Embossing/Debossing – With these techniques, the binder’s design is physically lifted from the stock (or, alternatively, depressed into it), creating a textural effect that you can see and feel. These imprint methods can be combined with other techniques, as well; mixing embossing with metallic foil stamps is especially popular.
As you review binder designs and begin to formulate your own creative plan, keep the following tips in mind.
- KISS: Keep it simple stupid! Stick to the most important information and branding elements.
- Try getting creative with die cuts. Binders don’t necessarily need to be a plain old rectangle; the cover can be cut into a unique shape. You can also use die-cut windows in the cover to give viewers a sneak peek inside.
- Some designers only focus on the outside of a binder, completely ignoring the interior. That’s certainly an option, but even if you’re using one-sided printing, there are still the pockets to consider. And keep in mind that depending on how the binder is being used, recipients may end up looking at the inside more often than the outside.
Here are 19 binder designs to help ignite your creative spirit.
The blue background, fish-themed logo, and armillary sphere photo in this design give it a vaguely nautical theme.
CORN Upholstery Company
CORN’s binder design is sturdy and simple, with the company’s logo in bold text within a solid, pale green square.
This binder design uses cool ice blue elements to match the company’s sun-protection theme. Both the company’s logo and the pockets inside are the same shade.
Timothy Financial Counsel
Timothy Financial’s binder design combines fields of black, blue and beige to create a classic look that’s creative without being too audacious.
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Potbelly’s designs are a blast from the past, using retro fonts and photography to capture a feeling of nostalgia for days gone by.
MGM Resorts International Hospitality Internship Program
This design from MGM Resorts has a highly modern look. The grid pattern and blend of purple and gray elements let recipients know that the company is serious and reliable, but also approachable.
The red accent on this design is reminiscent of blood and passion, making it a perfect fit for a heart health organization.
Global Safety & Security, Inc. Binder Design
A pattern of globe shapes with the letter “G” inside form the background of this design, reinforcing Global Safety & Security’s brand. A pocket suitable for holding a training DVD is inside.
This binder design featured a fun, colorful illustration of a young man juxtaposed next to a wild animal. The modern, graffiti-inspired image is consistent with the brand’s other materials.
Nike’s binder design is simple and rugged, with the company’s logo and clearly printed text on the front cover. The binder’s two rings poke through a pair of die cut holes.
Buxton & Collie Attorneys at Law
A die cut window in the front cover of Buxton and Collie’s binder reveals a sneak peak of the materials inside. The blue, white and gray color scheme is suggestive of stability and reliability.
Rocky Mountain Dealerships
Rocky Mountain Dealerships’ annual report binder is modeled after an automobile’s manual, giving readers (in the designer’s own words) a look “under the hood” of the company.
Health Strategies Group
The abstract line pattern in the background of this design gives it a modern feel. Each binder in the series is distinguished by a different accent color; this one is a deep magenta.
A series of images depicting the company’s products decorate the outside of this promotional binder, which is secured with Velcro closures.
The Clever Factory
This Christmas-themed binder uses vintage typography, reindeer symbols, and intricate design elements to capture a feeling of tradition and nostalgia.
The soft, amber-colored photo in the background of this binder’s cover gives it an air of approachability. The foreground features a collage of marketing and commerce-related illustrations in white silhouette.
Robert F. Kennedy Center
A royal blue compass pattern gives this binder design a theme of moral navigation. The use of diagonal lines and shapes adds the feeling of dynamic motion.
The lime green color of this binder acts as a contrast to the bright red of the materials inside, as well as the box it’s contained in.
Ferme des Voltigeurs
This binder design uses full-color photography of appetizing dishes to stoke the viewer’s hunger.
Other places to find binder design inspiration
It’s always useful to look at what other designers are doing, not just to get new ideas, but to stay knowledgeable of common trends so that you can set yourself apart from the competition. Be sure to seek out more examples of binder designs as you create your artwork. Design gallery sites such as Behance and DeviantArt are excellent places to start.
As you review others’ designs, be conscious not to plagiarize their work. Sometimes it’s most valuable to get a sense of what other designers are doing so you’ll know what not to do if you want to set yourself apart.
Do you have more binder designs that you’d like to show off? Feel free to share them in the comments below!