Ideas Take Shape

There’s a science to being memorable

Ideas that take shape get results.

“We need a brochure for our business.”

It’s something designers here all the time. Early in my career, as soon as I heard the word brochure, I thought of the traditional 11×8.5″ trifold. There are other sizes and ways to fold, but that isn’t the point. Not every business needs a traditional brochure. Some don’t even need them at all.

That’s one of the reasons you should consult your designer before making decisions.

Ideas Take Shape, blog post image

For those businesses that do need “something”, designers are creative beyond just color and text printed on paper. Your designer can come up with creative solutions for sharing your business’s wonderful features and benefits.

Affecting first impressions and memory are the goals of design and your printed materials.

For example, a babysitter might consider putting their information on a die cut door hanger rather than a traditional trifold. Why? First, it’s still cost-effective with the wide number of die-cuts already available at most print shops. Second, and most importantly, the different shape helps with memory. The viewer/potential client will immediately and consciously register the “different” shape, as well as embed it into the subconscious without effort. This also means that recall will be faster, which increases the likelihood of getting the call. Third, the door hanger can have something fun on the other side that kids can use on their doors, which means the sitter’s info is always easy to find.

One of my first freelance clients was for a non-profit that was exhibiting at a trade show. The flowers for the booth were donated, but she needed business cards and brochures…or so she said.

You get what you need, not what you ask for.

After chatting with her, I proposed something unique. We’d cut the flyer to 3.5 x 8.5 and perforate 2 inches from the bottom edge. She agreed and ended up with 2-sided, color flyers, and business cards that could be torn off at the bottom (kinesthetic and kinetic).

Unique, budget conscious, and practical. You don’t have to have a huge budget to make a big impact.

You Betcha!

Is it a “brochure?” No. Does it have the same content. Most likely. Does it serve the same purpose. Yes. Does it achieve the goals for the business? Most definitely.

“Success comes from standing out, not fitting in.” — Don Draper, Mad Men

Affecting Memory

Shapes provide both visual and kinesthetic features. What else might affect memory?


Color is a big one. But, there’s a lot of color out there. With the technological advances in the last 15 years, printing color is faster and cheaper than ever. However, using the appropriate colors for the right message and emotion can make a huge impact on memory.


Kinesthetic, or physical touch, helps with recognition and memory as mentioned above. It’s not just about shapes. There are other ways to enhance a kinesthetic experience. Choosing papers with textures that match the mood of the message and brand can reinforce the ability to recall. Adding other printable textures, like spot gloss or foil, that provide both a physical touch contrast as well as a visual contrast further improves the memory recall. In other words, variations in contrast of how the item feels as the holder runs her/his fingers over it produces an experience that the subconscious banks in the memory. Furthermore, the weight of paper chosen for printed items can reinforce recall. Paper weight can also influence value perception; heavier paper weight can create the perception of greater value.


Visual contrast doesn’t just apply to contrasting colors. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, contrast can come from a change in sheen–from a dull matte to a glossy shine. Even without changing the base color, adding a spot gloss to a dull paper creates a big visual impact–from the conscious to the subconscious. Foils also provide contrast while adding adding color and are an elegant way to quickly upscale a design.


Auditory cues are even present in printed pieces. Is that so hard to believe? Weight of a printed item like a business card or brochure when it lands on the table or in the hand. It can be very loud or almost imperceptible, but it’s there.


Kinetic features can also be added to printed items. Movement quickly grabs attention. It can become distracting from the message, so it has to be done in moderation by a professional. However, a little movement can go a long way in solidifying memory. Greeting cards with cutouts layered on top of one another can create subtle movement and the illusion of 3D.

Moderation is key with all of these. Know when, where, and how to apply these.

“In order for some elements in a design to stand out, other elements must fade into the background.” — Smashing Magazine’s Design Principles: Dominance, Focal Points And Hierarchy by Steven Bradley

Get all or as many of the senses involved as possible to maximize recall.

People make judgments wether they are conscious of them or not. Adding in as many layers of memory triggers as possible increase the likelihood and speed at which the recalls occurs. (Again, knowing when and with what intensity is key. All triggers can be included in a brand’s stash of materials but may not be present in one item.) All of this is important to those in business, but these tips can be applied anywhere. For those struggling with memory, adding these memory triggers to key tasks or in key locations can help.

Designers solve problems.

Design is where art and science intersect–a unique understanding of psychology and physiology related to color, texture, and shape. Don’t be afraid to ask your designer for a solution that may differ from the norm. Or, don’t run screaming if your designer suggests something out of the box.