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A Real Graphics Designer Responds To My Flyer Design

Published: 24/04/2008
By: larry

Rob Jordan of Enhance Design responded to my post on flyer design and redesigned my flyer for me (see the redesign to the right),Rob raises a number of great points. Robert says:

Hi, I'm an avid reader of your blog. I'm a graphic designer so I just had to comment on your recent blog post on Flyer Design. Feel free to reprint this in entirety along with the attached file layout concept that I created for you (I'll be happy to send you a layered .psd file for you to use). I hope you take this all as positive constructive feedback.My main point is that if real estate agents should use professional photographers to show off homes, because photographers are skilled masters of their field, shouldn't professional photographers use professional graphic designers for that same reason? Of course, I say! :)My thoughts echo many comments by others regarding professionalism in graphic design, the use of InDesign, etc. It strikes me that many best practices for graphic design echo those of great photography: have great composition, use color well, simplify/declutter the space to show the subject, etc. In the case of your flyer design, the focus needs to be on that outstanding exterior photo. But your initial design concept clutters up the photo with all the text elements upon it. Instead, I recommend keeping your photos and text areas separate (see my design concept). With this layout, the most of the visual area is for your exterior photo. You lose a bit of size from the full page version, but you gain clarity for every element.Secondly, the fonts/typography. As another commenter mentioned, keep your fonts to 2 or 3 choices and around 3 sizes at most. Take great care in choosing fonts - I would recommend keeping far, far away from Comic Sans which is considered a tacky font. It's tempting to use fonts that came pre-installed with your computer (Times, Arial, etc.), but it would benefit the aspiring designer to see what else is out there. One of the best websites to compare and evaluate font styles is Some fonts cost $25, some families are in the hundreds. Some classic serif fonts to use are Bodoni, Caslon and Garamond.In the case of this flyer concept, I used Garamond with the largest size set for the "Headline" in the top left; bold with a bit of letter kerning (space between letters) for the price; 12 point size for all the details/information about the home - the way the details are grouped is to show them as sets of information. The two smaller photos work well to provide a break between the green and blue text areas. In the blue area, I reworded the invitation for the virtual tour in order to feature the website address and create a balanced text area shape with the company logo below (inverted pyramid). Levi's personal contact information is white in order to catch the viewer's attention. Levi's photo has been reduced in size and put on the right corner in order to reduce its distraction potential. The reason I did this is related to the real estate photography rule of "no people" in photos - they're distracting. The bottom-right corner is the most out-of-the-way place, so that's why I put her photo there.Special effects - bevels, drop shadows, glows, etc. Take great care and restrain your desire to use these. The more you overdo these, the less tasteful your design. There are other ways to pop text off of a colored background or photo such as using semi-transparent blocks of solid color. I used two semi-transparent gradients that fade out in both text areas of my flyer design concept. It adds subtle interest but doesn't overpower the viewer. The dark gradient inside the blue text area works to integrate both sets of text and Levi's photo.Color theory - Keeping a palette of 1-3 colors is best, whether for backgrounds, fonts, or other design elements. In my concept, you can see that I pulled shades of green and blue that are found in the main exterior photograph. The colors are desaturated somewhat so that they complement but not compete with the main photo. A safe way to make sure your photos pop are to use neutral colors (beige, taupe, gray, etc.) for backgrounds. Let your photos speak for themselves and be the main attraction on the page. You'll notice that I used a black background/black lines to separate each area/element, and that the black is at the edges of the design. This is to pop each photo and element and also allow for easy creation of printer bleeds (the black bleeds off the page's edges).Another tip I have for real estate flyer design, is to avoid placing photos inside a larger photo, or overlapping photos. There is absolutely no benefit to doing either. The big reason not to is because nesting photos inside each other creates distraction and visual noise compared to keeping photos separated in their own area. When photos are overlapped, the edges interrupt the content of those photos they're overlapping. The only time I would maybe possibly somewhat be convinced to give my blessing to a photo overlap technique is if both photos have very little content or visual noise in their composition. But in real estate photography, that is rare. However, let's say that the main exterior photo for another property features a large, clean, green lawn that takes up half the photo from the bottom up. Then great, any inset photos will still look great with a calm, grassy background behind them (or a driveway or swimming pool).The best tip I have for any layout template design is "Keep It Simple, $." That last $ instead of an 'S' is to remind you that Keeping it Simple is the best way to make sure you end up with a tasteful, professional image that attracts $. :)I would enjoy consulting with the real estate photographer community on ideas and tips for flyer and brochure layouts. I would more enjoy creating working relationships as well. Thanks for reading. Best to you, Larry, and to all.Rob JordanEnhance DesignOmaha, Nebraska(402) 980-9535 

Great points and advice that Robs gives. Thanks Rob for all the ideas and the flyer redesign.

22 comments on “A Real Graphics Designer Responds To My Flyer Design”

  1. As someone who sees a ton of real estate photography and brochures I much prefer your original concept to the graphic designer's alternative.

    Your design has more impact and makes for easier reading. I find the low-contrast type that many designers favor truly annoying. Looks great when you hold it at arms' length but is difficult to read.

  2. I beg to differ.

    Rob's design is clearly less cluttered and the "modules" of information are much easier to absorb in smaller chunks.

    This is exactly the same as de-cluttering a messy room prior to shooting.

  3. I agree with the graphic designer. I thought the original one looked amateurish and some of the text hard to read. This really showcases the house and the realtor. The side and bottom bars are clear and easy to read.

  4. I like the newer design. It actually makes the house look like it's worth the asking price. The other one just looked cheap.

  5. I love the new layout. Very eye catching, visually stuctured and professional. It's easier for my eye to define the areas of the brochure, whereas Larry's original design was more of a collage of fonts and images.
    Not to say anything was wrong with the original, just differnt styles.

  6. The new design is better although I'm not too keen on the color combination. I wish there were some good templates I could find for RE flyers.

  7. @ Joe Zekas

    Hi and thanks for your feedback. I'm hoping you could give your reasons why you believe the original flyer design has more impact and makes for easier reading.

    The image Larry posted is reduced from original size. Here is the flyer design at 11" wide x 8.5" high at 72dpi resolution:
    At 300 dpi, print quality resolution, everything would be even more crisp.

    Regarding the design, my intent is to provide a tasteful, organized layout, clean design, to allow the main photo to provide the visual impact. The text areas are there for the viewer to read when they wish. All text is at minimum 12-point which is easily readable, even for elderly, hard-of-sight folks. But to heck with reading all the text; we want buyers to see the photo, stop what they're doing and call the real estate agent for a showing!

    This is but one flyer design concept that could be made into a template for repeated use (swap out photos & text info). On the point of providing "impact" - having a 2-sided flyer, or a 4-page 8.5" x 11" brochure allows for even more visual space. The inside 2-page spread is 17" wide x 11" high. That area provides for larger photos which truly immerse viewers inside them, and make them feel like they're there, experiencing living at the property. For higher end real estate, a 4-page brochure can make a great impact.

  8. "My main point is that if real estate agents should use professional photographers to show off homes.... .....shouldn’t professional photographers use professional graphic designers for that same reason? Of course, I say! "

    most "professional" photographers should know better than to toss comic sans over a picture. most working photographers i know or visit have a very keen eye for graphic design as well. none of them use the awesome 1994 puffy 3d fonts either.

  9. I like the revised flyer. It's clearly a professional job done by a professional graphic designer. I like Larry's idea about adding flyer design to our list of services to increase our revenue. However, I also believe that it's extremely difficult to be a master of more than one trade. Photographers take the best pictures. Graphic Designers make the best flyers. I think there's still a way for us to make money off the need for quality flyers/brochures without having to make them ourselves. Why don't we just network with our local graphic designers. When agents come to us for photos, we deliver the photos and recommend a graphic designer to do the rest. When agents come to the graphic designer with amatuer photos, they recomend us. Voila!, an additional revenue stream for us, best of both worlds for the agent.

  10. When I first saw Larry's design I liked it. I liked the fact that the beautiful picture took up the whole page. But, I do feel that the new design is better, it's more organized. It allows the viewer look at the main photo, it's the biggest object so it commands the most attention. Once the viewer absorbs it in, they can look at the information on the side. The eye will be drawn down to the bottom left corner and then over to the agents information. You have a counter clockwise flow going on. It could probably work going clockwise too. Verdict...I like reminds me of Mondrian's painting with the squares of color and black lines.

  11. I did not see the original but I do like the flyer done by the graphic designer. But I have a few comments on that. Rob stated that he didn't like people pics in a flyer. From a design point of view maybe that is OK, but from a real estate point of view (which in this case is far more important) we know that pictures of agents work. So that picture had to stay in. Yet the way it is displayed in the updated flyer is not correct. The person in the picture should always be facing INTO the picture, not OFF the page. Rob should have reversed the picture so she faces toward the left. I like the fading colors on the upper left BUT I think it would be better to have it reversed as well--with darker UP and lighter DOWN. This would put the darker background behind the larger fonts and the ligher background behind the smaller fonts and make that text easier to read. Overall, a great flyer.

  12. Thanks to everyone for your comments and honest critiques. I like hearing ideas about what I could have designed differently.

    @ Bill Silver - Great idea about flipping the agent's picture to face to the left. I'll keep that in mind. Just to clarify, I didn't state or mean to state that I don't like people pics in a real estate flyer. I do indeed believe real estate flyers must have the agent's photo. However, as humans are drawn to look at and recognize other human faces, the agent's photo can be considered a design element that competes with the property photo(s). My design intent is to reduce the level of distraction for each element so that viewers can easily focus on each.

    About the color gradient fading from light to dark in the green area - I tried it the reverse way and liked this better because it pops the top "headline" and the bottom-left photo. I want the text to be readable and I'm confident that at 300 dpi print quality this won't be a problem. If you want to see a larger version (11" wide x 8.5" high at 72 dpi) click here:


  13. Rob, I think your flyer is beautiful. The greens and blues in the text area match well and compliment the greens and blues in the main photo. The look is very professional, and makes the house seem like it is worth the money. Did you do it all in Photoshop? It never occured to me to do it that way. I use Microsoft Word (don't laugh!), and despite the realtor seeming to be very satisifed, I have been wondering how I can improve the look. (P.S. In our region, most of the houses that we list are lower in price, $250,000 or lower.)

  14. @ Marilyn,

    Hello and thanks! Yes, I did use Photoshop and here's why. In Larry's original post, he made a few points about why he wants to use Photoshop-based flyer design templates. A few previous commenters (with whom I agree) countered that Adobe InDesign is the proper software for page layout. However, I thought Larry's point about 78% of photographers having Photoshop already and not wanting to shell out up to $699 for InDesign is a valid consideration. So after sketching out a few layout ideas, it became immediately apparent that it's worth a try.

    What if the flyer design required a 2-sided layout? If the real estate agent desired to put in more photos and more text details about the property, a 2-sided flyer would be recommended. Even that could be done in Photoshop. But using InDesign would definitely be more efficient - and a must for a 4-page brochure.

    Also, another thing to consider in Photoshop vs. InDesign is the eventual file size. Photoshop is a pixel-based, also called "raster" graphics program. This means that your final file output will be 1 graphic file made up entirely of pixels, which for an 8.5" x 11" 300 dpi file would be a couple of MB in file size. InDesign (and Adobe Illustrator) is a "vector" graphics based program. This means each element created inside InDesign - such as a colored rectangle - will use the values of height, width, angles, etc. to calculate the size and shape of each element. For an 8.5" x 11" design, especially a 2-sided or multi-page layout, the final file size of a print-quality PDF will be significantly less, than if each page were a Photoshop-created graphic. If I recreate this flyer with InDesign, the background gradients and text areas will be created with InDesign and 4 files will be made for each photo (3 property photos + 1 agent photo).

    Marilyn, I'm not laughing about you using Microsoft Word, because you have to use what you already have and know how to use. But I do shed a tear, because I know you're missing the significant amount of design flexibility and visual impact that can be done with Photoshop or InDesign. No house - whether it's $80,000 or $800,000 - should suffer sitting on the market because of a lack of high impact marketing.

  15. Rob,
    I looked at the larger picture and it does look great. I could read the smaller text at the bottom of the left-hand box. I really liked the shading in the lower box with the lighter color at the left and the darker color on the right--but with the white font--looks great. I think your size and placement of the realtor section, including her picture is very good. She's in there but her pic does not dominate.

    I wrote down the serif fonts you mentioned. What font did you use for the virtual tour URL? I like the san serif font for that much better than the serif font used for the agents web site address.

    I do sympathize with Marilyn having to use Word--but I shouldn't talk, I use PowerPoint for all my graphis work--but I'm moving to Flash.

  16. Bill,

    Thanks for your comments. I used Garamond throughout the flyer design, and set both website addresses in 12-point bold. I'm not clear on your reference to the san serif font. If you're referring to the "John L. Scott" logo, I used their pre-existing company logo design and I didn't have anything to do with choosing any fonts there.

    But this gives us an opportunity to talk about "sans serif" fonts. You're all probably familiar with Arial and Helvetica. Some of my favorites are Akzidenz-Grotesk, Frutiger, Futura, Gill Sans and Optima. A note about Gill Sans, though, is that I hate it when it's bold. Somehow it just doesn't work bold, especially at larger sizes. Another to consider is Avant Garde, the trouble is, I find it's hard-to-read when used as a font for body text or in a long list of bullet points. Avant Garde is nice for a Headline or Subheadline font, though. Just for small doses of flair.

  17. Yes, the new fyler works much better, more modern and current looking.

    Any yes, Photoshop is not the place to be making a flyer like this:) Talk about megapixels:))

  18. Rob,

    Just out of curiosity, what would the services of a professional graphic designer cost for the typical flyer or brochure design? I realize like photography, prices will vary based on regions of the country etc., but can you give us a general idea? Thanks.

  19. Karl, thanks!

    John, here is my estimated range of what you can expect to pay based on what I've seen nationally. My prices fall in these ranges, but for template-based designs I give price breaks, and for really customized work (multiple design concepts, photo masking, photo collages, special effects, copywriting/editing, etc.) I'm at and above the higher end.

    For a postcard mailer (4" x 6" / 5" x 9" sizes), figure $150-$250. Postcard mailers typically have imagery on the front with minimal text such as a single headline, and the back has the address area, a text area, call to action, and contact information.

    For an 8.5" x 11" 1-sided flyer, figure $200-$350. With printing on both sides (2-sided flyer), figure $300-$500. Personally, I think 2-sided flyers should always be the rule, because each side can have at least 1 large, immersive photo, and the text content can be spread out on both sides. Or if a lower/mid-range home is in a great neighborhood, you can include photos of the area, a map, or floorplan.

    For an 8.5" x 11" 4-page brochure (11" x 17" sheet folded once), figure $500-$1,000. If you have an incredibly awesome panoramic shot, imagine being able to show it 17" wide across the inside spread. That should mezmerize a buyer. A 4-page brochure can hold up to 10-12 nicely sized photos and plenty of descriptive text.

    These price ranges are for design only, and keep in mind that all costs depend on what services are being offered. Lower end pricing tends to be for customized, yet simple/clean designs. Higher end pricing tends to cater towards allowing more flexibility and artistry in the design process. The more unique you want your design to be, the more you should expect to pay. Be careful about seeing prices that are significantly lower or higher than these ranges. As with buying anything, watch out for bargain basement prices. Conversely, a boutique graphic design studio or ad agency would charge beyond the higher end of the estimates below. Whomever you choose as a graphic designer, do so because you really like their work, creativity, experience and knowledge. If you're not sure you have a discerning enough eye, get some advice and opinions from your peers.

    Printing prices for flyers and brochures for the most part depend on the quantity printed and the type of paper. You can print 1-sided flyers yourself if you have a color laser printer. But for 2-sided or multi-page brochures, commercial printers are a must. I have a relationship with a quick-turnaround printing company that gives me the following pricing for 50 full-color copies on high-quality gloss paper:

    8.5" x 11" 1-sided flyers, 50 copies for $40
    8.5" x 11" 2-sided flyers, 50 copies for $75
    8.5" x 11" 4-page brochure, 50 copies for $135

    The price gets better the more copies you get printed.

  20. Nicely refined brochure. From color theory, to type, to output... Rob I commend you in being so generous with the wealth of information you've so gracefully provided. I don't know a single Designer who would have helped so much with knowledge of layout and good design to help get people started.

    Letting type speak for itself, in my opinion, allows for cleaner more refined workflow which you've done well. Two things I'd like to mention which make for good layout are separation and image layout.

    In this example, I use the word separation when referencing what Rob did to distinguish the images with black lines from other images and text boxes. Visually it makes a huge difference between what may seem like an amateur cut and paste brochure to a Professional well composed design. Two, layout of images.

    If you'll notice the two images at the bottom left lead your eyes to the right, up and around through the page. "They say" in Art your eyes should move around the page in a triangular motion at all times keeping with flow. Rob does a great job here. The 1st image bottom left has the big window cut off leading you into the next image, flowing into the wall. If the images were switched, image one would abruptly stop into image two and so on. There would be no flow.

    Regarding Professional Designers and Agents paying for them. My experience living in Southern California even with home prices of 700K+, Agents are very cheap to dish out any money let alone $1,000.00 per listing plus photo fees. All of the Agents I've spoken with pay for their brochure design out of their pocket not the company. Often times using an office pre paid employee. They get very cheap when they have 4 listings or more, with separate prices, regardless of what the payoff will be.

    If working with a Professional is your desired approach I would try this. Find a designer with a style you would like to work with, make up a portfolio of say 6 printed layouts and present them to the Broker of an entire office. I would be sneaky yet honest with the Broker and say "we have 20 more designs, I just can't show them all at once". People "WILL" steal your ideas. I wouldn't show them all at once?

    Show your best examples with the most expensive output/printed examples for your portfolio. Go for the home run not the base hit and get the entire office to join at a reasonable price. Jealousy quickly spreads when one agent's brochures are better than the next. If you're an Agent/Photographer, even better. You already have the trust of your peers. P.S. don't leave your portfolio behind!! Tell a Broker you only have one Portfolio and have another meeting that day. Whatever it takes not to leave it behind? Again many will be cheap and steal your work. Just my experience.

    Finally I'd like to say the first design was nice, very usable and a seller. There's no doubt that what Rob has offered is a job well done. I hope all of us gain enough from this post to make more money in the coming weeks and months, furthering our careers financially and visually. Thanks Rob for sharing and thanks to every one else for their comments. I've absorbed a wealth of information and ideas from this post. Have a great week.


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