Marketing Materials are More Effective When you “Paint” with Your Content

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with more than 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.

This week I met an interesting landscape designer who creates drought-tolerant gardens with a wilder more natural feeling. While we were discussing a new garden at my home, she made a very interesting point. She arranges plants or as she says, “I paint with plants.”  In short, she creates a visual masterpiece by painting with the subject matter.

With respect to corporate communications, we basically paint with a non-paint medium. As designers, we paint with puzzles and pieces and patterns. You can try this by finding a natural resource that is related to the theme of your product or service and then “painting” or designing with it to give a lush feel to your publication.


Here’s some elements that provide great design enhancements:


1) Plywood and other woods make great graphical additions to magazines dealing with new construction, housing, hardware merchandising or do-it-yourself projects. Take advantage of the knots and textures in wood to build a design. Stacks of lumber make for great rhythmic patterns.


2) Stones are great ways to create a walkway through your design or to frame elements of a page. Take close-up shots of large stones and knock out the backgrounds in Adobe Photoshop and rearrange on the page. You can also build your own rocks in Adobe Illustrator.  Great for publications on landscaping, design, executive manuals and Zen spa treatments, stones can provide a polished look to a publication.


3) Plants can paint an interesting landscape around text just like a garden in a yard.  Great for gardening magazines and publications about outdoor living, camping, travel and recreation, plants can give a fresh look to a publication.


4) Water allows the designer to create fluid designs.  Water is such a beautiful element to use in design of publications relating to water utilities, aquarium stores, swimming pools, park districts, landscape firms, plumbing supply stores kitchen and bathroom remodeling contractors and conservation efforts.  Combine the streaming beauty of water droplets with some blue vector-art curves from Illustrator to create a dynamic layout.  Water can add a clean and free-flowing feel to a publication.


5) Bricks will crack up any layout. The patterns created between the bricks can provide an interesting puzzle of rhythmic line work. Try adding a ghosted box on top of a photo of flagstone bricks.  In the sample below, you will see the difference a few bricks can make.  Bricks will stack up to create an interesting pattern for your newsletter magazine, or marketing package.



6) Stucco makes for designs that stick. Great for housing brochures and marketing of construction firms, stucco provides great textural patterns for any piece when the desire is to show stability and resilience. The texture is calming, yet strong, and it can be easily tinted. Stucco will create an interesting texture for almost any layout.


7) Sidewalks can cement your design with patterns created by the mason when the walkway was poured. Circular patterns in the cement can show movement as well as concreteness.  Great for financial or corporate reports, sidewalk patterns can demonstrate solidity and can promote companies that have withstood the test of time.


Create layouts with design elements built from the subject matter or actual product. Whether it be for print, online, broadcast media or billboards, try “painting” with the actual content that you are promoting.  You’ll be glad that you did.


If your company or organization needs an innovative or unique design solution for a publication, website or event please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more please visit

Harlan West is the author of and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.

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