UPrinting Design How-To Series: Creating Unforgettable Promotional Bookmarks
  by:  |  Apr 10, 2013

Last updated on January 18th, 2021 at 06:16 pm

You never seem to have a bookmark around when you actually need one. We sometimes end up using a motley assortment of paper clips,  fast food receipts, and Post-its. Bookmarks are under-appreciated. Not just as a way to mark books and magazines without folding the pages over -but also as a way to promote or strengthen a message.

Unlike most other print products made from the same materials, such as business cards, bookmarks will often see repeated use and are unlikely to be thrown away-  especially when targeted at the right demographic. This repeat usage will also put your message right in your audience’s line of sight – nearly each time they turn a page.

Here are 7 pointers to keep in mind before you send your bookmark designs in for printing:

7.) Include Social Media Contact Info

Social media pages and relevant websites  should now be included in the back part of your bookmarks as a rule of thumb. QR Codes are a nice thing to have as well. Not including these can seriously limit your reach and keep your audience from learning more about what you’re all about. Remember, print isn’t dead – it just got married to social media.

6.) Keep Designs Relevant

As with any promotional medium, bookmarks work a lot better if they’re designed with a specific audience in mind. If you’re able to distribute to a specific group of people – say for example, Dr. Who fans at a convention – a design involving a red British telephone booth or a quote from the series will work a lot better and likely get better retention than one that is just generally popular (for now)- such as a take on the grumpy cat meme.

Likewise, less specific distribution will likely benefit from designs that are less esoteric and are more popular in general. Knowing who you’re targeting and knowing what “weapon” you’ll need to use goes a long way to a better run promotional campaign.

5.) Don’t Place Your Logo in Front – Unless You Have To

Schools, non-profits, social clubs, and other similar groups are exempt from this, as an association with these is usually seen as something to be desired. Many businesses (and political campaigners) on the other hand, might find the total opposite applies to them. People tend to be cynical about blatant advertising from companies and politicians. Hardly surprising now that audiences are now more knowledgeable about marketing and public relations techniques.

Keeping number 6 in mind, other things you could try for a main design on the front portion would be interesting graphic designs, relevant works of art. Other things you might try are photos of scenes, objects, people, animals – anything that that your chosen audience will find interesting.

4.) Use At Least 300 PPI/DPI for all Images Files

Your bookmarks will be read at very close distances. This makes it especially important for your images and text to be as crisp and clear as possible. While you could get away with lower quality background images on larger prints made to be viewed from a distance such as banners or posters, lower quality images are much too distracting on something meant to be read at close distance, even as backdrops.

Better quality images and text are not only easier on the eyes, they also help make your entire brand and message look better overall as well.

3.) Make Sure They’re Manually Proofed

A lot of online printers automate proofing – the step where print accuracy is verified. Proofing is an inexact science- it’s much closer to an art, given that expert proofers require hundreds of hours of experience to be able to consistently create prints that look the same in real life as they do on screen.

Automation in this process often leads to mistakes where important text or portions of images are cut off at the edges, bad design alignment, or colors on screen not matching what they should look like on print. If you choose to add a perforation to your bookmarks (we offer 3/16″ and 1/4″ perforations) you will have to design your bookmarks to take these into account. Automated proofing removes one step where errors can be caught and remedied.

Mistakes like these can be very expensive for the customer. Online printers that use automated proofing will rarely take responsibility for  proofing errors and often include that in their disclaimers. For bookmark designs that require precision cutting and superior color and design reproduction, a human prepress specialist is still the way to go.

2.) Use The Best Quality Stock

While you might want to get cheaper stocks in the name of economic expedience, that would probably be the worst way to go for bookmarks. Cheaper paper and card stocks are often much less durable. Bookmarks, especially ones intended to promote a message, will have to be durable enough to be handled hundreds, if not thousands of times.

If they’re too “bendy” or don’t have enough heft, they can send a subconscious message about your brand and subtly influence how recipients interpret your message. Multiple studies have demonstrated that tactile feedback has a profound influence on how we perceive things.

Well-designed promotional bookmarks will not feel cheap, and will reflect nicely on your brand.

1.) Keep It Simple – But Make It Special

When you design a bookmark, it should be something your chosen audience will not want to throw away. It shouldn’t feel like it’s something you got for free.

There are dozens of awesome bookmark designs out there – that your audience will actually have to buy.  Novelty bookmarks conceptualized by the top names in industrial design and made of different materials such as wood, metal, and silicon can be found at just about any large bookstore. One thing you will notice is they tend to have very strong yet simple designs – which is what you’ll likely want to follow in your own bookmarks if you’re new to designing yourself.

As we pointed out, many of us choose to make do with receipts, unused credit cards, or just about anything other than an actual bookmark because a lot of people don’t see them as an actual need. Few people actually want to buy expensive bookmarks.

When you distribute bookmarks, you’re not only giving your audience your message, you are likely supplying them with a need they have not addressed.

You don’t have to create bookmarks that top the pricey ones you see in stores or on Etsy. If your message is clear yet unobtrusive and your bookmarks look and feel like they’re worth keeping, you’re well on your way to the hearts and minds of book readers everywhere.


For more detailed info, check out Rick McCleary’s “CMYK 2.0, A Cooperative Workflow for Photographers, Designers, and Printers“, © 2009, Peachpit Press ISBN 978-0-321-57346-9

Photos from,, DeviantArt, and Creative Commons

Other Posts In The UPrinting Design How-To Series:

Effective Promotional Door Hangers 

Designing USPS-Friendly Postcards

Vinyl Banner Design Checklist

Choosing Booklet Design Options

Choosing Poster Sizes, Stocks, and Finishes

Run a Better Marketing Campaign With Flyers




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