Design for Impact: Getting Started With Stickers

May 6, 2021

In part two, we looked at building a product experience that speaks directly to your intended audience. In the last article in this series, we’ll look at designing sticker sheets for maximum impact.

Everything’s planned out. Your sticker project has a clear purpose, a well-defined (and understood) audience, and a smart plan to get stickers in their hands. Now comes the fun part—design!

It used to be that sticker designs were straightforward – a single recognizable or interesting logo was the entire piece–think white Apple stickers plastered on cars, notebooks, and yes, laptops (Apple and not). Since then, sticker popularity has exploded, and people want more than a single option. Enter sticker sheets. Not only does the format open up space for multiple, different stickers in a single place, sticker sheets introduce a new opportunity to design a fully-realized marketing piece instead of a single promo item.

For sticker sheets, great design is what separates the memorable from the throw away. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to tackle sticker sheet designs, there are plenty of tricks to make your project get the attention it deserves.

Words Are Design

From headlines and taglines to hashtags and insider mantras, words are a critical component of any cohesive design. Your messaging needs to align with other design elements in your project—both in what it says and how it looks. And with stickers, messaging can be part of the context of backdrop of a sticker sheet, or actual stickers. A few things to consider when incorporating messaging:

  • Word marks, hashtags, slogans and phrases can make awesome stickers that can energize your audience and extend the reach of your messaging every time the sticker gets used. Not all words and phrases work as stickers, so pick ones that your audience will relate to and want to use. Offering several options like Loyola University Chicago did lets the audience find the phrases that resonate the most. 

  •  Balance words and images to convey your message. First impressions are important, and too many words will detract from the stickers themselves, while too few may not give enough context to make your message unmistakably clear. Lakeland University leaves no doubt with their sticker sheet.
  • For longer blocks of copy or more in-depth messaging, use two-sided sticker options to keep plenty of breathing room for the most relevant stickers for your audience while still delivering the information you need. It’s a brilliant combination solution that Humboldt State University used with new alumni.

Tell a Story with Your Stickers

The best sticker projects tell a good story through a combination of words, images, and ideas. Part of what makes sticker sheets so unique is how each sticker element can be both part of the overall story, and a story on its own when used. Take advantage of that versatility by:

  • Creating a sense of place to help your audience connect with you wherever they are. Columbia College of Chicago developed a custom sticker sheet that works as a sort of tour of the city’s identifiers to encourage a sense of belonging.
  • Capturing elements of culture that define (and will define) audiences’ journey and relationship with your organization. Bryn Mawr College intrigued admitted students with a story of its culture through stickers, using the back for a little more context.
Bryn Mawr Sticker Sheet
  • Telling the story of what you’re up to as an organization. Campus Sonar used sticker postcards to tell its audience that, despite not being able to connect in person, they were still listening and still sharing donuts. Read how in their words.

Compelling Compositions

Once you have a strong sense of your message and story, building a strong layout can bring the narrative to life for your audiences. From background to foreground, every element contributes to the overall piece. Make the most of your composition by:

  • Background – Choose background design that contributes to the overall appeal of the piece. Whether it’s a solid, bold, recognizable color that help stickers pop off the page, or a subtle texture or pattern, the background shapes the audiences’ first impression. Don’t neglect it! The University of Minnesota Rochester used a sunburst in the background to give their sticker sheet an energetic feel.
  • Clarity and Focus – Emphasizing clarity, focus, and continuity for a high-impact design. Even though sticker sheets can hold a bunch of individual stickers, there are times when simplicity says more. Drake University, for example, used a single mascot sticker to tee-up a welcome message on the back of the sheet.
  • Sticker Mix – Offering a mix of sticker sizes for different uses. Stickers that look great on a car window are too big for a water bottle or phone case. And, don’t forget to incorporate keyboard stickers in the overall design! Grinnell College’s sticker sheet provides a smart blend of styles and sizes for different applications.
  • Audience – Consider how your audience is likely to use the stickers, and offer a few variations of the same concept—logos, slogans, icons, throwbacks—that will resonate more with different segments of your audience. The University of Illinois Law uses color and language variations for its audience to use.

From concept to execution, sticker projects work best when the purpose is clear, the audience well-defined, the story impactful, and the design exceptional. For more design tips, resources, tools, and starter templates, check out our design tools page.  Or, if you want to get started on a sticker project but the design part terrifies you, our design services team can help!

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