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The Art of the Graphic Design Leave Behind


The graphic designer leave behind has, ironically, been left behind in recent years. Its something that is heavily focused on in design school, but rarely is it put into practice in the real world. I think that's a shame.

If you made a good impression on your potential client or interviewer, the leave-behind is such a great opportunity to make that impression last. When done right, leaving something tangible behind will help keep you top-of-mind, which will increase your chances of landing the job.

Graphic Design Leave Behind: Objectives

In order for your leave-behind to make the biggest possible impact, it should fulfill three main objectives:

1. Consistent branding

This one is fairly self-evident. Being a designer, branding should already be squarely in your wheelhouse. When interviewing, your own personal branding is very important, as it establishes you as a design professional. Having cohesion between your website, business cards, and your leave-behind is not only encouraged; it is expected.

2. Easy to keep, hard to throw away

Since the whole purpose of your creative leave behinds is to stick around long after your interview is over, you want to do everything you can to make sure that the recipient holds on to it. There are a few simple rules to follow here: First, you want to make it just the right size so that it is easy for your potential client to keep. Too small and it will be quickly lost. Too large and it becomes obtrusive, which puts it at risk of going in the trash bin. Generally, the "sweet spot" would be anywhere from the size of a postcard to slightly smaller than a sheet of standard paper.

The second rule is to make it too nice to throw away. This can be achieved in any number of ways, from the design, to the construction, to the materials used. If it is impressive enough, chances are that anyone on the receiving end of it will genuinely want to keep it.

3. Showcase your work

Some designers think that its enough to hand out merchandise emblazoned with their logo. I've seen pens, t-shirts, tote bags, you name it. This type of leave-behind, while it may serve a practical purpose for the interviewer, doesn't really leave much of an impression of you and your work.

I suggest always making your leave-behind a modified version of your portfolio. It should be a constant reminder of the awesome work you have produced. It doesn't necessarily have to be a traditional book-style portfolio, but to not showcase your work in your leave-behind is a real missed opportunity.

A Creative Leave Behind for Every Budget

The beauty of the creative leave behinds is that you can make it anything you want it to be… and you can spend as little or as much as you want. I have seen beautifully handcrafted pieces made on the cheap, as well as really high-end, polished pieces. And in my experience, money spent doesn't necessarily make it higher quality.
But keep in mind, if you want to spend less money, you may very well make up for that in man-hours and creative thinking.

The Bargain

The most basic way to make a leave-behind on a budget is to simply print them out yourself at home. I have gone this route in the past and they actually turned out quite well. I just designed a six inch square booklet in InDesign, printed the inner pages on regular mid-weight printer paper, and printed the covers on a higher quality pearlescent paper that I bought at a specialty paper store. The trickiest part is the binding. I bought a booklet stapler online and it did the trick. This is by far the most affordable option, but it did take quite a bit of time and planning to pull off.

Estimated cost per unit: $1

The Happy Medium

If you have a little more money to spend, but still don't want to break the bank, there are many options available to you. There are numerous affordable online printing companies that offer different variations on the standard booklet. However, if you would like to do something a bit more inventive, I would suggest getting your best work printed on postcards, then attach them together at one corner using a simple metal or plastic rivet. The end result is similar to the binding of a swatch booklet. There are online printers out there who offer short run printing, and will even let you print all your different images at no additional cost.

Estimated cost per unit: $5

The Splurge

If you have a bit more money to spend, you might really want to hand out something that looks and feels expensive. In that case, I recommend designing a professionally printed and bound portfolio book. There are several online companies that specialize in short-run book printing, and do a really good job at it.

I had some portfolio books printed last year and I got an amazing reaction from almost everyone I handed them out to. You can design them any way you want, and choose the size, number of pages, and even between a hard and soft cover.

All of these options can affect the price greatly, but a basic 5.75 x 7.75" softcover book is surprisingly affordable.

Bonus tip: always be on the lookout for half-off deals. If it isn't advertised on the site, do a quick Google search for coupon codes. You will almost always find one.

Estimated cost per unit: $5-20

Graphic Design Leave Behind Ideas

With so many options available, it can be overwhelming trying to choose what kind of graphic design leave behind is right for you. But if you just work within your budget, let your creative juices flow, and spend a little time designing something beautiful, you will make an impression that lasts much longer than your interview. It's time to start planning the concept and design of your leave behind.

Do you use a leave behind with potential clients? What is the most creative leave behind you have seen? Do you have any graphic design leave behind ideas you'd like to share?

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by blugraphic0.

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