Print-based media

The simplicity and immediacy of print media make it a valuable tool - and not just for reaching communities with limited access to technology.

Why use it? 

Print-based media can be a chance to take your campaign back to the street - often for very little cost and effort. Popular forms include printed T-shirts, newsletters, posters, flyers, magazines, stickers, and brochures.


How can I use it in my campaign?

Creating and distributing print-based media involves several stages:

Co-ordination and planning

  • Budgeting (how many copies, materials, distribution)
  • Layout and design (see featured tool, Scribus)
  • Writing & editing  (see featured tool, LibreOffice)
  • Image sourcing, creation and/or manipulation (see featured tool, GIMP)
  • Marketing and networking. 


In the planning stage, think about the following:

  • Audience – social group, political attitudes, location, age
  • Style – language, tone, level of formality 
  • Cost – sustainability, printing costs, paper and storage costs
  • Distribution – methods, how far, number of copies
  • Contributors – presence of active and competent contributors, training needs. 

These factors will shape your content creation process.


Choosing the right format:

  • Think about your goals, resources and audience. Are you trying to get people to act fast on an issue, or do you have a message that is less time-bound? Also make sure your project fits into your overall communications strategy.
  • One-off formats like posters, stickers and t-shirts, or booklets and pamphlets, are good for simple messages. These formats can include links to your website.
  • A newsletter or magazine is good for longer messages, when your issue is evolving all the time or you want to offer more in-depth understanding.
  • One-off publications can be used to highlight a particular subject. Don’t present it as part of a series unless you are committed to producing further issues!
  • A report or book is suitable for much longer texts. If your budget is limited, you can publish an e-book for downloading.
  • Using a combination of formats is often the best way to reach all your goals and audiences.






Newsletters, magazines, zines

Provide more in-depth coverage

Opportunity for contributions from community; great community-builder

Can encourage long-term engagement

Online distribution possible

Can be costly in the long run

Requires skills and a dedicated team


These formats need to be sustained over time

Length is crucial: enough information to satisfy and make the reader want to come back, without overwhelming them

Make sure the content is relevant and timely

T-shirts or scarves, Canvas bags

Fast, simple, durable, useful, colourful


Not in-depth

Can't be updated or easily shared

A simple, punchy message is essential, with a design that complements the message.

One colour is fine, but ensure high contrast.


Fast, simple, catchy, inexpensive, street-level

Not in-depth

Potential legal and security issues for people distributing

Can't be updated

As above


Fast, simple, colourful, catchy, street-level high impact

Online distribution possible

Can be costly depending on print quality and size

Potential legal and security issues for people distributing

Can't be updated

You need a good concept and possibly a designer

Guerrilla postering (at any size) in the right places can have a big impact. Remember to include a link to your website.

Brochures, pamphlets, fact- or information-sheets

Quick and easy, more in-depth, relatively inexpensive


Clear, concise writing and layout are essential. Demands research and fact-checking.

Books, booklets, reports

Very in-depth

Can be self-funded through sales

Online distribution possible

Expensive to print and distribute

Sales systems required


Carefully weigh up whether you want to give your book away or sell it; and whether you want to make an e-book or a printed book.


Case studies

The Occupy Movement 

On September 17, 2011, a group of protesters camped out in Zuccotti Park in the centre of New York's financial district. They called themselves Occupy Wall Street. With the slogan “We are the 99%”, Occupy Wall Street was a protest against unfair wealth distribution and corporate power in the US. Within a few weeks similar camps had sprung up across the USA, and soon the movement spread to Europe.

As well as a blog with photos of people holding signs, and an online campaign called 'Occupy the Internet', the Occupy movement also involved print media:

The Occupy Poster Project provided posters for download and self-printing; and Occupy George exploited a loophole in US legislation that permits marking money, as long as it is not entirely defaced. Activists Ivan Cash and Andy Dao created simple infographic stamps with info about wealth distribution in the US, stamped dollar bills and set them into circulation. They also made the stamp template available for download, so that other people could stamp bills themselves. Read more about Occupy George here.

Saudi Arabia: Speech bubble stickers

The 'We the Women' campaign was created in 2009 to generate conversation around the fact that in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive. Artist Areej Khan designed a set of 'speech bubble' stickers, which people could download and print. They could write in their thoughts, and then distribute them in public spaces – including on cars. The project's Flickr set and Facebook page published photos of the stickers.

Palestine: 'State of Palestine' stamp

Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar developed a 'State of Palestine' stamp and stamped the passports of tourists in Gaza, to raise awareness about the fact that the territory still does not have the right to put up its own border controls.

India: Zero Rupee Note

In India, The Zero Rupee Note was created by an organisation called 5th Pillar to encourage people to confront corruption and bribe-taking. The bank note's design is based on the Indian 50 Rupee note, but printed on the note is the message: “Eliminate corruption at all levels” and “I promise to neither accept nor give a bribe."

Switzerland: Printable Minarets

In Switzerland in 2009, an amendmend was passed that forbade the construction of minarets. In protest, the Dirty Hands collective created a printable mini-minaret . Users could download a PDF, print the mini-minaret onto cardboard, glue it together and display it on balconies or in windows to protest the absurdity of the law.

Mozambique: Independent Newspaper

Independent newspaper @Verdade was launched in 2008 in Mozambique, written for those living in poverty in informal urban settlements. Offered for free, the newspaper sustains itself through advertising revenue and other innovative means. Although the paper has a parallel online version, making the printed newspaper the focus was essential in a country where less than 10 percent of the population has access to electricity.


Additional resources


  • Message in-a-box has a number of useful resources for creating print media. 
  • LibreOffice is an excellent all-purpose software suite that comes with a full-featured, free and open source word processing program.
  • Tools like BookiBooktype and Etherpad allow for collaborative content creation online (like Google Docs).
  • Trails is an excellent tool for quickly creating a PDF booklet out of web-based content.