Bookmarks: our guide to creating a successful bookmark

Bookmarks: our guide to creating a successful bookmark

Alessandro Bonaccorsi Published on 2/24/2020

Did you know that, according to data from Kantar Media, only 51% of Brits read at least one book in the past year?

It’s a lot less than many other developed countries, but it’s still a lot of people: around 34 million, in fact. Of these, around 22 million are so-called ‘heavy readers’, reading at least 10 books a year, rather than just a single paperback on the beach.

Why am I telling you this?

Because all these readers  need a simple and essential tool to keep track of their reading: a bookmark.

Bookmarks, a brief history

Bookmarks first appeared at the same time as the production of the first handwritten books, and were probably used in the first codices. They emerged in Europe, Africa and Asia, and were predominantly rigid (made of wood, bone or gold or other metals), because at the time books were still unique and precious objects.


It was during the middle ages that the foundations were laid for the bookmark as we know it today, with the use of string, strips of leather and ribbons, followed by the first paper or thin wooden bookmarks, and eventually the development of various unique and ingenious solutions, including rotating bookmarks.


In the nineteenth century the bookmark became the tool we now know and love, printed on paper and often including a hole with a small string tied through it. From then on, with the invention of advertising and increasing literacy rates that made books a mainstream product, the bookmark started to play an important role in promoting businesses.


Why do we need bookmarks?

Bookmarks are objects that are handled and seen many times – indeed they can become a reader’s trusty companion, used over and over again for different books.

As well as being useful, they must also be beautiful, fun and engaging – basically they should inspire people to want to use them.

They are not business cards: in my opinion, people who fill bookmarks with information, special offers and text are making a mistake. Resist the temptation to fill every last square inch!

For example, this is a bookmark I made many years ago, where I decided to add a lot – indeed, too much – information to promote the blog I was writing at the time. Everyone saw it as a mini-flyer, a sort of unusual business card, and nobody would have used it between the pages of a book, or at least not intentionally.

Source: author, ALessandro Bonaccorsi

How to design a bookmark? 

Bookmarks are simple graphic design products, but precisely for this reason it is important to design them well and not make any mistakes.

The first thing to do is to choose the optimum size and paper.

Here are some recommendations:

1. Size

A bookmark should be:

  • 5-8 cm wide
  • 12-21 cm long

These intervals have been chosen because bookmarks have to fit easily between the pages of a book, and the smallest standard books are around 14-15 cm long.

On our website you can find special deals on the standard 5 x 21 cm format, suited to larger books

2. Paper

The paper you choose for your bookmark should be quite thick, but not as heavy as card: between 150 and 250 gsm is perfect. The finish is also important – if you opt for recycled or natural paper there’s no need for additional finishes, but coated paper may be even more effective with lamination added.

You may also consider a shaped cut; in this case you need to order our Custom Tags, cut to your chosen shape.

Source: author, Alessandro Bonaccorsi

3.The different parts of a bookmark

Bookmarks are divided into two parts: the front and the back. Since the cost of printing remains the same, it’s worth making use of both. Leaving the back blank makes a bookmark look cheap and unprofessional.
The front is the most important part, and must have a striking design (we’ll look at this in more detail in the next paragraph), while the back should contain a brief text, potentially a call to action (but extremely short) and your contact details (name, website, email and potentially your phone number or address).

Once you have established the basic layout, you can create the graphic design. As mentioned above, bookmarks must grab people’s attention, and be fun or loveable in some way – providing a certain extra something that adds value to their function. After all, their function can be performed by any scrap of torn paper, even toilet roll!
You’d think it would be easy to do better than a piece of Andrex, but you’d be surprised: there’s a lot of work involved!

Deciding on a bookmark’s appearence 

There are basically two ways of making a bookmark:

  • base it on an image
  • base it on a piece of text

Bookmarks based on text

From a graphic design point of view, bookmarks featuring a piece of text are perhaps more complex: the choice of the colour and the font and its size will have a huge influence on the final result. The best advice I can give is to keep things simple and maintain consistency with the rest of the project.


Bookmarks based on an image

Bookmarks featuring an image are the most common, and therefore are difficult to make original and recognisable. The following are all common:

  • bookmarks featuring famous paintings
  • bookmarks featuring graphic designs
  • bookmarks featuring illustrations and drawings
  • bookmarks featuring photos

A similar classification could be done for book covers or postcards, but for bookmarks the image must be designed or cropped in a vertical format, in a narrow strip, making it difficult to find the right image or a successful way to crop it.

The best advice is to try, try and try again, including printing some draft versions, to work out which image or cropping technique works best.

When you’re creating or commissioning the image yourself, you just need to be creative and imaginative: simply adding a logo or a drawing by a good illustrator is not enough to produce a successful bookmark.


Some examples of creative bookmarks

One thing bookmark designers love doing is playing around with their function, such as their role in the book or their position within the pages, as shown in the examples below.


Don’t forget that since bookmarks are cheap and potentially seen by everyone who reads, they can also be perfect for non-commercial uses, such as this Australian non-profit organisation that offers tips on fighting hepatitis C.


The key to a perfect bookmark? Imagination!

In conclusion, bookmarks are objects with enormous scope for playing around with graphics and images. Whether you use them to promote yourself or your clients, to provide information or to raise awareness, to give away or to sell, the important thing is that you make them interesting in some way. Whether fun, intelligent, beautiful or bizarre, they have the potential to be a key marketing tool in many promotional campaigns or to increase your visibility and ensure people remember you.

Have fun!

If you need more inspiration, there are ten more examples here: