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Educational Displays, Pamphlets, Booklets, and Bill Inserts

Minimum Measure: Public Education and Outreach on Stormwater Impacts

Subcategory: Stormwater Outreach Materials

Photo of an example of a poster teaching children about stormwater issues


Printed materials are commonly used to inform the public about stormwater pollution. Some municipalities have a public relations department or a staff member that handles these types of outreach materials. Others contract with public relations firms and graphic designers to develop materials. Regardless of who actually produces the materials, municipalities should be creative when deciding which media to use and what types of messages are appropriate for those media. They also need to consider the following questions:

  • Who is the audience? (i.e., general public, developers, homeowners?)
  • How does the audience get its information? (i.e., newspaper, television, trade magazines, utility bills?)
  • What knowledge base does the audience have?
  • Does the audience need to be convinced about the importance of stormwater pollution control?

The answers to these and other questions can help municipalities choose the appropriate media (See Using the Media) and design a message with the appropriate tone and level of information.

Some common printed materials include educational displays, pamphlets, booklets, and utility stuffers. Computer desktop publishing has made the production of these materials fun and easy. If money is tight, or if access to a computer is limited, attractive and effective materials can be made using basic resources such as a photocopy machine, scissors, and glue.

When designing the layout of a display, pamphlet, or flyer, consider the following issues:

  • Restrained design, consistent graphics, and quality materials appeal to audiences who respond favorably to materials with user-friendly layouts.
  • The text should be kept to a minimum, but it should still interest readers.
  • Using various formats and an active voice can make the text more engaging.
  • Graphics--photos, logos, or other artwork--are great for breaking up long blocks of text, allowing readers a visual break.
  • Images of lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, and other stormwater features are "naturals" for enhancing any printed material. The emotional appeal they elicit can be tremendous.


Educational displays, pamphlets, booklets, and stuffers can be easily exhibited and distributed to a large population. They can be made using simple materials and graphics, or they can be made more elaborate. Furthermore, these displays can be made for any age levels, in any language, or for specific audiences.


Educational Displays. Educational displays can be an effective way to convey information about a stormwater pollution reduction campaign or program. These materials can be displayed at the following venues:

  • Conferences
  • Seminars
  • Libraries
  • Outdoor events
  • Schools
  • Other community events

These places provide an excellent opportunity to share information, educate and involve citizens, promote volunteerism, and build general awareness.

Municipalities can purchase a pop-up display and contract with an artist to design it, or they can design it in house. The displays should be ascetically pleasing and informative. The overall design of the display should attract attention, draw the viewer in, and lead the eye throughout. Whenever possible, the display should be staffed to offer further explanation and answers to questions.

Displays can be made of wood, cardboard, poster board, or other heavy materials. They are usually designed to be portable, with easily assembled and dismantled sections. Wooden displays with metal hinges have the advantage of longevity, but they can also be heavy. Displays made of foam board are relatively inexpensive and both lighter in weight and more durable than those made of poster board.

When composing any large-format display, treat the entire display space as if it were a page layout, a photograph, or a painting. Apply the same basic elements of composition governing good design and flow. Consider the following when designing an educational display:

  • A common mistake in display design is placing many small items in a big space.
  • If the project requires distributing a lot of information, a separate informative piece, such as an illustrated fact sheet, flyer, or brochure, can be included to convey the project's details.
  • It is better to "show" than "tell."
  • Limit text to key information and include lots of pictures.
  • Use text that is large enough to be read from a distance (usually larger than 16 pt. font size).
  • Include a variety of photos, drawings, charts, and text.
  • Different fabrics or papers placed over the backdrop can add texture to the display. For example, if a display depicts a stormwater stenciling project, a stream can be used as a backdrop, and photos of stencil volunteers and a stenciled message can be included.
  • Most importantly, the display should focus on the message - why it is important, what are you trying to accomplish, who are you trying to convince?

Pamphlets and Booklets. Pamphlets, booklets, and brochures effectively present and explain stormwater messages. Pamphlets and booklets are self-explanatory. They can be distributed at libraries, schools, offices and fairs. They can be handed out at meetings or sent in direct mail campaigns. Before creating a pamphlet or booklet, though, it is important to think though its purpose. Is it to promote stormwater education or to change behaviors? Is it to generate interest in a specific stormwater event or activity? Who is your audience? The purpose will help define the appearance and content of your materials.

Flyers. Besides a booklet or pamphlet, a one-page flyer can be produced to carry the basic message. A short, concise flyer is an essential primary education tool for programs on a small budget. The flyer should contain the basic "bare bones" information the public needs to know. Flyers commonly include basic do's and don'ts of water pollution, and a list of the top 10 actions the public can take against stormwater pollution. The flyer should be black and white and reproducible by copy machine. It should be designed for easy reproduction in newspapers and newsletters - major venues for pubic communication. It can be designed as a self-mailer. As funds become available, a flyer can be expanded into a poster, calendar, or booklet.

Utility Stuffers. As with pamphlets, booklets, and flyers, utility stuffers offer an inexpensive, convenient way to convey a message to a large audience. However, instead of being targeted at a specific audience, utility stuffers must be appropriate for the entire public. These inserts can be extremely effective if they are engaging, concise, and memorable. They are often used to impart brief, important messages, provide overviews of problems and solutions, or encourage simple actions. When designing the insert, explore options regarding paper and ink colors, type faces, and type sizes. The text should be brief, the letters fairly large, and the design attractive. Special care should be taken to ensure that the message is simple, concise, and explain to the reader why this issue is important to them.

Signs and Billboards. Striking graphics and brief, strong messages about stormwater pollution on billboards can make a real impact. These messages can be watershed-specific to remind citizens of the specific resource they are protecting. Additionally, signs with stormwater pollution information can be posted on bridges, along roadsides, and at parks. For example, a Michigan community installed a water-monitoring gauge and interpretive display panel on a downtown pedestrian bridge (Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative, no date). Stormwater information could easily be added to this display. Signs intended for pedestrians can contain more information, but text should still be kept at a minimum to hold the audience's interest.


Each of these materials is versatile and can be tailored to different types of audiences. A brochure can be written for the general public and later edited so that it reaches individuals within the stormwater industry. These materials can be relatively inexpensive and can reach large groups of people, especially when displayed in public places (e.g., public libraries).


Care must be taken to ensure that the message is easily understood by the targeted audience. Another limitation is the cost of designing, producing, copying, and displaying the materials.


Costs vary among printed outreach materials. Among other factors, the size, shape, detail, and amount of color on materials can vary widely. When preparing the budget, contact individual vendors for more accurate production cost figures. Staff time for planning, designing, and distributing the materials will also need to be budgeted.


COSG. No date. Getting in Step--A Guide to Effective Outreach in Your Watershed. The Council of State Governments, Lexington, KY.

Environmental Health Coalition. 1992. How to Create a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Campaign. Environmental Health Coalition, San Diego, CA.

Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative. Contact Christopher Wright, 1102 Cass Street, Suite B, Traverse City, MI 49684, or e-mail to


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Last updated on May 24, 2006