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FM 33-1: Psychological Operations

Printed Material (Appendix)

"Printed Material (Appendix)" is based upon "Psychological Operations Field Manual No.33-1" published in August 1979 by Department of the Army Headquarters in Washington DC; and "Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Media Subcourse PO-0816" by The Army Institute for Professional Development, published in 1983


Common Characteristics

As with other media, printed material must gain and hold attention, be credible and persuade the target audience. It should offer a solution that guides the target to a course of action which the psychological operator desires.

Elements of Printed Material

The composition of an item of printed material must reflect the proper use of the elements of printed matter.

1. Format

The material must be presented in a format to which the audience is accustomed, as the credibility and acceptance of an item presented in a strange format is decreased considerably.

2. Headline

A headline must attract attention and be easy to read, quickly understood, and provocative. It should be audience selective by relating to the needs and frames of reference of a selected target audience.

3. Sub headline

The sub headline bridges the gap between the headline and the copy text. It is not required on a leaflet or poster, unless the headline requires elaboration. The sub headline directs the reader's eye to the primary text.

4. Display lines

Display lines include headlines, sub headlines, and captions for illustrations other than copy text. They gain attention and enhance the written message.

5. Illustrations

An illustration enables both literate and illiterate audiences to get the general idea of the message without reading the text. It is desirable in preparing leaflets to use a single predominant illustration in order to communicate a central theme. Graphically, the illustration should contrast with the background so that as a mass, it is identifiable at a distance. Editorially, the illustration must be intimately tied to the text to convey the message to the non literate reader. Indigenous artists and photographers should be used to insure that the intended message is conveyed.

6. Copy text

The copy text refers to the written message exclusive of display lines. The development of the copy text involves the delicate task of establishing a psychological relationship with the audience. The writer must relate the frame of reference of the audience to the objective. Good copy text convinces the reader that only by accepting the course of action stated or implied can his needs be fulfilled. The development of the text should include familiar terms, phrases, and appropriate vernacular. For this reason, indigenous personnel should be used to write messages. Direct translation from English text are generally unclear and do not relate to the frame of reference of the audience.

7. White space

White space is the background area of printed material. When properly used, white space cannot be effectively overprinted by the enemy, since it complements the other elements. The objective is to make it difficult to overprint the white space in the poster, and make it appear to be a part of the original item.


Once the theme and the elements of printed matter to be used have been determined, the idea must be fused into a single, well-balanced product. This process is known as visualization, or a mental representation of ideas.


Balance refers to distribution of weight, or the emphasis produced by contrasting colors, masses, and white space. To understand balance, we must note that the optical center operates as a fulcrum around which weights are distributed. The optical center is formally located slightly above the mathematical center of a visual presentation.

1. Formal balance

Formal balance is the equal distribution of weight on each side of a vertical line drawn from top to bottom, with the optical center as a reference point. Formal balance helps to portray dignity, conservatism, dependability, and stability. The paper currency of most countries is laid out with formal balance.

2. Informal balance

Informal balance is the unequal distribution of weight in the visual presentation. An informally balanced presentation is generally more dynamic and provocative than a formally balanced presentation. Any departure from formal format generally arouses interest.

3. Informal diagonal balance

Informal diagonal balance maintains proportional reference to the optical center of the presentation diagonally. Copy text and illustration are diagonally opposed in the illustration.

4. Grouping

Grouping is accomplished by the use of two or more forms of balance in a single presentation.

Eye Direction

The reader can be led through the printed presentation as desired by the psychological operator by using various methods of eye direction.

1. Suggestive eye direction

In this method, the psychological operator attempts to direct the eye by subtle means not obvious to the reader. In the World War II leaflet the angle of the rifle and the leaning of the figure of the Japanese soldier lead the reader from lower left up through the news of the German's surrender on the sheet in the soldiers' hand, to the poem which, in effect, states that further resistance is futile.

2. Sequential eye direction

In this method, the leaflet writer uses a sequence familiar to the audience in order to direct the eye through a series of presentations (for example by numbering each frame of the presentation.) In a World War II Allied leaflet the natural sequence of a clock is used to depict Allied progress in retaking the islands of the Pacific and that Japan itself was the final hour to be struck.

3. Mechanical eye direction

In this method, the psychological operator uses arrows and guiding lines to direct reader's attention through the significant points of the leaflet or poster. Mechanical eye direction is the most obvious method of eye direction.


Printed matter is a visual medium of communication using impressed symbols to convey a message to a specific target.

Physical characteristics

Printed matter has the following major physical characteristics:

1. Permanency

A propaganda message printed on durable material will be a comparatively permanent document. Once printed and delivered, it may be retained indefinitely.

2. Color

Color, alone, may have meaning. The impact of the printed text and message may be enhanced by the use of colors which are significant to the target audience. For example, to an American, red signifies danger; yellow caution.

3. Shape

Shapes may convey a message to the target; The propagandist, therefore, needs an intimate knowledge of the symbols relevant to a particular society to exploit this device. For example, a leaflet in the shape of a leaf may signify death in some societies.

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