a professional Brochure
Writing a successful brochure is one of the more
difficult design tasks. Unlike billboards and signs,
brochures have to span three attention lengths.
1. The "read me now" when a view chooses
to pick it from a rack of brochures or open the
mailer. 2. The "quick scan" as a viewer
decides whether it was a mistake to pick up your
brochure. 3. The "I'm interested give me value"
when a viewer decides to actually read the brochure
which could be sometime later than he/she picked
it up. Whew. After all this, you still need to get
them to do something.
Ok then, if you are still reading, let’s get
your brochure right. First and foremost is understanding
your objective. You know more about your business
or subject than any rational human will ever care
to know. Yes, your business is great, you have 50
great products, a great guarantee, a wonderful service
department, a glossy coat, and fresh breath. None
of these matter because they have nothing to do
with the viewer. Create your ultimate objective
around your viewer. Bad Goal: Provide information
about our downtown district. Good Goal: Bring a
visitor downtown to one of the eclectic restaurants.
Who will be viewing this brochure? When you decide
on an audience get specific enough to personify
an individual. What is his name? How many kids does
he have? What kind of car does she drive? On the
surface we are answering basic demographics such
as age, income and education but we ultimately need
to make the viewer feel and act. This is done by
truly understanding the individuals that make up
One of the biggest trends in today’s marketplace
is customer education. Decide what you want to educate
the viewer. Thank the customer by making your brochure
worth their time. Make it interesting, unique and
let it support your goal
Learning leads the viewer to the next step. No matter
what we like to think about ourselves, we take action
because we feel. Why should they care? How do you
want the view to emotionally respond?
You’ve fed them knowledge and you’ve
made them care. Now tell them exactly what you want
them to do with these pent up emotions. Name Step
1., Step 2.,… if you have to, but give them
explicit directions as to how they should proceed
The article title is “Designing a Professional
Brochure” and we have yet to talk about design.
In architecture school professors always said, “Form
follows function.” Truly even the best-looking
design is just graphics unless there is intent behind
it. If you skipped the nonsense about goals and
objectives, I urge you to take a u-turn towards
the top of the page and read it. The bulk of my
time as a designer is spent on objectives and target
audience, not on graphics. Graphic design is a communication
language, not art. (we do print beautiful postcards
for art however). Goals and objectives in hand,
we now move to graphics
Maintain a consistent feel throughout your brochure.
Using limited colors such as one or two background
colors and a highlight color allows the user to
easily distinguish the importance level of the information.
Although the brochure is designed and printed flat,
create a consistent grid for each panel, allowing
enough margin space to avoid feeling cluttered.
Feel free to break this grid with important elements,
but the viewer needs the consistency to read the
“off grid” or non-standard elements
Graphic software manufacturers should institute
an alert when the third font is chosen, “The
system has recovered from a serious error. The program
will now revert to a previous font face.”
Using one font face for titles and headings and
one for copy with italics and bold used sparingly
increase the viewers comprehension of your brochure.
San-serif fonts (like this one, Arial) are more
readable at smaller font sizes. In general, trim
your copy before reducing the font sizes, keeping
font sizes large (min 12pt, dependent on viewer
Nothing makes text more readable than the lack of
it. Enough blank space is critical and when it’s
missing it is usually due to too much text. Carefully
choose your heading text and include bulleted lists
or bold elements to allow a viewer to scan and understand
your brochure within ten seconds.
Other Text Notes
- use power words such as new, easy, results,
- AVOID ALL CAPS, ITS DIFFICULT TO READ AND
REDUCES RESPONS RATES
- use bold and italics sparingly
- use image captions, they are one of the most
- use short common speech, voluminous exposition
and supercilious verbiage diminish recall
- avoid text over images unless you gradient
or lighten the image 80-90% (far more than your
fist glance estimate)\
- narrow text columns increase readability
- call to action, step by step tell the viewer
what they need to do after reading
- include brief company and contact information
(its amazing how often this is overlooked)
One great image is worth ten good ones. Keep your
images few, but powerful. Not everyone will read
your brochure, but they will see it. Images are
so powerful that there is no faster way to reduce
the read rate than poor images. I am not a photographer
and I cringe at every check I write to one, but
it is worth it. An inexpensive alternative is stock
imagery. (Crobis.com is the leader in stock photography)
Choose beautiful stock imagery over poor-quality
Your brochure will be fighting a sea of other marketing
material and must scream "read me." Avoid
text columns on the brochure cover. Get your point
across in as few words as possible (2-10). Also
remember if your brochure is sitting in a rack,
only the top one-third will be visible at all. The
cover is center-stage for your images; make sure
they are vibrant and intriguing. The only job of
the cover is to entice people to pick up your brochure.
Above all else, keep the cover simple.
Information alone is not enough. Give the viewer
a reason to keep the brochure because it contains
something they will use later. This can be a map,
a useful list, contact information, coupons, or
even a recipe. Marketing is about repetition, so
give yourself your viewer one more opportunity to
read your brochure.
how did you do?
The first question you should ask is “does
the viewer no what to do once they have read the
brochure?” A few informal opinions can answer
this quickly. Many designers will test a few front
cover designs or images to see which is the most
Is it Intriguing?
Is there enough white space or breathing room?
Can viewers understand the intent of the brochure
in under ten seconds?
Are images few and effective?
Does the viewer have a reason to pick it up?
Does it provide value to the viewer?
Does it tell the viewer what to do next?
Creating a successful brochure is one of the more
difficult design challenges, but it can result in
one of your most effective marketing tools. There
are many opinions concerning the graphical look
of a brochure, but there are design fundamentals
regardless of the look. Designing your brochure
with these ideas in mind will shape the actual graphical
layout. The design tips found here will hopefully
provide you with a solid foundation for you to build
your best brochure yet.