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Brochure Tips


Designing 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.

1. Goal
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.

2. Target Audience
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 your audience.

3. Learning Objectives
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

4. Emotional Objective
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?

5. Behavior Objective
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

6. Design
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

7. Theme and structure
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 as important

8. Text
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 age).

9. Quick-read Text
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, proven
  • use bold and italics sparingly
  • use image captions, they are one of the most read elements
  • 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)

10. Images
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 snap-shots.

11. Cover
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.

12. Persistent Value
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.

Evaluation: 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 effective.

Evaluation list:
  • 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.


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