Brochure design

How to make a brochure in six steps

You’re great at what you do, and you want a brochure that’s every bit as good, but marketing and design aren’t your areas of expertise.

So, how do you make a brochure that looks professional, without any design experience?

The good news is that even a complete novice can design an effective brochure. And it doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.

We’ve distilled effective brochure design into six pro tips that will help you get your message out and leave you looking good.

Target the right audience

You have three questions to ask about your audience before you get to work:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they need from me?
  • What do I want them to do?

Answering these questions allows you to create a roadmap for everything from the choice of fold to the text you write.

Who are they

Are you introducing potential customers to your work, or following up on a sales visit, trade show, or other events? Is your audience in the market for a single product or service, or are they seeking broader expertise?

What they need from you

Consider what information your audience needs the most. A brand-new customer may want to know more about you, while a loyal client might be eager to hear what’s next. Some readers need prices and product features, while others want to know what sets you apart. And every customer needs information on the best way to find you.

What you want them to do

Some brochures are designed to drive sales and others are geared toward relationship-building. You can’t write a call to action without first knowing what you’d like customers to do—stop by the shop, order your latest creation online, commit to your business, or tell their friends.

Write high-value copy

With your goals clear, your copy should cover three basic sections:

  • About you
  • The benefits your product or service offers
  • Call to action

Don’t imagine these as being universally equal in weight: the relative amount of text dedicated to each section will vary based on what you and your customers need.

About you

This is your opportunity to say more about who you are and what you stand for – whether that’s reliability, personal service, or quality products. Try to focus on one or two key messages.

Product/Service info

Highlight the essential information about what your business offers, being clear on the benefits. If you provide multiple goods, products, or services, split the copy up into categories to make it easier to scan and digest.

Call to action (CTA)

Let your audience know what to do next. Most people won’t read a brochure cover-to-cover, especially if there is a ton of text, so find ways to include your CTA in multiple locations, not just the end. Tell them where to find you (online or brick-and-mortar), how best to make contact, and include your working hours.

In every section, remember the cardinal rules of copy:

  • Keep the sentences short, to-the-point, and focused on a single idea.
  • Write in the first person. Use “we” and “you” to personalize the text and never refer to your readers as “customers.”
  • Limit your paragraphs to 3 or 4 lines, so they ‘re easier to scan.
  • Use sub-headings and bullet points to separate the information and make each item more digestible.

Think of each paragraph as an opportunity to answer a question, explain a benefit, or address a customer’s need. No two paragraphs should accomplish the same thing.

Use smart visuals

Though brochures are often text-heavy, copy isn’t the only way to create positive associations with your business. You can also capitalize on:

  • Logos
  • Photos
  • Graphics

Keep visuals clean: don’t throw so many elements on the page that the eye no longer knows where to look. Visuals should serve your core message, not eclipse it.

Logo

Your logo can be an important visual ambassador for you, sparking recognition at a glance. Capture a high-res version of your logo, at least 300dpi. Saving as a .pdf or other vector file (.ai or .es) is best but other high-res formats (.png, .jpeg. .ppt) work as well.

Photos

If you take your own photos, it’s best to use a digital camera, which allows adjustments for depth of field and lighting, or to hire a professional. If you’re on a budget, a good smartphone can also take clear images if you know what you’re doing. Or you might opt to seek affordable stock images online, being careful not to duplicate images used by your competitors. Once again, high-definition matters.

Graphics

Tread lightly with graphics. “Looks like clip-art” is a common criticism of poor design, so choose clean, easy-to-digest graphics that make a statement about your brand without going overboard. Use sparingly for maximum impact.

Maximize impact through design

Once you’ve got your ingredients in hand, it’s time to focus on how to make them work together for you. Make the most impact by choosing:

  • The right fold
  • The right font
  • The right placement

Folds

Bi-fold brochures are best when the value proposition to your customer is relatively simple; you’re using large graphics to illustrate your benefits or you have high-quality photography that you want to spotlight.

Tri-fold brochures are ideal when you want to cover multiple aspects of your business’s products and services; you’re outlining a single product’s specifications and benefits in detail; there are specific steps or processes involved; or you’re performing a direct mail campaign.

Z-fold brochures succeed when you want to feature larger graphs or images (since z-fold brochures fold out into a full page with one move); you want to split up your message by panel; or you want to tell one larger story.

Fonts

Limit your choice of fonts to two or three for consistency and clarity. Choose one font for body text and another for headings; for subheadings, use a third font or a smaller size of the second. Keep excerpts or quotes in one of your selected fonts, perhaps in italics or a different size for emphasis.

Content placement

Covers should be low on text but high on appeal; whether it’s a logo, a slogan, or a photo (or some combination of those elements), the cover image should send the key message and get readers to unfold the brochure.

Interior panels are most readable when white space is ample.

The back panel should always feature your contact information and CTA. (Note: on a z-fold, the 4th panel in sequence becomes the back when folded.)

Pick the perfect paper

Most brochures are printed on one of three kinds of paper stock:

  • Glossy
  • Matte
  • Uncoated/Natural

Each paper has advantages and disadvantages that can either mute the effect you’re trying to create or make it bolder.

Glossy paper works best with designs featuring vibrant color and large photographs. The high reflectivity of glossy paper can make it difficult to read under bright light, but it’s generally a strong choice.

Matte paper is terrific if you want to keep things black and white or employ any high-contrast color pairing. Many people subconsciously feel that matte is a more “professional” paper compared to glossy.

Uncoated paper feels more natural and rustic, and comes in an ever-wider array of finishes. It’s easy to read and write on, a facet it shares with the recycled paper stock offered by companies like Vistaprint.

Make a mockup of your brochure

Practice really does make perfect. Take the stress out of printing by crafting a home-made mockup to get a sense of how it might come together.

Make sample folds

Take a sheet of paper and fold it into one of the common formats and then, to give yourself options, repeat for at least one other format.

Make a template

Choose a fold (bi-fold, tri-fold, or z-fold), then list (in a few words) the key ingredients that will fill each panel. Repeat with another fold to see if that format is more or less effective.

Layout draft content

Print out your text blocks, logos, and graphics (scaled to fit the paper you’re using) and lay them out. Is the balance of content to white space pleasing? Are the essential elements easy to find? Glue or tape the elements in place once you’re happy with them.

Read your finished mockup

Read cover to cover. If you’re happy with the flow of ideas and information, you’re ready to print with the confidence of an old pro.

We’re excited to see your creation. Using the hashtag #vistaprint, share images of the brochures you made following these tips.

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