How to design a brochure: the ultimate guide
Few adults have never handled a brochure. Brochures are effective and powerful tools for educating and engaging audiences. They are everywhere from showcasing new businesses and giving quick access to take-away menus to driving traffic to new stores. However, this is only true if you get the brochure design right.
Perfecting brochures is all about design. Excellent design compels audiences to read on and learn more about your business and what you offer. Less than perfect design will leave your brochure lonely and ignored.
So perfect brochure design, how do you achieve it?
The definitive guide to outstanding brochure design gives you everything you could possibly need to design, create and print the ideal brochure for your business. It drives results in the right direction and makes an enduring impact on your preferred audience.
How to design an incredible brochure
These are the sets you need. Click on the links to head straight to that section
Before you begin designing
- Knowing your brand personality
- Defining your perfect customer
- Developing your message
- Establishing your success metrics
- Setting your realistic budget
Designing your ideal brochure
- Considering your brand design standards
- Designing with the reader as your focus
- Choosing the type of brochure
- Gathering your images and text copy
- Finding your style
- Picking the ideal CTA
Evaluating and printing
- Evaluating your design
- Choosing a printer
- Exploring print possibilities
Before you begin designing
The work you undertake before you begin creating your brochure can determine whether it is a hit or a miss. Learning your brand character, understanding your message, and knowing your target customer group increase the odds of a smooth and effortless design process.
Knowing your brand personality or character
How can you expect your reader to know your business if you are unsure?
It is vital to understand your brand personality. Not doing so leads to unclear and disjointed marketing and branding. There will be no overarching theme to your marketing materials, leading to lost and confused readers.
Defining your perfect customer
As well as knowing your identity fully, it is essential to know who you are aiming your business at, who is your audience. Different designs are required for distinct audiences. Not having a clear picture of your audience increases the possibility of making the wrong choices.
Before you start designing, consider:
- Who is my perfect customer?
- What information or knowledge are they searching for?
- Are images or text more likely to garner a response?
- What are their expectations when it comes to copy? (i.e., conversational or corporate, serious or humorous)
- How can I best capture their attention?
Knowing who you are designing for steers your designs and ensures that your completed brochure feels authentic to their needs and expectations. This improves your probability of success.
Developing your message
While this was touched on above, it is so vital that it is worth going into more detail.
You must know what you want your brochure to say and how you want it to come across before starting the design process. The message is the whole purpose of the brochure. If it is not clear, if it is not written in a way that resonates with your audience, the brochure will be a waste of time, effort and money.
For example, you need a brochure to attract parents to your new café, complete with a kids play area. Your message is likely to be: “Our café is friendly and fun—come and enjoy tea with us!” You need to use friendly, accessible language and vibrant images that fit your brand. This is likely to draw in your target audience. Opting technical terms and complex language would be off-brand and wouldn’t appeal to your target customers.
Similarly, if you offer financial services or mortgage services, bright images and playful language would come across as unprofessional and childish. It would be difficult for your target audience to take you seriously.
Knowing your core message prior to starting the design process ensures that you make informed judgments that strengthen your message.
Establishing your success metrics
One of the many non-negotiable elements of designing a brochure is determining your metrics for success. Failing to complete this step means you cannot judge whether your brochure is working or whether your design needs tweaking.
Your metrics should reflect what you hope to achieve with your brochure. This might include:
- Driving customers to a retail location. Including a voucher or coupon enables you to measure the number of people using your store by the number redeemed.
- Driving individuals to your website. Including a custom URL enables you to track visitor numbers during your campaign.
- Building interest in a product launch. Including a CTA encouraging people to sign up for a newsletter or mailing list allows you to compare new sign-ups during your campaign.
Setting your realistic budget
There is more to understanding your budget than the number of brochures you can afford to print. Other considerations include the printing techniques and the type of paper you can afford to use.
How sturdy do you need the brochures to be? The sturdier you need them, the thicker the paper you need. Different printing techniques and inks will affect how your visuals look, and quality matters when you want to stand out. Think in terms of budget-per-print and make decisions focusing on what is most important.
Understanding your budget in detail for the entire designing, creating and printing process helps you make the most of every penny.
Designing your ideal brochure
Considering your brand design standards
Keep your brand design standards front and centre as you begin the design process.
Remember, the visual elements of your brochure need to be consistent with other marketing components to create a single, easily identifiable picture of your company.
Select design elements (images, fonts, colours) that fit your brochure’s content and your brand character. Ensure that fonts and colours used across your brand continue in your brochure.
Designing with the reader as you focus
It can be very easy to become carried away with what you want as the business owner. While it may be a shock. Your desires don’t matter. It is what the customer desires that needs to be reflected in your brochure.
Keep your ideal customer front and centre when considering your layout. How would they prefer to interact with the information? Are large text blocks ok or would they be more at home with small blocks broken up by images? Which fonts and colours are more likely to appeal to them? Where is information, such as your contact details best situated, so it is easy to find?
Ensure your layout appeals to your ideal customer.
Choosing the type of brochure
Contrary to what you may believe, there is more than one type of brochure. The type depends on how it is folded, and there are many ways this can be achieved. Printing resource Printaholic notes that there are 15 ways in which a brochure can be folded, including:
- Accordion fold
- Double gatefold
- Half + half fold
- Half + tri-fold
- Parallel fold
- Roll fold
- Single gatefold
The perfect brochure type for your design will entirely depend on its content.
Consider classic Tri-Fold brochures if you want to keep your design simple. If you have lots of information to communicate, you need an option with greater space, akin to a 16-panel fold or an eight-panel fold. A four-panel roll fold may be most appropriate if you are creating a product tutorial or a step-by-step guide.
How your brochures will be delivered also plays a role in your decision.
Are the brochures being placed with other promotional gifts in a bag? Are they being displayed on a rack? Are they being mailed out? Your delivery or display plan will play a significant role in deciding the best fold for your brochure and business.
Gathering your images and text copy
Your copy and images should be ready before you start designing your brochure. Having these to hand supports your decisions regarding font size, layout and length. It also reduces the time you spend redesigning to fit your information.
However, you need to be flexible and willing to cut, reduce or resize text and images to fit the space available and ensure the main points come across clearly and concisely.
Balance is important. Remember, vast blocks of text can be overwhelming, while large amounts of white space can look as if you don’t have anything worthwhile to say.
Structure your copy with headings and subheadings to make it easy for the reader to skim and grasp the main points. You only get one opportunity to grab the reader’s attention and convince them that your brochure is worth reading.
Take the same approach with the images. Choose those that enhance your brochure and assist in telling your story and connect with the reader. Only use good quality images that you have the right to use. Copyright can be your downfall if you pick images from the web.
Your selection of images and copy is likely to shrink and grow during the design process. Ensure you only keep those engaging pieces that tell the narrative your audience wants to hear.
Finding your style
If you want your brochure to shine, you need to perfect your stylistic elements.
Apply the KISS approach (Keep it simple silly)
3D Elements! Graphics! Glitter! Shiny Ink! Text, Text and More Text!
If too much is going on in your brochure, your reader will be overwhelmed and walk away. Too much of any element is just as bad as too many different aspects crowded into one space.
Clean, simple design with an outstanding balance between flair and usability is the way to go. This doesn’t mean your brochure should be boring and look the same as every other brochure.
Think outside the box and find unique ways of achieving the balance you need.
If your brochure is going to make an impression, it needs to stand out for the right reasons. It needs to offer the consumer something new and exciting, something they haven’t seen before but can easily engage with.
Don’t be afraid to try something different that grabs people’s attention.
Picking the ideal CTA
The whole point of your brochure design is to inspire readers to take appropriate actions after reading. To achieve this, you need to be very clear about what action you want them to take and why they should do it.
One of the biggest mistakes is burying your CTA in a mass of text on your brochure’s last page. If you do this, no one will see it. Your CTA needs to be impossible to miss. Make it bold, big and very obvious.
Your CTA needs to be centre stage and positioned in several places throughout your brochure. Doing this makes it incredibly hard to miss regardless of how far they read or skim through your brochure.
Evaluating and printing
Your brochure is nearly ready to be released to the world by this stage. However, before you do, take time to check it and ensure it’s perfect.
Evaluating your design
Now the design process is complete, spend some time evaluating the finished product. This is your final opportunity to make changes and perfect your design.
- The design grabs your attention
- The message is clear
- The CTA is front and centre
- It is on point with your branding
Don’t rely on just your opinion. Talk to others to get their perspective. Colleagues, customers, friends and family are usually willing to give their thoughts and help you figure out whether it is perfect for your business.
Now it’s ready for printing.
Choosing your printer
The printer you choose to work with can be the difference between a high-class finish that is everything you ever dreamed of and something that looks like it came out of a home printer on a bad day.
Visiting printers in person to view their work is ideal. You get a much better feel for the quality of the samples in real life than you do over online images.
Go prepared when you visit the printer, ask questions to determine whether they are the most suitable fit for your needs. Some example questions include:
- Do you have experience in brochure printing and design?
- What is the best printing choice for cost? Time?
- What ink options are available?
- Is colour matching something you provide?
- Do you provide printed or digital proofs?
- Do you have in-house designers?
- Do you have references from other clients?
- What happens if I’m not satisfied with my print job?
Your first option should be an experienced brochure printer with staff designers who use the most recent print technology.
Choosing your print materials
Getting your materials right is essential. Your printer should work with you to select the best weight, paper finish and additional elements for your brochure. Work with your chosen printer to choose the perfect materials for your brochure. Here are some tips to get you started.
Paper weight can be measured in several different ways (like mils and basis weight). However, the most used is GSM or metric weight. The GSM equates to the weight a 1×1 meter square of a sheet of paper. As a rule, higher paper weight equals thicker sheets.
Generally, brochures sit between 170 and 300 GSM, but that is just a rule of thumb.
Now it is time to decide on the right finish for your brochure. There are several to select from:
- Matte: No shine on the paper, an entirely flat finish
- Semi-Gloss: sits in the middle of matte and glossy with some shine
- Glossy: A reflective, shiny finish
Your printer should have the experience needed to guide your choice of finish. Discuss the brochure’s purpose and your budget with them to assist you best.
Speciality processes and ink
Speciality inks can enhance brochures and give them the extra wow factor. Options to enquire about include:
- Foil: A metallic, shiny stamp or ink that reflects light
- Embossing: An images or shape is pressed into the paper, creating raised effects
- UV spot: Applying shiny coatings to specific areas (usually the accents, headline or logo)
Ask your printer about the available options and how they will affect your brochure, production time and budget.
Wrapping things up
There you are, everything you should need to design the perfect brochure for your business. One that delivers your on-brand message and inspires your readers to act, bringing you one step nearer your goals.
Contact the Creative Harmony team to get your next brochure project in budget. Enjoy our high levels of personal service and commitment; we are with you every step of the way.
If you are considering a new brochure then it is not hard to guess a primary concern. While you might be concerned about quality, the brochure design cost is probably on your mind. You can read more about this here: How to Keep Your Brochure Design Cost Under Control and Get an Effective Product in 4 Effortless Steps.
Need an award-winning brochure design agency to take care of everything from brochure concepting to printing? No time for those design-it-yourself brochure apps?
We’ll give you a brochure that looks good AND works hard to deliver what you need it to, whether that’s: More Sales, Greater Awareness or Communicating Your Values. Talk to our expert team of brochure designers today.