Thursday, July 19, 2012

Creating an Effective Printed Brochure

Consider the elegant simplicity of a printed brochure – it’s a concise, attractive and versatile compilation of information about a company, product, service, event or location. It can be handed out during a face-to-face sales call or distributed as direct mail; made available in a literature rack or on a table at a trade show; sent in response to an inquiry or left behind at a meeting. It can be economically printed in both small and large quantities. As a sales tool, a brochure is appropriate for almost any selling situation.

Planning a brochure

A brochure is made up of three elements: the copy, the design, and the physical specifications. All three are equally important for creating an effective brochure.


The copy is the brochure’s message – the words that are used to persuade and inform. Since the most effective copy is written with a specific audience in mind, the first planning step is to define the target audience. Both the content and writing style will be different depending on whether the brochure is intended for technical staff such as engineers or mechanics, for executives such as CEOs and marketing managers, or consumers/end users.

The writing style and content may also be different depending on when in the sales cycle the brochure will be used – as a direct mail piece to generate leads; as sales collateral and a leave-behind during sales calls; or in response to inquiries from leads generated by a website, trade show or exhibit.

The copy itself tells the story of the company, product or service in an unfolding narrative with a beginning, middle and end. It includes all the important selling points (like features, benefits and specifications), the unique selling proposition, and answers to frequently-asked questions. And it is told from the target audience’s point of view.

The tone of the copy can be formal or conversational but the writing must be clear with a minimum of industry jargon. When appropriate, write as if you are speaking directly to just one member of the target audience as this tends to personalize the writing and promote response.

Include a call to action – a specific instruction on what to do next and the information needed to complete the action – as part of the copy. Though commonly placed at the end of the text, a call to action can be put anywhere in the brochure and can appear more than one time. Near the call to action include full contact information – address, phone, fax, URL, social media locators, and QR code.

Before copy is finalized, make sure it is consistent with other sales and marketing materials and proof read for factual errors, typos, punctuation, grammar and syntax.


Design is what gives your brochure its visual appeal. Design elements include typography, color palette, photographs and images, white space, underlying organizational structure and the arrangement of elements on the page.

The front cover of the brochure is the most important design element. It is the first thing that the target audience will see and it determines whether the prospect will continue reading. The cover needs an eye-catching photograph, headline, or combination, not the company logo and contact information. Save that for the back panel.

Be aware that the reader will look first at photographs and images, then headlines, charts and graphs, captions and finally the body copy. Use pull quotes, shaded boxes, and drop capitals for emphasis and to guide the reader’s comprehension. Make features into a bulleted list. The reader should be able to pick up the majority of the content by scanning the photographs and skimming the headlines and captions.

How a brochure is folded affects the order in which readers will see the information unfold, so compartmentalize the presentation. Be sure each panel stands alone but also is connected visually to the rest of the brochure.

Physical specifications

For the most economical price, design the brochure so it can be printed on standard size paper – 8.5 x 11 or 11x17 inches – and use a standard fold:

  • Trifold: commonly used for brochures, a trifold uses two parallel folds to create six panels. Seen from the side, it forms a letter C. Also known as a letter fold or C fold.
  • Z fold: two parallel folds that go in opposite directions creating six panels. Seen from the side, it forms a Z shape. Also known as an accordian fold.
  • Bifold: a single fold creating four panels. Also known as a half fold.
  • Double parallel fold: made by folding a page in half, then folding each folded page in half again, in the same direction.
  • Barrel fold: two or more parallel folds that fold in on each from either left or right. Seen from above, the folds spiral inward. Also known as a roll fold or spiral fold.

A popular stock for brochures is 100# text. It is thicker than paper used in copiers; thicker than letterhead, but thinner than a business card. It takes a fold well and will stand up to repeated handling. If the brochure is being printed in full color, we recommend using a coated or glossy stock; it will enhance the color.

The printed brochure: a versatile sales and marketing tool

Always keeps enough printed brochures on hand so they are available for prospects who visit your business, for sales people making calls, and for responding to requests for more information. If you would like an estimate for printing, please call Marya or Loyd at (215) 923-2679. We also offer copywriting and design services as well as analysis of your existing marketing collateral.

Short Code Shortcuts

If you often type or copy and paste the same block of text (such as your signature or several paragraphs of a standard response) you may be interested in a text expander – a program that automatically pastes a string of words or paragraphs when you type a short code. A text expander can handle something as simple as a phone number or as complex as multiple paragraphs of HTML code.

For example, if you use different email signatures, you can assign a shorthand code like “xsig”, “ysig” and “zsig” to each of three different signature blocks. Then when you type “xsig”, the text expander will paste in the entire signature block associated with that code.

A text expander can be useful for many things, such as a photo, a logo, boilerplate paragraphs, special characters, or words with accent marks.

The Last Step

An important step in creating an effective, professional brochure is proof reading the final layout. Here’s a simple test to determine your proofreading skills.

Count the number of “F”s in the following sentence. Count them only once, and do not go back and count them again:


Did you count six “F”s? Most people easily find three (finished, files, scientific). If you spotted four (of), you’re an above average proofreader. If you found five or six (two more of), you are an excellent proofreader.

There is no catch. We miss the “F” in the word “of” because the brain tends to see it as a “V” instead of an “F”.

Loyd Padgett Joins the Team

Please help us welcome our new team member, Loyd Padgett! Loyd has significant experience in printing and electronic media, both online and offline. Loyd is originally from the city of Roanoke, in the Blue Ridge Valley of Virginia.

His love for print goes back to high school where he was editor of the school newspaper. At Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, Loyd studied Sculpture and Graphic Design.

Loyd gained substantial hands-on graphic arts experience working for a respected printer with a 40 year history in the local community. It was there that he developed and honed his skills. Loyd has experience with digital and offset printing, high speed laser printing, and large format printing. He has worked in every department of a print shop. Plus, he has significant skills in graphic design, programming and variable data as well. Loyd has run offset presses, hydraulic cutters, binding machines and folding machines of every kind. Loyd “fell in love with printing and has been in the graphic arts industry ever since.”

In his free time, Loyd is a sound artist. He manages an experimental music label, and is always working on getting his own material released on other labels around the world. He also enjoys designing audio circuitry and has been working with the sound design program Pure Data to build interactive patches for live performances. Loyd lives in West Philadelphia with his girlfriend.

Please join us in welcoming Loyd Padgett to the Creative Characters Team!

A Powerful Point of Contact

Today, with email, websites and social media, it is tempting to declare that printed marketing materials irrelevant. We agree that it is important for your customers and prospects to have easy access to your marketing material in digital format. But we also strongly believe that a PDF file can be a poor substitute for the quality of a printed brochure.

As an example, think of what it would be like for you to attend a trade show or visit a new car showroom, leaving only with a PDF file sent to your phone or computer. In many situations, a brochure is still a powerful one-on-one point of contact between the salesman and the prospect. And by including a QR code, the printed brochure is now connected to the digitally-delivered message.

We routinely produce professional quality brochures, in full color, and in whatever quantity you need. Let us help you increase sales with an eye-catching printed brochure. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Consider the End from the Beginning

Are you familiar with the term bindery? That’s the department in our company where we create the final product from flat press sheets – products like a folded brochure, a booklet, a pad, a numbered invoice, pages with holes ready for a ring binder, a spiral bound manual, or a ticket with perforations to make a tear-off stub. The bindery is where we trim business cards to final size and trim the edges of booklets to make them even. It’s where we apply the glue that makes individual sheets of carbonless paper into a set. It’s where we package the order and do the final quality control check. So even though we rarely mention the bindery when talking to you about a project, it is a very important part of the process.

Bindery operations

If you have ever cut, folded, stapled or punched holes in sheets you’ve printed, then you are familiar with bindery operations. We perform these operations using stand alone equipment for sheets printed on our offset presses, and with add-on modules to our digital printing equipment to collate multi-page documents, staple sets, and even make booklets. Having these inline capabilities adds a level of efficiency that can mean a faster turnaround time for your project.

Considering bindery operations when creating documents

You will get the best results for your project if you understand that some bindery functions require an adjustment to the layout of the document file. The three most common are allowances for trimming, folding and document binding.


If your document contains a bleed – an image or line or solid color that extends all the way to the edge of the sheet – the layout will need adjusting. This is because printers do not print an image to the edge of the sheet. What looks like printing to the edge is really a printed image that has been extended past the final size, then trimmed to the final size. The standard allowance for a bleed is 1/8 inch (0.125) beyond the finished size. So if the final size of your printed piece is 8.5 x 11, then set the document size at 8.75 x 11.25, set trim marks at 8.5 x 11, and extend the image that will bleed 0.125 inches past the trim lines.

When preparing a file, such as a business card, where more than one can fit on a press sheet, include trim marks that show us what you intend for the final size. The process of positioning images to print on the press sheet is called imposition; we determine the imposition plan based on production considerations.


When preparing a document like a trifold brochure, remember the size of panels that fold in must be slightly smaller to produce a completely flat and even fold. The adjustment is particularly critical when the image from one panel abuts the image from an adjacent panel. Here’s an example of the mathematical computation for panel size:

8.5 x 11 sheet of paper folded in thirds to produce a brochure measuring 8.5 x 3.67 after folding.

  • 11 divided by 3 = 3.667 (the width of a panel if all panels were equal)
  • To determine the width of the inner panel, subtract 0.125 (1/8th inch) from 3.667 = 3.542 (new width if inner panel)
  • To determine the width of the outer panels, divide 0.125 by 2 = 0.063. Add this amount to 3.667 = 3.73 (new width if outer panels)
  • Result: the panel that folds in (the inner panel) has a width = 3.542; the two outer panels have a width of 3.73
Remember that the position of the inside panel changes from the front to the reverse. In this example, the inner panel moves from the left to the right depending on whether you are working on the outside or inside of the finished brochure. To see this easily for yourself, fold an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper in thirds, make a mark on both sides of the inner panel, then unfold.


To put holes in paper, we may use a spindle drill (similar to a wood drill) or a punch. When you are setting the margins for an item that will be bound, you must allow extra space from the edge of the sheet to where the image begins to accommodate the drill or punch pattern. A half inch clear space is recommended for an 8.5 x 11 sheet, so shift the margin to the right for one-sided pages. For two-sided pages, shift right for odd-numbered and left for even-numbered pages.


Booklets consisting of more than two or three flat press sheets before being made into the booklet can present a problem known as shingling or page creep (see photo at right). Notice that the pages are uneven or shingled. This is the result of page creep. To eliminate the unevenness, the final step in making a booklet is to trim the face (i.e. the outer right hand edge). If there has not been an adjustment for page creep, it is possible that text, page numbers, or images could be trimmed away during the face trim.

Making exact adjustments for page creep requires complicated mathematical computations. A less accurate though simpler method is to make a dummy booklet: fold the exact number of press sheets that will make up the booklet, gather them into a booklet and stitch (staple) in the center fold. Trim the face, then disassemble the booklet. Measure the width of the inner-most sheet (the one that will have the center spread) and set page margins accordingly.

Do it yourself or ask us for help

The instructions we’ve given to adjust for trimming, folding and binding are standards in the printing industry, so they are worth learning. However, if the software program you are using doesn’t have the tools to make the adjustments easily, then we suggest you let us do it for you. Give us a Word file with text, tell us where you would like photos or graphics placed, and let us do the final layout. The cost is small compared to what you’ll save yourself in time and frustration.

For more information or a cost estimate, contact Loyd or Marya at (215) 923-2679.