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Brilliant brochure design

SUMMARY: In this Web-oriented world, printed brochures still serve an essential need. They attract attention before and during a meeting and become a take-home reference for your audience.

Their effectiveness, however, hinges on good design. Understand a few simple design principles to produce a brochure people want to pick up and read. The first step to good design has nothing to do with pictures, words, lines or layout.

The first step is to know why you want a brochure. What do you hope to accomplish? You may want people to be aware of an event or a topic, to know the details and background of a subject, or to act on something—join a group, donate money or sign up to help.

Once you know why you are creating the brochure, map out a design plan that communicates your purpose. In this article, we will discuss a tri-fold, six-panel brochure. It is the most common format and uses 8.5-inch by 11-inch paper. However, the principles apply to any size.

Hold the paper horizontally. Fold it into thirds to create six panels. Label the cover panel A, the inside three panels B, C and D. The outside panel visible when you open the cover is E and the back cover is F.

Some estimates report that 80 percent of people will not pick up or open a brochure without a prime benefit or compelling reason. Use the cover (A) to give a reason to learn more and to continue to read. Use an image and text to grab viewers’ attention. Don’t just put your logo or the topic on the cover.

Here are a few more tips:


Consider branding.
Keep your brochure in the church family. Review your existing materials (Web site, newsletters and stationery) and match the brochure’s look and feel to them. A simple color palette that follows the church’s color branding also is important. For example, if the church uses red, white and black, adding a hot pink headline might distract readers and prevent them from connecting the brochure to your church.

Use quality images.
Opt for high-quality photos, illustrations or clip art. These images should be at least 300 dpi (dots per inch), not the standard 72 dpi used on most Web sites. If the image has a low resolution, the blurriness, pixilated printing will distract, if not eliminate, interest in the brochure.

Avoid using more than two fonts.
A rookie mistake is to use as many fonts as possible. Sticking with one or two creates a clean, readable brochure. Perhaps use one font for headlines and another for body text. Consider a san-serif font such as Arial, Tahoma or Verdana for headlines and a serif font such as Times New Roman, Century Schoolbook or Cambria.

Make sure body text is readable.
Body text between 9 and 11 point will ensure optimal readability. Primary headline fonts should be no less than 18 point and no more than 48. Using a different size for each headline may confuse the viewer.

Use boxes.
Print your brochure several times in the process so you can see how it looks in someone’s hands. Create boxes or add lines to separate the text visually or to highlight certain information.

Go beyond the edge.
If you want color or an image to extend to the edge of the print space, design about one-eighth inch beyond the end of the paper. This is a print bleed.

Write excellent headers and caption text.
After the images, most readers look only at the headlines and captions. Work your headers into your design to tell a cohesive story—never forgetting to focus on benefits.

Go beyond a single panel.
Design the center spread (B, C and D) for a cohesive look. Place images and text so they cross a panel fold to draw the eye to the next panel. Remember, panel B is paired with panel E when someone opens the cover—so make sure those panels work well together, too.

Read copy as if you know nothing.
Better yet, ask friends or co-workers who aren’t familiar with the topic or purpose to review a draft. Is the name of the organization included? Does the reader know where to call or what e-mail to contact? Does the brochure sufficiently attract and inform readers? Adjust based on feedback to ensure the brochure accomplishes what you want it to do.