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How to Design a Brochure

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"We need a brochure." With these four little words from the boss, you'resent off on an odyssey that can commandeer your Day Timer for weeks, evenmonths. But a brochure needn't be a hassle. As with all good marketinginitiatives, marvelous execution is the result of exceptional planning.Making your way through the brochure process, the following guidelines willhelp you stay on course, on budget and on message:

Pull together a brainstorming session with all key people, including yourdesigner, writer, photographer, project coordinator, and the top dog whowill ultimately green light the project. It's important to have decisionmakers involved right from the get go-it can avoid very costly rewrites andredesigns down the road.

The brainstorming meeting is the most important of all the sessions, as itbrings together all the left brains and right brains who will work on theproject. Ellen Gray, president of Gray Matters Communications, Inc., apublic relations and marketing firm in Miami, Florida, explains how crucialthat first meeting is, "[ The client] usually has some sort of vision and/orexpectations as to what they want. We discuss both content and visuals, andmost importantly, what the key messages are that they want to communicate,and who their audience is."

Tom Salvo, creative director and senior partner for HighGround, Inc., apublic relations and marketing company for emerging high-tech companies inWakefield, Massachusetts offers his perspective, "We brainstorm as a groupand set a course that usually has writing and design working together withthe client to develop a creative strategy for the brochure. All of the workis developed one step at a time with the client involved at every step."

What's the brochure's role in your marketing efforts? Determine theobjectives of the brochure-will it be a leave behind for salespeople? A selfmailer? Part of a larger fulfillment package? Part of a trade show presence?A point of sale display? How does it mesh with other marketing efforts?

Determine the audience & message. Is it for all customers of the company,or just a segment? What type of people will be reading it? Creatives?Techies? Executives? Tyler Blik, principal of Tyler Blik Design in SanDiego, California, says, "Know your audience. Determine the message and thepoints you want to make, and ask yourself 'does this fit with the overallgoals and objectives of the corporation?"

Take a look at the competition. Linda Costa, APR, president of WORDWISE,Inc., a marketing firm in Winter Park, Florida, advises "You want to makesure [ your brochure] represents you well-and that it is every bit as good,or preferably better, than the competition." Costa encourages clients tobring competitors' brochures to the first meeting to help determine the"look and feel" the client is after.

How much can you spend?

Find out what the budget is for the project, including printing. If you'rebeing asked to provide the budget yourself, you'll need to meet with thedesigner, writer, photographer and printer to pull it together. There is no"average" cost for a brochure because of the numerous variables that comeinto play-fees for creative, type of paper being used, colors, shape andsize of brochure.

Create copy and design a mock up. Deciding on whether copy or design comesfirst can be a real chicken/egg conundrum. Most experts agree that theremust be synchronization for the brochure to work. Says Tyler Blik, " Ideallythey work together. Many times we are thinking of the words that need to beexpressed as we develop the creative behind the message." Adds Tom Salvo,"It's a very collaborative process that usually requires copy and design tobe generated simultaneously."

When writing copy, avoid the urge to cram every scintilla of informationabout your company into the piece. The point of the brochure is to get aprospect interested, not to close the deal. With that in mind, keep the copysimple, and pertinent to your audience. Don't get all caught up in jargonand industry buzzwords. If you use copy that's too trendy, it will quicklybe obsolete. Tyler Blik concurs, saying, "Don't try to tell them everythingin a brochure. You want to get their interest, create a call to action.Too many times the marketing or sales team wants to clutter a brochure,creating even more competition with each message on the page."

As the piece evolves into a mock up (basically the first draft), thecomplementary copy will be added, and the designer will make recommendationson size, shape and colors. A good designer is invaluable at thisstage-listen to their advice, as they know how color, size and shapeconsiderations will affect the end product, and the budget bottom line.Designers are often up on "best practices" for a particular industry, andcan give you an idea of how your brochure will compare and contract to acompetitor's.

Color will impact the cost and look of the finished brochure. You canstretch your dollar by being innovative with design and using just twocolors. Or you may be using images that really demand the four-colortreatment. Tom Salvo advises that "Color is all-important to a successfulbrochure, but it must be tempered by utility and practicality."

When it comes to color considerations, Tyler Blik says, "It's all aboutcontent and expression of the content. A great two-color piece will alwaysoutperform an average four-color piece. However, it has been proven that ifthe content and expression are the same or similar, four-color garners themost attention."

Get the printer involved. Printers, like designers, can be enormouslyhelpful in making recommendations on the layout of your brochure. Accordingto Tyler Blik, the printer should be involved in the process soon after thestart, "The printing representative is your ally throughout the wholeprocess. Utilize their expertise the same way you would a marketingdirector, writer or photographer."

Working with your printer right from the outset can save big bucks andhassles down the road. Linda Costa often involves her printer before shesubmits a first comp to the client. Costa looks to her printer for advice onthe papers to be used, the size of the sheet of papers, and how manybrochures can fit on one sheet. "Sometimes, by reducing the size of thepiece by as little as half an inch, you can fit two brochures, rather thanone, on a sheet-and this can cut paper costs substantially," she says. Costaadds, "We always ask our printers if there's anything they can suggest thatwould help us reduce costs without compromising design. You'd be amazed atthe tips they can offer."

Proof and print. After all design and copy elements have been agreed upon,it's time to proof your brochure. Anyone who has been close to the projectshould NOT be responsible for the proofing-It's virtually impossible to seeyour own errors. Hire a proofreader, and pass the brochure around to otherpeople in the company to get the benefit of their "fresh eyes."

Your designer will likely be on-site for a press check, the time rightbefore your brochure is printed. The designer will ensure that colors arecorrect, and that other details of the printing process are addressed.

Get ready for next time. No matter the wonders of your brochure, it willneed to be updated from time to time. Keep a folder of all potentialchanges and ways to make improvements on the next go 'round.

Avoid common mistakes!

Don't cut corners. It's okay to be smart about saving money-like gettinginput from your designer and printer on layout tricks. But don't cut tooclose to the bone, or your end result will reflect it. "The most commonerror clients make," says Tom Salvo, "is believing that engaging anexperienced, reputable professional to do the job correctly is not worth theeffort or cost."

Listen to the pros. You've hired a designer, writer, photographer andprinter based on their expertise, so make sure you listen to that expertise."Sometimes clients have too good an idea of what they want when hiringoutside professionals, and they're not open to ideas that are potentiallymore effective," says Ellen Gray.

Think big picture. Your brochure is just one component of your marketingmessage. Make sure it complements your other collateral pieces, advertising,and overall marketing message. "[ Companies] frequently don't view it as partof the total marketing communications program," says Linda Costa.

Beware do-it-yourself options. Design is about more than the Mac you use andthe software you run. It can be tempting to cut corners by eradicating adesigner from the process and using a desktop publishing program. Use suchprograms at your own peril, advises Linda Costa, "Easy-to-use softwareenables nearly anyone to label themselves a 'designer'-so clients often optfor a desktop published piece that ends up looking quite pedestrian anddoesn't set their company apart."

Kimberly McCall is the president of McCallMedia & Marketing, Inc., abusiness communications firm in Freeport, Maine. She is the monthly "GamePlan" columnist for Entrepreneur magazine and the "Marketing & Media"columnist for MaineToday.com. Reach her at 207-865-0055 orKimberly@MarketingAngel.com.

Copyright © 2000 Kimberly L. McCall

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Last updated: Jun 6, 2001




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