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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Brochure Printing: Spice Up Your Design

Designing a brochure that really grabs a reader is a challenge. Here are a few design ideas to jump-start your creative process.

Explore Type Options

Beyond everything else, type must be readable. If someone picks up your brochure and does not immediately engage with the copy, you’ve lost them. So pick a typeface with readability in mind. For custom brochure printing work, a serif face (with strokes, or “tails,” on the letterforms) is easier to read than a sans serif face.

That said, to complement your body copy, consider novel uses of type as a design element. These might include reversing type out of a solid block of color, or starting major sections of the brochure with either a large initial capital letter or a few words in small capital letters (or small caps).

You can also dramatically enlarge the words in a short headline so they become design elements in themselves. Or you can enlarge a few words and then screen them back (to 10 percent or 15 percent of an accent color used elsewhere in the design). These could then function as a background design element.

Or consider typesetting a section of the body copy in a shape (maybe an oval or circle, or in the shape of a simple letterform).

Placement of elements such as type can go a long way in making the design compelling to the reader. Just keep things simple, consider readability first, and be mindful of how you want the reader’s eye to move through the brochure.

Organize Custom Printing Content with a Layout Grid

Repetition is a key element of custom printing design work. It sets up the reader’s expectations. Creating an invisible underlying structure for the images, type, and white space (known as a design grid) will help you organize the brochure content and lead the reader’s eye through the page. For a brochure, consider one column per brochure panel, or a larger column next to a smaller column. In this case you could extend the photos or headlines into the smaller column (which is known as a “scholar’s margin”).

A good rule of thumb is that anything you place on the page should align with something else. In fact, the fewer grid lines (or axes) with which you align the design elements on the page, the better. Keep things simple.

Don’t be afraid to use large areas of white space in the design of your custom brochure printing job. You don’t need to fill every inch of the brochure with type and images. In fact, too much copy or too many images will overwhelm the reader. Make it easy for her or him to read the text and to immediately know what’s important.

But experiment with the placement of headlines, photos, and columns of text. I once read that when you have chosen the typeface and the images, most of your remaining design work will involve deciding how and where to position them in an interesting way. Align elements, create a pattern and then break the pattern to create visual interest. Look at custom brochure printing samples you like, and analyze them to determine exactly why their design appeals to you.

Find elements you can repeat, if possible. If you use a photo on the front panel, consider extracting an element of the image and using it within the brochure as well, either at full intensity or screened back to a ghosted image.

Make the Images Unique

Try something different. Everyone uses full-color images. Make your brochure stand out by using rich black and white photography (i.e., 4-color images made to appear black and white). Bleed an image off the side of the page to make the photo seem more expansive. Or surround a photo with generous white space (some of you may remember the “Think Small” VW car ads of the late 1950s, which placed a small car in a vast expanse of white). What the reader doesn’t expect will shock, compel, or intrigue her or him. So do something different.

This might involve how you crop the images in the brochure. Not all images need to be simple portraits or group shots. Crop tightly on the face and hands of a subject, or make the photo tall and narrow, or wide and very short. Let the photos display the content in novel ways. Or consider unique photo edge treatments, such as a vignette or torn-edge look for your custom brochure printing job.

Try Different Folds

Your brochure folding options include the wrap fold (also called the barrel fold) and the zig-zag fold (also called the accordion fold). But consider going further. Ask your custom printing supplier for samples with unique folds. You might find something you had never envisioned. Granted, some of these may require special cutting dies, which will cost extra, so ask about this as well.

If you do consider unusual folds, remember to bring a custom brochure printing sample to the post office to make sure the job will be mailable (without a surcharge).

2 Responses to “Brochure Printing: Spice Up Your Design”

  1. Brochure says:

    There are different types of, and ways of showing, brochures, but then it is the customer’s design and plan that will make it happen. Assisting them by giving them files that they can choose from is just like having wedding cakes to choose from, with the final touches for the client to decide upon.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comment. I agree completely.

      When designing a brochure or anything else for a client, I usually ask to see samples of printed brochures they particularly like.

      Having a sample (whether a physical product or an on-line item) facilitates communication and allows me to give the client what he or she wants. Without some kind of sample, it’s harder to know what the client envisions as a final printed product.

      I also keep a “swipe file” of my own, a collection of brochures I particularly like. If the client is unsure of what he or she wants, I can provide samples as a starting point for discussion.


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